I grew up in a Christian home. From the time I was able to breathe, I was placed in a Christian daycare. I learned my ABCʼs attached to Bible verses. A - All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. B - Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
You get the drift. I remember manipulating the system at a young age. During nap time, I didnʼt want to sleep. I was too busy concocting stories in my head and feeding my imagination about the stains underneath the table where I was resting. When I was chastised about closing my eyes, I got quiet and said, “I want to accept Jesus.” How does a preschool teacher answer to that?! I was pulled out in the hallway, and with my sticky fingers clasped together, I prayed. Of course, I was just excited to get out of nap time and jump straight to afternoon snacks and recess.
As I continued in my education - from kindergarten, grade school and those treacherous middle school years, I constantly aimed for perfection and acceptance from anyone - including Christ. My heart just couldnʼt accept someone loving me that way. Remember: I had a solid home. My dad never led me to doubt his love, and my mother left me notes of encouragement reminding me of her support. We lived across the street from my grandparents who spoiled us with kisses and cookies and homemade sourdough pancakes. Why I struggled with this I have no idea, but it was a very real pain.
I went to the same Christian school I was practically born in until my freshman year of high school. Sophomore year, I transferred to a local public school for a brief stint as a regular teenager before my parents transferred me yet again to another Christian school. I experienced a lot during those years of high school. Heartbreak, angst, betrayal and my first true encounter with the Lord. I knew, despite my lack of surrender, I would be involved with ministry at some point in my life. Back then, it was the hip thing for pastors to call out those dedicating their lives to full time service. Every retreat, summer camp and D-Now my friends and I would step forward - eager to receive a blessing from those we respected. We were the few. The proud. The chosen. Weʼd return to our seats hearts aflame with some type of emotional high only to be let down within weeks of the experience.
And then junior year happened. We had this city wide youth extravaganza every year for See You at the Pole. I mean, weʼre talking a Christian pep rally - complete with cheerleaders from local Christian schools. These were huge events usually located at some megachurch where they flew in some speaker to encourage us to wake up early and stand around the flag pole - which equated to our stand for Christ. I remember sitting in the auditorium, listening to this guy preach about the narrow road of salvation, and knowing deep in my gut I hadnʼt fully surrendered. I knew there was this game I played about being “the good Christian” when in reality, all Christ had was my acknowledgment of Him. I went home that night deeply burdened and stayed that way until Sunday, September 18, 1998. I was in my room, getting ready for church and listening to Darrell Evans on my boombox and reading my Bible. I couldnʼt take this sense of hypocrisy any longer. With trembling limbs and a face red with embarrassment, I slowly walked downstairs to my parents. Of course, they knew something was wrong at first glance. When I told them I wasnʼt sure of my salvation and I wanted to pray - to completely give Him everything - their first response was, “of course youʼre saved, Elora! You prayed the prayer when you were little.”
It took a bit of convincing, but they finally understood how serious I felt and so we stood there in the kitchen and prayed. I believe to this day thatʼs when I truly accepted Christ - where I finally laid everything down and took His hand. It wasnʼt a simple acknowledgment of His goodness anymore. My relationship with Christ took on an intimacy I only heard about in sermons. I now knew first hand what my pastor meant by having the truth of Christ drop the 18 inches from your head to your heart.
However, none of this truly made sense until I traveled to Haiti the summer after my senior year. I often tell people Haiti is where I lost my innocence - simply because before that trip I never knew poverty. Before my trip to Haiti I experienced hard times, but I never knew what it was like to be rescued by an angel in disguise. Before my trip to Haiti, I knew of diversity, but I hadnʼt known the comfort of a Haitian mother wiping tears from my face. Before my trip to Haiti, I knew of worship in spirit and truth, but I hadnʼt experienced the absolute joy and exuberance of a worship service in the middle of a Haitian jungle. This trip impacted me in so many ways Iʼm still processing what it did to my heart - ten years later. It was certainly an inciting moment - one where everything about life and how I viewed it changed. Since then, my burden for orphans has grown into a full-fledged calling to adopt and advocate for these children who have nothing. My view of poverty and excess has changed as well. Most importantly, my view of a relationship with Christ has changed. Shakespeare says in his play Measure for Measure virtue untested is virtue denied. Having experienced what my brothers and sisters in Haiti go through on a daily basis, I was humbled severely on how I treat my walk with Christ. I donʼt wake up early enough to read my Bible or converse with my Savior because Iʼm too tired. I donʼt live out my faith to others because Iʼm scared of rejection. I choose gluttony over satisfaction, pride over humility, sadness over joy, fear over rest and anger over love.
I realized Iʼm constantly battling my flesh - but this would change if I viewed my relationship with Christ as the only thing I own. In reality, this is closer to the truth. His Word, His peace, His love, His strength - these are things that can actively and effectively change things. I canʼt. I learned this kneeling in the red dirt of Haiti, watching a mother rip voodoo beads off her neck, grabbing my hand to pray for the first time. I learned this feeling weak with the burden of hatred and confusion while on a witch- doctorʼs property, and when my heart broke under the sorrow of this manʼs lifestyle, Christʼs goodness and peace revealed themselves in a simple touch of a Haitian mother who took me by the cheek and pulled me close, our prayers ricocheting off the trees nearby. I may make mistakes. I still choose pride over humility or fear over rest sometimes. There are definitely days where I choose anger over love when it comes to my students. But I know His goodness. Iʼve seen it and tasted it and witnessed it in the eyes of those who I may never see again. Itʼs because of them, my faith has legs.