At some point in young adulthood I began to wrestle with what counts as a “real” profession of faith. According to Romans 10:9–10, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.”
Isn’t that exactly what I did all those years ago? Why do I continue to wrestle with this question?
As hard as it was for those questions to plague me, I’m so glad they did. After years of the constant back and forth in my own mind, I would eventually come to fully understand what “belief” meant—to have a relationship with Jesus. I’ve heard it said the difference between merely knowing about God and actually knowing God is eighteen inches, the distance between your head and your heart. There’s something to this.
No doubt, some of you are moving your head up and down, giving me an understanding nod because you, too, grew up in church and can’t recall any other way. Perhaps you, too, don’t have a dramatic memory of the moment you became a Christian, and if you’re honest, you’ve had a little testimony envy, too.
But how in the world could Paul’s Damascus Road testimony invite even a twinge of jealousy in us? On one hand, it’s ridiculous—he harmed God’s people on purpose! But on the other hand, desiring a story like Paul’s is so human. We tend to minimize his “before” and stand awe-struck at his “after.” The way God spoke to him, touched him, and then taught him, a radical before and after with no doubt about the day of his conversion. Paul was a new person.
I feel a little silly admitting this about myself. Seriously? I’m envious because my testimony isn’t good enough? I think that a boring testimony disqualifies me somehow? It’s stunning how we find a million ways to disqualify ourselves, isn’t it? If we tried to count the reasons we tell ourselves we are less than or not enough, we wouldn’t be able to get to the end of them.
The struggle may not be a bland salvation story for you, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some battle raging in your head or heart right now—failing to be a good enough parent, spouse, friend, child, employee, boss...believer. Maybe it is an indication of immaturity or navel-gazing, but I’ve also come to see how the “less than” or “not enough” label is a tool our enemy uses to cultivate defeat or despair—to shift our focus from God to ourselves, circumstances, or both. The means by which we give Satan access to our heads and hearts are regrettably subtle and inexhaustible. We’re often not even aware we’ve opened ourselves to his deceptions, and he’s cunning and relentless in his pursuit of us.
Satan’s lies are believable because we forget Whose we are. When that happens, we can lose sight of (or perhaps we never fully understood) our true identity.
I can’t recall the “plan of salvation” or the “four spiritual laws” or any manner of the gospel being presented to me by a pastor or teacher when a light bulb suddenly illuminated, signaling my need for a Savior.
I only remember growing up in church and doing all the Christian-y things you do when you’re born in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I cannot remember ever identifying as anything other than “Christian.”
Even if my intentions were sincere, at the impressionable age of twelve I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Church has been an integral, inextricable, and influential part of my life for as long as I can remember. But I suspect for a long while, my faith wasn’t really mine at all. It was more me taking on a fraction of “their” faith—whether that was pastors, loved ones, or otherwise. I was professing to believe all the things I knew in my head but didn’t really believe in my heart. I would have argued I did believe, but my actions pointed to performance as if righteousness could be earned from the outside in.
My wander years didn’t begin in a shady place or on a malicious path like Paul’s. I wonder if I was already a wanderer when I made that first public profession, right in the middle of good church people, the very type of folks Paul was trying to destroy almost 2,000 years earlier. On the surface, it seems like Paul and I couldn’t be more different—Paul was trying to kill the church, and I was trying to serve it. But the truth is both of us were wandering.
Excerpted with permission from For All Who Wander by Robin Dance. Copyright 2020, B&H Publishing Group.
Perhaps life isn’t turning out like you thought it would. Heartbreak and challenges stir doubt. Sunday school answers fall short. God seems distant. Inviting you to find hope and healing in your own story within the pages of hers, in For All Who Wander, Robin Dance will help you:
- Abandon the guilt and shame attached to your questions or doubts.
- Broaden your understanding of God’s grace and faithfulness.
- Release hostage-holding lies to enable you to embrace your identity, hope, and value in Christ.
- Reframe your view of difficulties and disappointments as you understand their redemptive and transformative value.
- Trust that God is working in your wandering to restore and strengthen your faith.