Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: YEAR (05/17/18)
By Leola Ogle
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I wasn’t interested in church. That puzzled me. I had always had a God-awareness and yearning for spiritual things, yet a confusing, nameless resistance engulfed me at the thought of church. Perhaps an older me would have examined and dissected my resistance, but like a pesky mosquito, my younger self would have swatted any confusion away.
The persistent pestering would not cease until I agreed to go to church with my brother. With all the teenage angst of not wanting to go, but wanting to please my brother, I huffed and grimaced and did my pouty lip and said I’d go.
I knew what church was like. It’s not like there would be any surprises. I liked church. My parents had taken us to church off and on my entire short life, but we hadn’t attended for a few years. So, why was I balking at my brother’s invitation?
We arrived early for a youth service at 6:00 PM. Not a large group attended, but they were friendly. For a teenage girl with low self-esteem – I didn’t think I was pretty enough because, well, I wasn’t pretty – I was flattered when a couple of young men paid attention to me. Maybe going with my brother was a good idea.
Youth service dismissed and went directly into regular Sunday night service. The pastor’s wife played the piano. Or maybe she led in singing. Or both. Another lady played the accordion. I am sure of that. Someone played guitar. I think. It’s been so many years ago, my memory is a little fuzzy. We sang familiar songs out of hymnals. Then we sang a few popular choruses.
People clapped and swayed and raised their hands. Some, moved by the Spirit, danced a little jig. It was lively and dynamic as was common in this type of church service. There was testimony time with a few people sharing something God had done for them since the last church service.
My brother and I sat with the other teenagers. I was more focused on them than the music or sermon. I was a typical teenager with a longing to be accepted, to belong. I was smart. I had a decent personality. I had no problem making friends. But I yearned to be pretty, to be appealing to the opposite sex, something that seemed so important to me at the time. Those thoughts and feelings are what I remember during the service that night. Not the songs we sang. Not the sermon.
The sermon concluded and the altar call was given. I do remember that. I was familiar with altar calls, although I couldn’t recall ever having responded to one. I was surprised when a feeling swept over me, a warm tingling, an awareness of some nameless something.
“Do you want to go to the altar?” my brother whispered.
I did. I knew I did. It was a longing for something I didn’t have, but I wasn’t sure what it was. A presence flowed over me, in me, through me, wooing me. I followed my brother to the front of the church and knelt at the altar. I think I was crying as soon as my legs started walking.
Did I speak words when I knelt? The sinner’s prayer? A verbal asking of Jesus into my heart? The expanse of time has dimmed my recollection. I know what happened that night was real. I can close my eyes and relive it. It was vibrant, electric, calming, illuminating, comforting, and so much more. What I felt and experienced was love in its purest form. I was accepted. I was beautiful. I was loved beyond the definition of the word love.
It was my rebirth. The rest of my life would be hinged on that one event – the year I was born again.
It was 1963.
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