When I was just a little girl, I asked Jesus into my heart. I remember lying in my bed and knowing that I needed Him. Though I don’t remember the words that I spoke or the exact date, I remember praying sincerely, asking Jesus to forgive me and to take over my life. However, because I was so young, the years that followed are a bit of a blur to me at times.
I know that I learned Scripture as a child and that it meant something to me, and I remember feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence just as real as I felt my parents’ hands in mine. But then, life happened, and I had to make choices for myself. Through trial and error, I learned that endings aren’t always happy, sin has consequences, and people aren’t always who they claim to be.
Life is complicated. It dulls the senses, and doubt creeps in when you can’t feel the Holy Spirit as keenly you used to. I’ll admit that there have been times that I’ve wondered whether what I experienced as a child was real, even as I was seeing God’s hand on my life and depending on His wisdom for guidance, for my very breath.
In those moments, I envy people who accept Jesus later in life. To me, it seems they struggle less with doubt. Maybe it’s because they remember what life was like before Jesus, and I don’t. For me, it’s almost as if my life didn’t start until I became a Christian. In one sense, I guess that’s true, but there are times that I long to feel God’s presence as I did when I was a child.
A few days ago, my son and I were talking about the reality of Heaven and Hell, and he brought up a good point. He said that Hell is scary for anyone to think about, but that it is even more frightening for a Christian to think about because Christians know what it is to have a personal relationship with God. To live without Him after knowing Him intimately would be the most excruciating torture. As I was absorbing what he’d just said, Hunter asked, “Can you imagine?”
Later that day when I was alone, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be separated from God, not for eternity, but just for a moment, hoping for a glimpse of the imaginary line in my soul where I leave off and He begins. Searching my heart, I tried to dull or mentally “cross out” all evidence of the Holy Spirit in my life, systematically ignoring all knowledge, peace, discernment, purpose, etc. that I knew came from Him so that I could see clearly what I would be without Him. Frankly, what was left was pitiful and sad.
For the first time, really, I knew the depth of the void the Holy Spirit’s absence would leave in my heart. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was completely bereft, as if my husband or one of my children had died. Pain squeezed my chest and prickly heat stung my cheeks as I forced myself to hold the thought. When I finally let it go, relief washed over me like warm bath water.
This little exercise might seem silly to some, but those who were saved at a young age and struggle with doubt might understand. The truth is that it brought me a lot of peace. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will let us know whether we are saved (1 John 3:24), and my imagining his leaving confirmed for me His presence. It helped me to see His shape, in a way, and understand a little better the change He has made in my life. I realize now that, deep down, I have known all along that I was saved, even when the enemy was busy tinkering with my mind. I’ve known it as surely as I know that I am a mother.
My relationship with God is as real as my relationship with my children. I think it’s the out-of-sight factor that trips me up sometimes—that, my sin, the lies of the enemy, and the static that life creates—but when I turn to my brother and friend Jesus for companionship and encouragement, when I run into the arms of my Heavenly Father for comfort and strength, when I turn to the Holy Spirit for direction and discernment, I know exactly to whom I am turning, just as I could easily pick my children out of a crowd blind-folded. I know their shapes. I recognize their voices. We have history and connect on a heart level, and I know how it feels to be near them.
Because I know God like that, I can put doubt to rest for good. Just as He promised, He is with me. I must say, after my little experiment, that I am relieved beyond words to know that I’ll never have to be separated from Him. Those who don’t know Him may argue, but I know there’s nothing worse.