Mark 10:14 “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of God.”
I have no idea when I first heard that there is a God. I remember in kindergarten, that the teacher was always rebuking a boy named Ben, and telling him that God was not happy with him. In the first grade, the teacher asked everyone to raise their hand who went to church. I was the only one who had not raised their hand. I went home and asked my father why we did not go to church. He replied that we don’t believe those things. I wondered, what things?
In the fourth grade, a neighbour child encouraged my best friend Denise to go to the Lake Forest Park Presbyterian Church Sunday school. It was about three blocks away, and as her mother gave her permission to go, I went along also. Neither her parents, nor mine, went to church; but the way Denise’s mother talked, it seemed that she had been brought up in church.
It was about 1960, and we wore dresses and white gloves to this little wooden church. The fourth grade Sunday school was taught by an old woman, which given my young assessment of such things, means that she was probably older than 70. The first day, all of us were to recite Scriptures from memory which had been taught in the prior year;but since Denise and I had never set foot in a church before, we knew none. We also did not bring a Bible with us. The Sunday school teacher had us stand in front of the other students, and coldly reprimanded us for not knowing any Bible verses and not bringing a Bible with us. She told the students that they were never to be like us. Denise and I took the reprimand quietly.
But to myself, I wondered how I could know Bible verses which I have never seen nor heard, and how I could possibly bring a Bible to church, when we did not own one. In that generation, we, as mere children, did not question adults, but accepted matters quietly. I rejoiced that we were given a book of stories to study during the year.
Both Denise and I set out to memorize the verses taught to the fourth grade, which included the Beatitudes. For several months I had to share Denise’s Bible, which her mother gave her. On Christmas, my grandmother gave both me and my sister black leather-covered King James Bibles with our name imprinted in gold leaf. I was thrilled, and began a private study of the New Testament, with the perception of a ten year old girl.
Denise and I began a good works campaign at the encouragement of her mother. We both liked to grow flowers, and we picked them and gave them to the neighbours as a good will gesture. We went about doing good to everyone. Walking home from church, I felt joyous about Jesus Christ. While I never felt comfortable in the Sunday School class, we had decided to attend the church service also, and I loved the songs and the sermons. During this time, I had two friends who were Lutherans, and they told me about the omniscience and omnipresence of God, which is a wondrous thing to ponder. We slept outside at night in the summer and observed the stars and satellites and meteor showers. It was a good year to discover that there is a God, and to believe in his Son, Jesus Christ.
In the fifth grade, the Sunday School teacher was more personable and younger. She had a teenage daughter who was very nice. Our class made a mosaic cross with four other symbols at the corners. When it came time to grout it, Denise and I were the only ones who volunteered. We had so much fun, that I have since made tile mosaics as decorations.
One day, the Sunday school teacher tried to tell us about what sin was. Her examples were such things as not doing your chores, and back talking to parents. These short list of sins were things that I did not do, nor dare to do. My father had taught me at a young age to behave well in all situations, and he used to boast that he could take me anywhere even at the youngest age. What is more, I have the peculiar quality, probably coming from my German heritage, that I like to work. When my mother showed me how to clean the floor with a toothbrush to get out all the grime hidden in the baseboards, I thought that was fun. I liked chores. I liked yardwork. I liked pleasing my parents.
After our “sin” lesson, we were given a blank sheet of paper, and told to write a list of our sins. Everyone began busily writing, including Denise, who I was wondering what she wrote, as she did not commit any of the particular sins mentioned. My mind was a blank, and so was my paper. Suddenly we had to turn them in, and when the teacher saw that I had written nothing down, she was enraged. She said I was arrogant, but I was more mystified than anything. Maybe if she had mentioned some other sins which I could acknowledge as my own, I would be able to confess them. Of course there came a point later in life when I understood what both sin in general, and the sinfulness of my own heart is, and how to confess to Jesus Christ, and receive his forgiveness.
Looking back, I believe that the condition of unbelief which I was born into, was overturned, and that I had a genuine faith and belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. A genuine relationship between Jesus Christ and myself was born during those years, which those around me tried to overturn. The truth was that my white sheet of paper was white because I had been forgiven and cleansed of my sins. I remember the purity of heart of those childhood days. But looking back, it is astonishing how those whose own hearts are not right with God, turn against even the youngest of believers. But back then,while I knew the scorn and mocking of the atheists in my own household, I had not heard of Calvinism and its portrayal of God as a hard-hearted and cruel Sovereign Being.