|My house from first grade to fifth grade|
In my school we were well-versed in all things Old Testament. I received my first King James Bible with a white leather cover in first grade (I still have this well-worn book.) The New Testament, though, seemed less important in my lessons, or maybe we would get to that in high school? We did spend time on Jesus, and it seemed to me most of the lessons centered around Jesus and being Jewish. It seemed to me that they emphasized worshipping on Saturday as the main commandment. We knew everything about Leviticus and Numbers. A scale model of the tabernacle was brought into the school. We studied Old Testament stories as real history--our history. All good.
|Crystal in first grade|
Despite my education in these things, I missed the whole idea that grace came from the cross. I thought Paul of the New Testament was a horrible man. How could he tell women to be quiet in church? Why did people ever accept him when he'd been a part of so many Christians' deaths? It would be years before I understood his story, and when I did, it was after learning about true grace, learning about that Jesus who hung on the cross.That's when Romans became a favorite book of the Bible.
But keeping the Ten Commandments was the way to please God and I got that loud and clear. Remember the Sabbath Day. I was stuck on that point. Even in death, Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. I didn't understand that Jesus's body may have been in that tomb, but His soul was with God because he told the thief on the cross that they would be together in Paradise.
I still think the Sabbath is important, but it's more than just a certain day to worship. There is so much more to this story. Yet, throughout my childhood, there was Jesus--Jesus loves me, this I know. Jesus accepting the little children. Jesus who hung on that cross and fulfilled every prophecy of the Old Testament that I knew so well. Jesus, God's own Son who was born to a human mother. Jesus, fully God, fully man.
During this time of attending this church and the church school, my neighborhood was composed of many faiths and types of people. Our church was many blocks away and those who went to school there during the week and then came to worship on Saturday lived all over the county with some in the next counties. I rarely had play dates with my best friends from school. We lived close to my dad's work, not to the church and certainly not near any of my Sabbath school and elementary school friends.
There was a church right behind us, across the alley. I had much curiosity about them as I could hear their songs drifting from the brick walls as I played outside on Sunday mornings. Not one of them ever said hello, or walked over to invite us to come to their worship service. Not one brought a basket welcoming us to the neighborhood or reached out to invite us kids to Vacation Bible School.
They knew we were there, but maybe they had already heard about us. Or maybe it was the changing neighborhood itself. It was the 1960s and our neighborhood was already "integrating." They made sure to hurry their children to their cars parked along the alley next to our driveway. If you caught someone's eyes, he either looked away quickly or frowned. Not friendly. Not inviting.Suspicious that we were unclean, not "Christian," and they made sure to keep on the other side of the alley.
They were our neighbors, but sure weren't of the Samaritan kind that Jesus told us about. I had heard so much about Pharisees that I imagined these were those people. A church of Pharisees? Wow. I saw them every Sunday. Every Sunday I was pretty sure that I would never go to church on Sunday because I would never "fit in."And they couldn't possibly love a girl like me.
We were as weird as the Latter-Day Saints across the street from us, and they actually went to church on Sunday, too. Those neighbors were not only kind and friendly, they were the ones who were there whenever we had an emergency. Their girls (teens) came over to babysit me while mom rushed my brother to the hospital when a neighbor kid hit him in the head with a hammer. If anyone had a chance to invite us to church, it certainly would've been those kind people.
My world consisted of my mother's people, who were also Sabbath-keepers, and who we visited with every weekend and summers. Only twice a year did we visit with my dad's people when we'd travel states away and none of them, with exception to my Granddaddy Warren who read his Bible everyday, ever talked about God, Jesus or the church thing. (Years later, after I grew up, this would change.)
But I loved my school, my teachers and was often given leadership duties. I was even the "pastor" when our school took over worship one Sabbath. My sermon was about Joseph, son of Jacob. (And I still love that story.) Kneeling beside my mother in church, I prayed for her brother and his family who were missionaries in Africa, for the colpolteurs (this is what I wanted to grow up to be--a religious "book" and literature missionary,) and especially for those who didn't know Jesus. Nothing could be worse in my mind than to not know Jesus. I shared Jesus whenever I could, even to boys on my walk home from school one day who hit me with a stick and weren't going to let me pass.
Little did I know during those days that I spent going to camp meetings with my cousins and to my Pathfinders' meetings,going to a school steeped in doctrinal teachings and the Bible, that my life would drastically change when I entered sixth grade. Everything changed in my life that year.
Sunday morning was coming.