It was the crux of the salvation journey. We were taught to open with the line when we were talking to our friends about Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you died tonight, do you know where your soul will go?
I was one of those who knew.
But few of us ever had the boldness that we'd need in order to look our peers–the ones who didn't know about Christ, the ones who didn't grow up in the church–in the eye and ask them about death. It's a scary thought, no matter your assurance for salvation.
It's what made me, at the ripe age of four, with long curly hair and short pink bows, accept Jesus into my heart. The very day I started Kindergarten. This time of year always makes me think of that. How scared the little-girl version of me was to embark on her first day of school.
And then, with just a prayer and a miracle, how calm I became after I knew Jesus would walk through those darkened halls of classrooms with me. How His presence held my hand as that big yellow bus carted me away.
But I had also heard of Hell and the burning that happened there. There was weeping. And gnashing of teeth. I wasn't even quite sure what gnashing meant, but it sounded far from the pleasantry streets of gold and gates of pearl.
My praying hands, on the cusp of the big girl phase, still growing, growing, growing, and catching fireflies in the curtain of dusk where also afraid. Afraid for my soul and the souls of my friends.
I wasn't just afraid of starting Kindergarten. I was afraid of falling asleep and waking into death's dream. And I didn't want to go where the bad people went.
I wanted to run into the arms of a Savior in a white robe.
We were assured that we couldn't get into heaven. This was childlike faith. This is what I think a lot of us have been missing. All we had to do was believe. All we had to do was ask Jesus to fill up the space in our hearts. And we were assured of this.
We couldn't get into Heaven no more than we could get into a club before we turned 18. We had to trust that our salvation was enough. We had to trust that God's grace was sufficient for us. Even when we messed up.
A few years ago, I was leading a Bible study for a group of women. I was speaking about our sinful nature and how tempting it is to be led astray.
One thing I was always careful to do when I was leading this small group was to explain how much what I was teaching also applied to my life, too. I didn't want to be a hypocrite or be leading out of arrogance.
"This is a devotion I'm leading because I need to hear it, too," I said. "I'm not perfect."
Then a voice from the group uttered, "Oh, we know."
It was rude. It was unnecessary. And it was also completely true. I was trying to live like a squeaky-clean Christian kid. With no outer (visible) sins that people could gossip about. My struggles were internal–my thought-life, my pride, my esteem for some people over others.
But see, I was trying to live like I was getting into Heaven. I was trying to keep the veil of perfection over my life. And apparently I wasn't as good at hiding my outward flaws as I thought I was. Because they were certainly there then. And they're certainly there now.
But then you look at the Joel Osteens of the Christianity pocket. You look at the leaders who have changed the world and simultaneously changed their perspective on how a government or business should be run. With dollar signs instead of integrity. With a hunger for votes and support instead of a hunger to serve others.
And I see myself falling into the same trap. Not in the same way, of course, but with wickedness at my epicenter. With failure to live like Christ wedged and coiled into every facet of my life. Living like I'm getting into Heaven. Like I need to hide my shortcomings from others.
Like I can hide them from my friends, family members, boyfriend and Christ himself.
I take comfort in the fact that this means that I am not the only cripple at the table. I am not the only liar, beggar and thief to be ushered into heaven.
We forget that Heaven is for Real and that it's not just a
It's not just a way to make a national bestseller and a film adaptation. It's not merely a way to create a political platform. And it's certainly not a venue we can create a fake I.D. for.
We're not getting into Heaven. Grace is letting each of us in.
I need grace to let me in. I need to believe that all I need is Christ to cover my imperfections. Because I'm not perfect.
And you don't have to say it: I already know you know.