It was Thanksgiving, 1980. I had a three-year-old and a six-week-old baby; and for some strange reason, I volunteered to host Thanksgiving for my husband's family. Sleep deprived as I was, I don't remember stuffing the turkey. I don't remember making the pies. However, I do remember going to the library to find a prayer to read before we ate.
I went to the library to find a prayer to read.
That still seems bizarre to me almost 34 years later. How could I not know that I could use my own words to talk to God.
Two months later, my brother-in-law invited me to a small church in town, and I heard the Gospel message for the very first time--the simple Gospel message of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection.
There was nothing seemingly remarkable about that church service compared to church services today. The lights were not dimmed to create a mood. There was no band. There was no coffee bar in the foyer. The pastor did not threaten, manipulate, or use scare tactics.
Young college students, members of Campus Crusade for Christ, shared that day. They strummed guitars, sang a couple simple songs, and gave their testimonies. I remember thinking that they were the most courageous people I had ever seen. I wanted to know what they had that gave them the confidence to get up in front of a church full of people and sing--not so great--and share their personal stories.
I saw with my own eyes their love for Christ. They radiated peace. And I wanted what they had. So I prayed. And I prayed again in my bed that night, just in case. And I prayed a third time in the shower. I really wanted what those kids had--God's gift of salvation. I wanted hope.
And then my life began to change, not because I decided to change, but because God's Spirit began His work in me. The same Spirit that had been wooing me. The same Spirit that was working in me when I searched for that prayer in the library. For the first time, I picked up a Bible, and the words on the page actually made sense.
Those of you residing in the Bible Belt may find it hard to imagine that I did not hear the salvation message until I was 22 years old. I had never been invited to a Vacation Bible School or to hear a missionary speak. I did not even know what a missionary was. I had never heard of a revival. I had never found a tract in a public restroom. I had never heard my parents pray. No wonder I did not know that I could.
But then one day everything changed. Just like that. The questions were asked: Do you want to be saved? Are you willing to repent? Yes and yes. It was so simple.
When then did it start getting complicated? How did I accumulate so much spiritual clutter?
Spiritual clutter is what is added to complicate the Gospel. It is the Gospel plus tradition, the Gospel plus behavior, the Gospel plus opinion, the Gospel plus programs, the Gospel plus our idea of arriving at a spiritual check point.
Spiritual clutter is what he said or she said or what this church believes or what the television evangelist is selling.
It is self-help and piety and comparison and try harder and pre-conceived ideas.
It is being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
I am tired of spiritual clutter. It is crippling.
It is time to clean it out.
It is time to know Christ and Him crucified. It is time to read the Word and to allow and to expect the Spirit of God to do His good work in me. It is time to be willing to strip the Gospel down to its purest form and then to be still and know that He is God--the God who began the good work--the God who will perfect it.