I remember the broken stories the most. The stories of addiction, abuse, or good kids gone bad, but then, Hallelujah! Salvation and redemption from the worst fate. When people told their conversion stories from the baptismal or the pulpit, these were the stories that stuck. Meat clung to their bones, and you could feast on them for days, chewing on and thinking over the ways our God heals and delivers. These are the stories of my childhood in the church, the ones I cut my teeth on and learned to value above all others.
My own story doesn’t have the flash or the dramatic appeal of these broken ones. It’s the story of a slow burn, how God scooped me up as a child fresh from my mother’s womb and how He carried me every day since. In my story, there is no conversion experience or years of running or dark night of the soul. There is three-year-old me singing my little songs to Jesus. There is fifteen-year-old me trying to live in a way that made Him proud. There is thirty-nine-year-old me wrestling with my faith and refusing to let go. All I can say is this: God lit a flame in me that hasn’t flickered out. Like all believers, my faith waxes and wanes with time and hardship and my mood, but I wake up every day and I live a love story. One that grows wider and deeper the longer I know Jesus.
My parents pastored a small, independent church for most of my life. They loved each other and they loved Jesus. They provided a stable and loving home, one in which my siblings and I came to faith as children and, miraculously, we all stayed there. And just as my parents taught us, we love each other and we love Jesus. I offer you the cliff notes version, but it’s also the unembellished truth. It’s not the sexiest story, and over the years I’ve hesitated to share it because it’s so simple, it’s downright unbelievable.
When John writes, “In the beginning was the Word…,” I understand him because the Word existed in my life from the very beginning too. I know nothing of a time before Him. He is and was and always will be. This is the gift my parents gave me when they offered me Jesus. It’s the gift I hope to give my own children, so they will cultivate a faith that grows with them every step of the way. I want them to own a conversion story that may not set the world on fire with its ability to shock and awe, but one that contains the power to spark an enduring flame in the hearts of others.
My small story flies in the face of a culture that believes bigger is better. We love grand gestures, we idolize overnight success, and we throw up our hands and quit when life becomes difficult. What is a slow-burning, one foot in front of the other faith when compared to passionate, instantaneous life change?
By the world’s standards, this kind of faith is unexamined, trivial, even boring. For many years, I believed my small story held less meaning than the cautionary tales. What kind of impact does it have on the Kingdom of God if it doesn’t shock and awe? Now, I see the beauty of a faith that starts out as small as a grain of sand. Over time, given the right conditions, this grain grows, layer by layer, into an iridescent gem. It takes time and the careful cultivation to create something as valuable as a pearl.
In a culture of constant change and internal upheaval, a slow-burning faith feels more and more like the most radical choice out there. There is eternal value in each and every salvation story. But, to stay the course, to put in the long, hard work of walking the same path I’ve known since childhood, does not diminish the importance of mine. It is the best I can hope for my children, the pearl I can offer. I pray God would spare them from living through the broken stories and instead allow them to live a long and tender one. I pray my small and steady light would touch the wick of their soul and light a flame of faithfulness in them, so they burn slow and even and bright
Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family, and shares her faith on her blog. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport.
photo credit: Kimberly Coyle