(photo courtesy of Red Letter Believers)
I sat on the hard wooden pew, my legs too short for my feet to touch the floor in their white ankle socks and black patent leather shoes. My hair was a halo of blonde curls from the pincurls Mama had put in my hair the night before after my Saturday evening bath. The dress Mama had sewn for me to wear to church was too fussy and itchy for my liking, so I kept wiggling my shoulders against the back of the pew, trying to scratch the itch caused by the irritating lace. In my hands I clutched a little Gideon New Testament that I must have been given by an older sibling, since I was too young to even read.
Suddenly, the back door of the little sanctuary swung open and in marched armed military men in full uniform. They went from pew to pew demanding that we all relinquish our Bibles. I was sitting right next to the center aisle. When one of the men got to me and gruffly demanded my Bible, I looked up at him, took my Bible, and sat on it, refusing to relinquish it.
I've never been persecuted for the cause of Christ, not really, not in comparison to the Ethiopian martyrs killed in Libya last week, not in comparison to a friend who was imprisoned for his faith when he lived in eastern Europe under communism, not in comparison to someone who's been fired from their job, or not hired at all, because of their faith or moral stance. But the story above about me is true. Evidently the fear of communism and the cold war spurred this illustrated sermon in the little church up the street from the house I grew up in. No one told me that the whole thing wasn't real. All I knew was two things, I loved Jesus, and that little Bible was precious. Of course, I didn't know how to read it, so I hadn't fallen in love with the actual words yet. My knowledge of its contents was limited to flannelgraph stories I'd heard in Sunday School. All I knew was that the Bible was treated with a special reverence in our house. You didn't set the Bible on the floor, you didn't set other books or items on top of the Bible. The Bible was holy and you were expected to treat it as such. Somehow, on that long ago Sunday morning, I also had a fundamental knowledge not to deny Jesus. Had my parents taught me this? Was the message ingrained in me from the songs we sang back in the day, songs with words like, "Stand up! Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the Cross!" Was it the Holy Spirit living in me that gave me that kind of courage? Most likely it was a combination of all of the above. All I know is that it was totally against the nature of that shy, overly sensitive little girl to stand up to someone older, bigger and stronger than her.
When I think now about the spreading persecution of Christians around the world, I wonder if I could, if I would, stand true and refuse to deny Jesus no matter what. Remembering that little girl gives me hope, gives me courage, that if and when that time comes, by God's grace I will.
Also joining THOUGHT PROVOKING THURSDAYS
at 3-D Lessons for Life
and sharing my story at The High Calling