I have been in the church all my life. I’m 56 years of age, but I’ve been in church for 57 years. I didn’t miscalculate. Instead, I actually counted the nine months I was in church in utero–that is, in my mother’s womb. My mother was the church pianist, and my father, whom she had met and married at church, was an associate pastor. In short, there was never a time when I was not present in the Christian community.
My path to faith in Christ took a traditional route. I was dedicated as a child, enrolled in children Sunday School, and participated in all the standard children and youth ministries associated with the Black Baptist Church tradition. I was in church virtually seven days a week, but I did not mind because it was what my family and friends did.
Notwithstanding my early exposure to Christ and His church, I was 12 years old when I first strolled down the aisle at Pilgrim Baptist Church (St. Paul, MN) in the summer of 1974, during “The Invitation”, and gave my hand to my Uncle Amos, who was my pastor and has been so since I was six years of age. I must confess, as pivotal as that moment may have been to my Christian journey, my motivation for taking that step was not so much because my heart felt “strangely warmed”—to borrow a phrase Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church In America. Quite the contrary, my motivation for “the taking the walk”, as I understood it then, was a demonstration of my appreciation to my Uncle Amos and Aunt Jane, who were young adults and newlyweds (six months married) when they took in my older sister and I. They did so at the request of my mother, who had fallen seriously ill and was momentarily incapable of caring for us. Equally important, they did so, as I was later to learn, because it is simply what healthy families do. More importantly, it’s also what families do, who have been built on and baptized in the Christian virtues of compassion and sacrifice.
When I came up out the water at my baptism, I did not feel any different. Moreover, I did not live much different—for a while, at least—because I was raised by a Christian mother, the daughter of a second-generation Baptist preacher, and Christian surrogate parents, who instilled in me the Christian ethic from my earliest days. Truthfully, I do not know what I expected to feel. I was slightly deflated, I must admit, when I did not think nor behave any different from before I was “dunked”. I learned, much to my disappointment and naïveté, there was nothing magical nor medicinal about being baptized. I went down a sinner and came up a sinner—albeit saved by God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. Still, I, through baptism, was set on a life-long path of becoming more of the person the Father created me to be, the Son died that I might become, and the Holy Spirit is yet shaping me to be. In brief, I discovered not all authentic conversion stories are of the dramatic Damascus Road type (see Acts 9). Some, like mine, are more like a seed planted in childhood and germinates over time, until the first stalk reaches up towards God and out towards others. It grows further downward, outward, and upward not because it was compelled to do so by some external force exerting power over its will, rather simply because it was created to do so.
With the benefit of 40 years of hindsight, I can see the Lord was using my desire to please and thank my uncle and aunt as a means of drawing me closer to Him and them. For this, I remain eternally grateful; by this, endlessly awed. This is my story of how, when, and where I took my first steps of faith. How about you? What’s your story?
Rev. Anthony L. Trufant