(Post #3 in a collaborative series)
Guest Blogger Linda Nelson
I would love to say that I have been a passionate follower of Jesus all my life. However…..
I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. We learned to work hard, and did so to please and earn favor from my hardworking dad. Mom was a hard working, loving woman who loved to bake, cared for our home, and had a great since of humor. Both parents were very outgoing and enjoyed getting together with friends. We went to church and Sunday school from the time I was born. While growing up I was involved with our youth group and always loved hearing the Bible stories and prayed at meals. It was just something we DID. I attended the Lutheran church and was baptized as a baby and confirmed at 13. I loved going to Sunday School and enjoyed all of the Bible stories. My Sunday School teacher game me a plaque that hangs on my wall to this day which says, “LOVE NEVER FAILS…For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.” I did not understand what that really meant, but I cherished it none the less. I liked to study the catechism and learned much ABOUT God and Jesus but never had a Bible until age 13, until AFTER confirmation. It lay in a drawer and was never opened.
My parents were married at a very early age, and it was expected that we kids would also. I met the love of my life when I was 15. We dated through high school and married at age 17; Gaylord, my husband, was 20. We farmed with his parents, and by the time I was 23 we had 3 wonderful children.
Throughout my 20’s we continued to attend church weekly; and, of course, our kids were all baptized as infants. God was someone you read about, and I never doubted who He was. I loved to hear about Jesus and all of the Bible stories. I tried like crazy to obey the 10 commandments and ALWAYS felt I fell short. We always prayed before meals, the “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” prayer; but every prayer I ever prayed was written in a book or taught to me. All throughout my 20’s God was just a far away God. I truly never doubted that Jesus was my Savior, BUT I knew I had to be GOOD or I would miss the mark. I came to realize that my view of God was shaped by my earthly father, that if I was good and worked hard I would win God’s love and favor.
It was not until I was 37 that I ever heard about a personal relationship with God. I had never heard of God’s unconditional love for me. And when I did, it radically changed my life.
It was at that time we moved from Iowa to Chicago. We visited a church where the pastor and people were talking and singing songs TO God NOT just about Him. The pastor told us that God longed to have a personal relationship with me not because I worked hard and was “good” but that He loved me unconditionally. I had never heard that before. “See what love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are.” 1 John 3: 1. (Tears fill my eyes even to this day when I hear this Good News!!!!!) I came to realize I had transferred that thought and feeling from my relationship with my dad to my Heavenly Father. We were invited to a small group where we received such love, friendship, and best of all a new Bible. Small groups have been at the heartbeat of my walk with Jesus ever since. I was discipled to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to spend time with God in His word daily. As I spent endless hours each day devouring God’s Word, I became acquainted with my precious Lord Jesus. I also grew to understand that “we are saved by grace through faith, not by works.” Ephesians 2:8. You would have thought I was given a pot of gold. And indeed, as God opened my heart to the truth of His word, I received a Treasure more precious than gold and silver. I, at last, met my Savior, Redeemer, best Friend, and Lord.