How a UM woman exchanged her tepid, cultural religion for a vibrant, Christ-centered faith. She confesses …

I Was A Catatonic Christian

by Margie Jones, Amarillo, Texas

Most nominal Christians do not refer to themselves as lukewarm. I know because I was one.

Nevertheless, I had all the qualifications of an indifferent Christian. I believed in God and knew His only Son had died for my sins and was resurrected. I was a church member and attended regularly. I was busy in church activities and contributed financially, but I didn’t put Christ first in my life.

My faith was part of my culture. I knew it was there and I valued it, but I was careful not to let it flare up to convict me of the truth—that Jesus Christ should be the Lord of my life as well as my Savior.

I was reared in a Christian home, but it wasn’t a Christ-centered one. As a child I was required to go to Sunday school and church where I heard the real Gospel preached, but I was too young to understand what many of the sermons meant. Expressions such as “the blood of the Lamb,” “washed in His blood,” “filled with the Holy Ghost,” not only puzzled me, but frightened me. I couldn’t understand the relationship between blood, ghosts, lambs, and Jesus.

As I matured, I was too embarrassed to ask to have these terms explained. My pride would not allow me to show my ignorance.

During this time I pictured God as a grandfatherly type, a sort of puppeteer who pulled the strings of His people. Most of the time I felt I was one of His favorite puppets! I always seemed to be on the receiving end of the good things He handed out.

I entered college and because honors came to me I was consumed by my popularity and feeling of self-sufficiency. My ambition was to be a social worker, so I majored in sociology with a minor in psychology and began to enjoy the “social gospel” that I heard preached since leaving home.

I could understand and appreciate those sermons because they were so similar to my college lectures. But humanistic sermons offered me no spiritual fulfillment nor excitement and even though I matured in other facets of my life, the most important aspect of all, my Christianity, did not mature past adolescence. I kept a little religious compartment in my life for Christ, never allowing Him to come to the forefront.

Nevertheless, God blessed me with a wonderful husband and two precious children and I followed the pattern set by my parents. We routinely attended Sunday school and church, but its activities bored me. The main reason I continued was a vague sense of “Christian duty.”

My priorities were my husband and children, material possessions, my social life, and some place, buried with my latent faith, Christ. I honestly thought I possessed all life had to offer. I had the outward appearance of a Christian, but I was trying to fulfill His will by my own will and works. As a result, instead of being drawn closer to Him, I was a dried-up, lukewarm, catatonic Christian.

I was an adult woman, a wife and mother, but had no clear-cut idea of what I believed and why. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I needed to accept personally and appropriate the Gospel of Jesus Christ … humble myself … and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know and follow God’s will.

Of course, I prayed. But my prayers were routines instead of earnest communication. I never knelt to pray, I seldom prayed intercessory prayers, and I never prayed prayers of praise. There were many times when I prayed an S.O.S. to God for what I thought was a desperate need. But when the need ended, so did my prayer life and I slipped back into my routine until the next frantic episode. I didn’t realize I needed Christ as much when I felt secure and comfortable as when I had some special need.

I would have been terrified if I’d been called on to pray in public. When I was in charge of programs that were expected to be opened and closed with prayers, I read one for the beginning of the session and asked the group to repeat the Lord’s Prayer in unison for the closing.

As a catatonic Christian, I didn’t assume any personal responsibility for learning Christ’s message through in-depth Bible study. Neither did I read the Bible; I used the excuse that I couldn’t understand it. I know, now, that there are many translations, paraphrased editions, and commentaries available for help. The Scripture could have been meaningful to me—if I had had the desire to read and study.

During the years my Christianity was lethargic, I thought that turning one’s life over to Christ meant going into professional fields of Christian ministry. I didn’t dream I could totally submit my life to Christ and be happy. The fear of having to give up something was too great within me.

My spiritual life continued like this without any feeling of satisfaction or exhilaration, until after my children were grown. I felt I had fulfilled my obligation as a Christian parent because I had reared them as responsible churchgoing citizens. I was satisfied and comfortable and I didn’t want anyone to disturb me with spiritual truth.

Although I was only on the periphery of being what God wanted me to be, I was too busy occupying a pew and doing the organizational chores in the church to realize that there was more to Christianity than being a statistic in a church record book. I had to go to the very bedrock of sorrow before realizing that God wanted to fashion my life in His pattern.

Our only son, age 25, was stricken with a massive brain hemorrhage, caused by a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, and he died.

During the weeks of my devastating sorrow, I had an intense desire to feel my son’s nearness and because I knew he was in heaven, I was driven to ask questions of my minister, read the Bible, and to study and learn more about my Lord. For the first time, I wanted to be an informed and intelligent Christian. Thus my latent faith became a faith of deep conviction. Each time I called out to God for strength and comfort, my prayers were answered almost as soon as they were uttered. Many events happened that I couldn’t call coincidental. I knew it had to be the fine hand of God working in my life. At last, my eyes and ears were beginning to open and my heart made receptive to God’s will.

For the first time in my life I realized the enormous importance of Jesus’ death for me personally. I quit thinking of God in a grandfatherly image. Now I pictured Him as a grieving Father who loved mankind enough to give His very best—His only Son. I didn’t feel any bitterness because He took my only son, whom I adored. But rather I felt a very special and loving relationship to Him and a deep desire to know Him better.

I seemed to be thinking of Jesus almost constantly and I was relinquishing parts of my life to Him. It seemed that I was trying to make up for all the years I had missed in Bible reading and prayer.

I looked back over my past and saw how God had worked to prepare me for these events. I compared my life to a jig-saw puzzle—God combining events and my responses with other events and responses to reconstruct my life more and more according to His plan. For the first time I realized that what happens to us isn’t so important as the way we respond in each situation.

One day I fell on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive me for all the years I had spent giving Him only lip service. I told Him I had always known He died for me, but now I wanted Him to take over my life completely. I totally surrendered myself and asked Him to use me in any way He wished. I was His.

The ways He answered that prayer of surrender have been amazing, exciting, and joyous. Once I made my depth commitment to Him, it wasn’t difficult to let go of my own strong will. I learned I didn’t have to give up anything, but that I gained more than I had ever possessed before! The activities I surrendered were no longer enjoyable. God replaced my desired for shallow entertainment and materialism with a peace which I thought I had but had never actually attained.

I’ve often thought of the parallel—God gave up His only Son to get man’s attention; He called my only son to be with Him and got my attention. The pain of my son’s death has never left me, but the certainty that God gave up His only Son for me astounds me every time I think of it. (To be continued)


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