As I was writing my rather lengthy three-part blog explaining a proper understanding of predestination and free will (The Tale of 2 Doctrines vs. Scripture Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), one particularly painful yet joyful event 11 years ago in my life kept coming to mind. I am not ashamed to say that I cried throughout the entire time that I wrote those 3 blogs. I began the 3-part series primarily to help a young lady who had recently accepted the Lord as her Saviour. For me this was powerfully poignant because 11 years ago, I was asked by another young lady for help.
Madison was a cheery 7 year old whose parents attended the church where I attended and volunteered as a children's ministry leader. Three days after her 7th birthday she was diagnosed with leukemia. Madison fought the disease for two years with all the pain and suffering, ups and downs that that process involved. I made it a point to visit her at least once a week. One Sunday after church her parents pulled me aside and told me that the cancer had returned and Madison was loosing the battle and wanted to see me.
That afternoon I found myself sitting next to the bed in which a tiny pale little girl was lying. "Chris, I want Jesus in my life and I want to be baptized." she said, her blue eyes piercing into my soul. Instinctively, Madison knew that she did not have much time left and she wanted to spend eternity with Jesus.
A lump that would not go away formed in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. Choking back sobs, I tried to reply but could not. "Don't cry Chris, it is ok. I know what is going to happen and I want to be with Jesus when I go." she said, taking my hand.
"Remember when we were at family camp and you were teaching about Jesus? You told us that if we wanted Jesus in our hearts, all we had to do was to come to you and you will help us? I want Jesus in my heart, can you help me?"
Pulling myself together, I said a silent prayer and tried hard to put a smile on my face and said, "Of course Munchkin I will help you."
I cannot remember the exact words I used but I remember every one of hers as if it was yesterday. For the next hour we talked. I asked her why she wanted Jesus in her heart and she said, "I don't know Chris, but when mommy and daddy prays with me, I can feel Him calling to me and when I have my pain I feel Him too and it always makes me feel better. Chris I want to go to Him"
Those words nearly destroyed me but this time, I was able to hold back tears and sobs. I told her that Jesus loves her and wanted to take away her sins. "Do you remember what sins are?" I asked.
To that her face somehow got more serious and she said, "Yes, I remember, Mrs Jones talked about that in Sunday School. It is like when I poured syrup down Billy's pants because I got mad at him and when I sneaked some of mommy's cookies and when we stole your glasses and hid them when you were sleeping at camp." As she recounted her litany of "sins" we began to giggle and laugh because most of them were the mischievous pranks of a fun loving little girl. By the time she finished the mood was infinitely lighter.
When she was done, I asked her if she was sorry for them and in complete honesty she said, "Yes, except for pouring syrup down Billy's pants, he deserved it, he pulled my hair, but yes I suppose I am." I knew it was a formality but I asked her if she knew who Jesus is and she recounted her Sunday School lessons, that "He is the Son of God who loves us so much that He got nailed up on a cross by bad people so He can die for our sins." She told me that the "bad people" did not succeed because Jesus "got back up and went up to heaven so He can get it all ready for us."
I explained to her that all she had to do was to pray to Jesus to ask Him into her life. I asked her if it is what she wanted to do. I cannot describe the beam on her face and the change that came over her when she clapped her hands and said yes. I led her in the sinner's prayer and when we were done I told her that she was saved and God is her daddy in heaven. "That was so easy!" She exclaimed, "Now can I get baptized?"
The next two days involved talk with our Pastor and getting the hospice to let us use the therapy pool for the Baptism Ceremony. I Baptized Madison three days later in the pool with over 100 family and friends in attendance. I had Baptized several people before that and many others since but Madison's baptism remains the highlight of my life.
Madison went to be with the Lord two months later and I visited her everyday and was there with her parents when she peacefully closed her eyes and went to sleep one last time. In the intervening time we talked a great deal and I was amazed by her innate, simple, and uncomplicated understanding of the significance of her act of acceptance.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I write this to share with you the simplicity of God's plan of Salvation for everyone of us. After writing three lengthy blogs defending the simplicity and truth of that plan, the memory of Madison reminded me that God did not make our Salvation a difficult thing to understand and comprehend. It is so simple that a child can understand it and receive it. Deep theological expositions on election and free will are only footnotes that should never take precedent over that simplicity. I look to the day when I will join Madison in heaven and even though I will have a perfect body with perfect eyesight, I will make sure that I have glasses that she can hide again.
Shared with the Love of Christ which passes all understanding,