Ted Grimsrud—November 3, 2022
In my early teen years, I often engaged in conversations with my friends about God. As none of us were churchgoers, we didn’t simply repeat orthodoxies. We were all trying to figure things out for ourselves. We were pretty naïve, as near as I recall. I wish I could remember more about what we talked about. I do remember that at one point I decided I was an atheist—which of course meant that I was pretty preoccupied with the “God” I didn’t believe in. I would say now that I was only an atheist in relation to my conscious ideas about God, which were uninformed and basically had to do with some big, all-powerful person in the sky. It took me awhile to figure out that there was a different kind of God that I did believe in.
When I was 15, I attended my first funeral. It was an extra sad one, a popular guy in the community who died of cancer in his late 20s. During a prayer time during the service, I felt God’s presence and decided at that point that I did believe in God. I had little sense of what that meant, but I was eager to figure it out. I had a close friend who had recently joined the local Baptist church. In a careful, thoughtful way, he guided me in a process that culminated about two years later in my decision to accept Jesus as my personal savior. I then began a journey among the fundamentalists (defined as people who affirm that label for themselves).
A desire to believe in God
I think ever since, I have always sincerely wanted to believe in God and to live truthfully. At first that meant affirming the understandings of God that I received from the Baptists. Those were standard beliefs—God is a (male) person who is all-powerful, in control, and a jealous God. This God is just, angry at those who disobey him, and forced by the demands of justice to punish the disobedient. Accepting Jesus as your savior means that you will get to go to heaven to spend eternity with God. Jesus can save us and turn God’s anger to mercy because he died on the cross and took our place as the recipient of God’s punitive anger. God wants us to turn to him in prayer throughout each day, to read the Bible regularly, to share the gospel with others, and to worship with God’s people in church at every opportunity.