My Go Church All Night

A Repost from My Journey of Faith Magazine by Sarah Heringer.  Sarah shares her salvation story with you as a way to encourage you to examine your own story.  Looking back of the years of your life gives perspective of how God has worked.  Take time at the beginning of this year and reflect on your story.

“My go church all night.” My parents say it was my very first full sentence. It was true, I loved church at an early age. We attended First Baptist Church of Brinkley, Arkansas, and would often walk there in our Sunday best. I would also frequent my grandmother’s churches, where they both played either the organ or piano; Nana Sprott at First Presbyterian in Huntsville, AR, and Grandma Greene at First Baptist in Lead Hill, AR.

We moved in 1986 and attended First Baptist of Harrison (AR). It was there, at 9 years old, I made the decision to follow Christ. I still remember the feeling, so much joy and peace and comfort in knowing that my eternity was secure in Him who gave His life for me. Following my commitment to Christ, I was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1988.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17

The next several years were filled with reading God’s word, going to church, Bible studies, K-life, journaling about my love for the Lord, growing my faith and sharing it with others.

Then high school came. I fought to hold onto my faith, but with time, other things became more important. Other things filled the spaces that God once so beautifully filled.

I moved on to college and grew further from the Lord. My go church all night became my go church never. I only attended if our sorority went as a group (1 time a year) or if I was home visiting my family (which probably didn’t happen that much). The Lord was always there for me when I needed Him, and I did call out to Him from time to time, usually only when I needed something or was going through a rough patch. I have friends who say they remember me reading the Bible but I really don’t remember that. I still believed, but I had quit following the Lord.

Looking back, I can see this huge void in my heart. A heart that once overflowed with Jesus had become ignorant of Him and more open to the pleasures the world had to offer. I tried to fill it with things that would never fulfill. I had a lot of temporary fun, but it was empty and led me down paths that could’ve been avoided had I kept my security and identity in Christ.

Fast forward several years…I would often attend church and pray but still wasn’t all in. I would try to do a quiet time or a Bible study at church but it just wouldn’t stick. Something else would always come up that was more important but ultimately my priorities were wrong. I was the one at the center and I wasn’t being who God created me to be…however, He never stopped loving me or chasing me.

In 2008, we attended Central Baptist (Jonesboro, AR) with some friends. I could hardly breathe or stop the tears during the invitation because of the distance I had placed between the Lord and myself. So I didn’t go back. I wasn’t ready to give myself to Him completely yet. I ran even harder away.

But then, in 2010, through the prayers of the same precious friend who invited me initially, Jesus drew me back. Not only to the church but to Himself. I laid everything down at the foot of the cross and surrendered. My past, my present and my future. I felt so much conviction from the years I spent running from the One who never stopped running after me, and I was done. I was tired. I was incomplete without Him fully in my heart. I finally turned back to Him, 100% all in, more on fire than ever before. My quiet time stuck. The Bible Studies I started, I finished. I sought Him incessantly and couldn’t quit learning of Him. It was as if, not even meaning to, I was making up for years of lost time with my God.

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2: 25

I ran hard towards Him and ran fast with Him. My heart was pumping like never before and I felt a security and love I had been seeking yet not finding anywhere else. He also placed several women in my life to bring accountability, encouragement and discipleship, which made a tremendous difference.

In 2011, at age 33, I was baptized again. Not because I had to for salvation, my salvation happened when I accepted Christ as my Savior at age 9, but as a response to God from a clean conscience, and as a symbol of my repentance and change of heart. I wasn’t dead in my salvation but several parts of my heart had died and I desired to be raised to walk in my new newness of Christ.

So. My go church all night…it starts in our hearts. We, as believers and followers of Christ, are the church, no matter where we go to church. God stirs His church and forms it in our hearts. He chases and loves each and every one of us, relentlessly.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12: 27

I can’t explain the difference He has made in my life. He resuscitated me, bringing me back to life to the fullest, life with Him at the center. He brings a peace and joy amidst the chaos of this life that NOTHING else can offer. He teaches me to love others, even when it’s hard. He has shown me how to be the wife and mom He desires me to be. He picks me up when I fail and never lets me go. He has taught me about grace and true forgiveness and equips me to do things I could never do on my own. He loves me, with a perfect love, and cherishes me in a way no human ever could.

Dear friend, He loves and cherishes you too. Do you feel Him chasing you? Beckoning you to return fully to Him? Or maybe to just let Him in? If so, turn to Him. Nothing on this earth will satisfy, just Jesus. I pray we all will find and receive comfort and rest in His ever-loving, ever-present, life-giving arms, and may we all go church all night.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” Psalm 51: 12

Sarah Heringer