Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Call Me Jo-Jo

Sin, huh?  That subject can go a lot of different places.  When I was a kid David Wilkerson and his Teen Challenge Ministry were just getting notoriety in Brooklyn.  For a short while, some of the staff and recovering addicts came to the Norwegian Pentecostal church where I grew up.  I suppose the calmness of Pentecostal worship or the feeling that perhaps only Norwegians were truly welcome there led them to go elsewhere.

When I was just shy of a teenager we went to another more lively church, Calvary Tabernacle pastored by Dr. Benjamin Crandall who is now on staff at Times Square Church with the famous David Wilkerson.  I loved seeing more lively worship.  It seems the Teen Challenge staff and recovering addicts were now sitting in the pews of this church.

It was there that sin became very attractive to me.  Oh I dabbled in smoking and learned to swear – these were big sins in the Pentecostal church.  I also wore make-up another major sin.  Movies were added but that didn’t seem as “sin-like” since it was something my parents added as well.  Cards were still frowned upon but we played gin with Rook cards so as not to sin.

No those weren’t the sins that attracted me.  You see, in those days, recovery addicts were glorified.  Yes, hallelujah, I really mean that, no sarcasm – hallelujah they were set free.  However, for a good little church girl whose biggest sin was swearing and trying to smoke it seemed if you were good, no one cared.  Even so, I carried a lot of guilt.

But the need for attention overrode the guilt.  Lying began to be an option.  Fortunately fear and God kept me from doing the things I claimed I did.  A game of “stump the youth pastor” became the main vehicle for attention. 

Calvary had a youth pastor.  It wasn’t as common in those days for a Pentecostal church to have one – oh maybe a youth leader would occasionally emerge, but a youth “PASTOR” was rare.  A young couple became the youth pastors of our new church.  The wife’s sister had been engaged to my brother at one time.  She now was married to someone else and on staff at Teen Challenge.  The two sisters were part of a well-known musical ministry family from Massachusetts.

The youth pastor and his wife seemed very genuine.  Ahhh, they were the perfect prospects for the “stump the youth pastor.”  A friend and I would conspire and make up stories to tell our respective youth pastors.  We would tell them of our sins.  Most were made up.  I asked people to call me Jo-Jo as it sounded Brooklyn like, better than Joyce.

Drugs, sex, alcohol, all manner of evils were conjured up for a form of confession.  I remember one time the wife of my youth pastor crying over me as I had told her a salacious story of my sins – all untrue.

I still feel bad about “stumping the youth pastors.”  They were good people.  What I did was sin.  That sin led to my parents believing these lies as well.  It led to being moved to Missouri.  My life was forever changed and altered as we moved away from Brooklyn.

The truth of the matter was that I loved God through all of this.  I just wanted to be like those people who had a “testimony.”  Now my testimony is that yes, while I have always been pretty much of a goodie-two-shoes on the outside, on the inside I cried for attention through sinning.  My testimony is that God loves me and has forgiven me.  My testimony is that through all the twists and turns of my life, through an abusive marriage, poverty, abandonment, and such, all things have worked together for good.  


Tracy said...

Couldn't help but laugh as I read this; I could just see it all. Think I can somewhat relate; I can remember those times when testimonies were given that practically glorified the sin, can remember feeling like I didn't have a testimony since I, too, was a goody two shoes. You're sure right about God loving you exactly how you are. Your testimony of a bad first marriage, poverty, children and now studying for your PhD never ceases to inspire me - God is so good and He works in our lives in better ways than we could ever dream of.

Tony C said...

I only wish I had made up transgressions to be sorry for Joyce!

Too funny...but also far too common. I see the same trend in my church. I envy the Christians I know who have strived all their lives to be close to God.

David-FireAndGrace said...

I am with Tony, I have more than enough real sins to put before the cross.

Only you, Joyce, would have to lie about sinning. LOL

I guess strikes me is that no one was discerning - well, I guess not - my take is that a lot of church folks don't hear from God. Amazingly, most are never taught.

Thanks for the smile!

Alice said...

Believe me, those of us who DO have a testimony wish they were on the other side at times.

How I sometimes long to have been a "goody two shoes", but He is sovereign. It is interesting to know that those who have not had a checkered past struggles, too, but a different one.

Great post.