I generally think of my present faith as one developed seamlessly, without interruption. In my upbringing I was taken regularly to church, and trained morally and spiritually at home. With steady and growing understanding, came faith and commitment. I don't know what got me to thinking, but it came as a shock to me that such was not quite the case. There were cross roads and forks along the way. Different courses could have been taken. It frightens me to think what might have happened if one of those other paths had been pursued. Would I have recovered?
Here is one of them. My mother was a Christian. My father was not. That alone might make it easy for a boy to be disinterested. With World War II, my mother went to work. It was the patriotic thing to do. It was also financially beneficial. My family bought a house. I had lots of freedom and ran with a group of kids who had the same unsupervised time I had, and had similar preoccupied parents who tried to make it up to us in providing frequent parties here and there. Actually, at ages 10 and 11 we were acting much older than we were. A group of us went to a movie, but some of us were paired up. The girl with me being 12, and I 11, I bought one "adult" ticket and one "child's." I cringe when I think of that, for many reasons, but it helps me understand why our "relationship" deteriorated somewhat. She was associated with a younger man. But we all had as much or more impact upon one another as our parents did. I still went to church on Sunday mornings, but things could have gone either way.
What saved me, and probably several of us, is that we had a background of teaching regarding right, wrong, honesty, and responsibility. Though we were too free, those lessons being recent rather than remote, still carried weight. There was also the influence of my mother's faith in earlier years when she had been so determined and fought so hard for my spiritual attention, and guided it. She went to much trouble to see that we attended services regularly. That had made church an important thing, and had residual influence.
Nevertheless, I can look back and see weakness of resolve in my self and probably her. I can remember a Sunday when a friend with whom I was sitting didn't want to stay after classes. A fleeting, and I mean momentary, stomach discomfort hit me. It had before and would again, without interrupting other things I was doing. But I decided to complain that day, and my mother said I could go home. She should have told me I would live. I remember walking home with mixed feelings. There was a little guilt, but it was really a nice Sunday morning to have off.
Even with such lapses, I still identified more with what was right because of early teaching. I was just growing less militant about it. But if those lapses had begun to dominate, where would I be today? And if we had stayed there, they might have. But the war ended and we moved. My mother was at home again, her determination was renewed, and the folks at church took an interest in me. I began to listen better. Conviction grew and I obeyed the gospel. Thank God.
I was prepared to do right. But in softening of resolve, I might have lost the fruit of that preparation. Fortunately my peer influence had come from those who were not so different. That often is not true today. What do you think will keep our children from taking a wrong fork in the road? How about, our consistent unrelenting commitment, and example? -- Dale Smelser