There was a day when I heard that God loves me and I believed it to be true. I was so young I can't remember it clearly.
There was another day, some years later, that I do remember. I sat in the back of a brown Oldsmobile next to my best friend Patrick. We were five years old. Vacation Bible School was over and his mom had come to take us home. I was holding my crafts for the day in my lap. Glue and glitter and paint covered the paper and my hands as well.
I'd heard a lot of Bible stories that week; stories that I was already very familiar with. My daddy had told me Bible stories before bedtime ever since I could remember.
I thought about the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 hungry people with two fish and five loaves the little boy had given him. It struck me suddenly that my dad knew the same stories the Vacation Bible School people knew. No one had told Goldilocks and the Three Bears that week; I wondered why. Then it hit me; the stories about Jesus were true!
I stared at the sun glancing off of the glitter on my craft page and felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. The stories about Jesus flipped through my mind in rapid succession like the colors of a kaleidoscope and I caught my breath in appreciation. How wonderful! How completely wonderful! I felt like shouting my discovery to the world but realized with embarrassment that probably everyone but me already knew. For days I kept going through the Bible stories I knew, savoring the fact they were true.
Skip forward a couple of years to another Vacation Bible School experience.
“This is the time to ask Jesus into your heart; this is the moment of salvation. Jesus loves all the little children. Come down the aisle and I will pray with you and you can ask Jesus into your heart today and know for sure that you are saved. If you've never done this before, just raise your hand right now and I will pray for you… ”
I was seven years old and sat in a crowd of about two hundred children in a Vacation Bible School chapel meeting. Every day for five days in a row I had heard the same invitation from the nice young pastor. Every day another ten or fifteen kids walked down the aisle, crying or smiling nervously, and were prayed with.
At that very moment the pastor was whispering a prayer with a little girl who repeated each line he said to her, giggling nervously and casting glances at the rest of us. When she was done the pastor turned her around and announced, “Praise God, Mary… (what's your name? Smith?) Mary Smith has asked Jesus into her heart and now she is a born-again child of God.”
I should have been happy for Mary, but instead I was scared and worried. My mind searched frantically for any example in life or history or Bible story that included the scenario that had unfolded here every day. I could not think of one. Oh, God, had I completely missed an enormous, important duty in life called “asking Jesus into my heart?”
I agonized inside. I felt like I was being told I didn't know my own mother and would I like to meet her now? God had been so close to me for so long—what did this walk-the-aisle stuff have to do with knowing him? If it wasn't His idea then I knew it wouldn't satisfy me either.
That year I learned to read well enough to read the Bible myself; I decided to read the book of John. I decided to look for anything Jesus said regarding “getting saved” so I could find out exactly what the truth was. I knew that if I found it for myself then I could know it for sure and not have to worry about misunderstanding God through second-hand information.
I began to read the book written by John, one of Jesus Christ's followers, a man who knew Christ personally and wrote down the words of Christ. I hadn't gotten further than the third chapter when I breathed a deep sigh of relief.
I still wasn't sure what exactly the walk-the-aisle stuff was about, but I had no confusion left between me and God. I knew that I knew Him. He was as good and natural as I'd so far experienced in my short life.
My firsthand observation of the Bible stories satisfied me and birthed a method of finding the truth, a method that continued to grow and shape me.
Skip forward thirty years, across a pretty good and unique homeschool education, a rather pathetic college experience, half a decade of eye-opening world travel, marriage, and a first pregnancy.
I was sitting in a corner reading The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci with a cup of hot tea in one hand. My husband was hosting a Linux meeting in the banquet room of a local restaurant and the room was ricocheting command lines, database gripes, and coding errors from one balding computer genius to another. I smiled vaguely at the thrilling time they were all having and faded into the words of Da Vinci.
“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”
Even more than the words of the man, it was his manner of life and his road to learning that began to captivate me. I remember the moment, the way the sunlight came through the northwest windows and fell on my open book, the moment I realized, Leonardo da Vinci's genius was that of observation.
The book was comprised almost entirely of notes-to-self about things that Da Vinci had observed, from human nature to light, wind, water, and all things natural.
Da Vinci reminded me of my eight-year-old self, struggling through the book of John to examine the words of a firsthand witness of Christ. I felt excited to remember the confidence and satisfaction my own discovery had brought to me, then an awakening realization that—of course!—all knowledge comes from observation. Everything else is hearsay, dogma, indoctrination, propaganda…
“How's the book?” I looked with unseeing eyes at the programmer who had spoken to me and I nodded wordlessly. How could I tell him in one short sentence that I had just begun to see and hear again?
The concept of learning through observation became a manner of life for me, a path that I follow. I call it The Da Vinci Road.