Growing up in small-town Iowa, Katie Crichton's family was deeply involved with a local Protestant church. Her mother served as choir director, her father sang in the choir and Crichton and her two brothers sat in the front row every Sunday.
God was everywhere. Religion was everywhere. And throughout Katie Crichton's young life she was surrounded by people who spoke freely about God. God was always very comfortable.
"It was when people started talking about Jesus that I got uncomfortable," she said.
While in college, Crichton remembers coming home for winter break and sitting with her family during the Christmas Eve service, listening to the familiar music and taking in the beautiful candle-lit atmosphere. Deep inside, however, Katie felt like a hypocrite.
"I was sitting there enjoying the service, but not really buying the whole Christmas story," she said.
After graduation, Crichton moved to Eau Claire, Wis., to pursue her teaching career. She lived by herself during the first year and moved in the following year with another teacher, Mary.
"Mary had this personal faith in Jesus," Crichton said. "She read her Bible and memorized Scripture, but aside from that, she was real. I liked her so much. She was fun and to me Christian types were boring, in a box, and very judgmental. But that wasn't Mary at all."
In Eau Claire, Crichton also met her future husband, Jason, and the couple eventually relocated to Chicago. Jason's family, Crichton said, was much more conservative in their beliefs than she was used to. When they talked about Jesus, some of them talked about having a blind faith, a notion that bothered Crichton.
"I was so afraid that Christianity was just too simple and that it was something that people who didn't know any better believed blindly," she said. "I refused to be one of those people."
Despite her hesitation, her curiosity about Jesus grew and the couple started going to church in Naperville, Ill., where Crichton said the pastor brought the Bible to life in a way she had never heard before.
"It was the first time the Bible became really interesting to me and I think a tiny fire started growing inside me," she said.
But along with the spark, Crichton's questions mounted.
When the couple started attending Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, Scripture again was revealed to Crichton in such an appealing way that she increasingly yearned to understand. Eventually, after being asked multiple times, she joined a small group.
"Oh, my poor small group," she said. "I feel horrible because I was like the skeptic sitting in every Bible study saying, 'Well, if that's true, what about this?'"
Fortunately, Crichton said, God gave her and her husband a small group willing to answer her questions in a loving manner, without frustration or judgment.
After several more months of uncertainty, which included a two-hour meeting with Scott Nichols, pastor of the Southern Baptist congregation, Crichton still had a hard time believing that Jesus is the only way.
"I just fired question after question and he kept responding with, 'I understand you have these questions, but Jesus Christ is your Savior,'" she said. "And that just frustrated me. How can that be the only answer? I wanted answers."
That's when she began to read. She read "The Case for Christ," "The Case for Faith" and "When Skeptics Ask," among others. Slowly and steadily, Crichton's spiritual eyes began to open.
She began to see that other religions put a heavy emphasis on humans working their way to perfection, whereas Christianity is the only religion that takes into account that humans are not perfect and never will be.
Another truth Crichton said was made clear was that not only was Jesus a wise teacher, but He boldly proclaimed He was the Son of God.
"So I either had to accept everything that He said or believe that He was a crazy man," Crichton said. "I choose to believe everything He claimed."
And for the Bible being the infallible Word of God, Crichton said it seemed so simple once she found the answer: because Jesus said it was.
"But also, when I started reading the Bible and diving into Bible studies, it became very clear that God had used imperfect men from the start to write His Word," she said. "It became personal to me when verses would come to life right off of the pages and truly affect my choices and life in a way that I could not expect or hope for. It amazed me how intricate details were everywhere in the Bible that tied the New Testament directly to the Old, all of which seems impossible to be accomplished by men."
When it comes to pinpointing the exact moment of her salvation, Crichton doesn't know. She said, for her, it just didn't happen that way.
"I remember one Sunday sitting in the kitchen and I looked to Jason and said, 'You know, ... I don't know if my family is saved,'" she recounted. "And to say 'saved' or 'born again,' that was not in my vocabulary. It made me uncomfortable to say such a thing. But saying that to Jason made me realize that I was."
Now a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Crichton describes her Christian walk as slow, stubborn and constant. She and her husband are active members of Crossroads -- believers whom Crichton now considers part of her family. She said her church is a crucial ingredient to her ongoing struggle with doubt.
"And even when some of the doubt starts to creep back in and the questions start to haunt me, all I have to do is open the Bible and I am sure what I am reading is straight from God," she said. "It's been a very slow change, but it's been a big change."
Kayla Rinker is a writer in New Lenox, Ill. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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