This is what I remember about my first religious crisis or spiritual epiphany.
I was five years old and in first grade at Northeast Christian School in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. (I went to parochial school for the first two years and then went to public school in Fridley starting in third grade.)
Anyways, when it was really horrible weather we had recess inside. I remember the playroom had a wall that had a long counter with shelves underneath with lots of cubbies for toys and books. The bell went off and we were supposed to put the toys away and return to class. I was taking too long and had to hurry, so I quickly tossed this teddy bear up on top of the counter and rushed to get to class. The teacher grabbed my arm and dragged me back for a good close look at my sin. I had tossed that teddy bear on top of the big open bible on the counter. I thought I was in trouble for not putting it down in a cubby--but it was considerably worse than I ever could have imagined.
The teacher lectured me about how I had defaced God's property, insulted God with my careless attitude, the bible was God's word, I had no respect,....etc....etc....etc. She informed me I was going straight to hell and I had better change my ways. She had me move the teddy bear to a cubby, apologize to God, and sent me off to class.
I was absolutely destroyed! I couldn't stop thinking about it! I had quite accidentally condemned my soul to hell. I had been in such a happy mood, loved school, and hadn't meant to do anything to upset God at all. I knew I'd make more mistakes--I always did. God was mad at me and would probably never forgive me. My life was over--done!
When I got home from school I nervously told my mom about how I was going to hell and why. She just laughed. Poo-pooed the entire incident. Since she didn't go to church except for Easter and Christmas I didn't figure she was exactly an authority on all things biblical--so I went off to my room, crawled under the covers, and mourned my loss of God until I had no more tears and just those hiccupy breaths. I laid there--limp and lifeless. And then I "heard" inside my head--"That's not your God."
Now, those of you that know me have heard about GA (my guardian angel) for most of my adult life. I had no idea where this information that just popped into my head came from--but never questioned it. Looking back--that was probably the first time I consciously remember having one of those inner conversations with GA (not that I was even aware that was what it was at the time--at all). You know how they say something has the ring of truth? My chats with GA have always been like bells of truth ringing--(whether I like what he has to say or not--hehe!).
Anyways, a long silent "thought conversation" took place as I laid there in bed. I was "told" that God doesn't judge only by the outside, but by the inside. Not just by what I did--but why I did it. Only God knows all the whys--knows everything--and that's why I shouldn't judge people only by what I see and hear. I had no evil intent toward God when I tossed the teddy bear on the bible. God knew that. My God is a loving God. My God has miraculous love that is bigger and stronger than all the hate or anger or fear in the whole world. But I was also "told" the teacher was not lying. That is how she sees God and that is who God really is to her--inside. Everybody's whys or insides are different. And only God knows your insides--your secret, safe place. I can't adequately describe how the concepts flowed through me or the intense relief and the love I felt all through my body and soul. The information was conveyed very simply and a lot of it was almost as visuals. But I have never forgotten it.
Seems like I have spent my lifetime trying to regain the innocent absolute faith of that five-year-old who believed she was forgiven. :):)