Another girl exclaimed, "Oh! I remember the answer to this one." She turned to our brand-new youth pastor and said, "Is it that thing you said the other day about accepting Jesus or something weird like that?"
Our youth pastor smiled and said, "Yeah, something weird like that."
I laughed. How silly. How do you accept someone? I knew all about accepting. My father was a college professor. Colleges accepted people. People don't "accept" people.
Besides, what does accepting Jesus have to do with heaven?
Everyone knew the answer to the heaven question. If I died and had to stand at the pearly gates explaining why I deserved to be admitted, I would have to tell God I had lived a fairly decent life and leave it at that. I wasn't worried. At seventeen I hadn't killed anyone or pillaged any cities. Sure, I bought that Playboy with Madonna in it. But those hairy armpits were punishment enough. I feared Jeff might be nuts.
It says something about either the gentleness or the ineptitude of our church that I knew nothing about Jesus' role in Christianity by the time I was seventeen. Of course, it might have been my own theological density. I had been through a confirmation class when I was twelve or thirteen. I even remembered parts of the Nicene Creed, the theological foundation of virtually every Christian denomination since the fourth century: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father." Still, the whole accepting thing seemed simply weird.
Over the following months our group went horseback riding, hung out at Jeff's house with his wife, Jodie, and talked about the Bible. We also memorized the order of New Testament books, with the help of nifty mnemonic devices like "God Eats Popcorn" to remember that Galatians precedes Ephesians, which precedes Philippians.