I don’t think I’ve ever told you my story of how I came to be a Christian. Since my story is a defining part of your story let me tell you a bit about how I became a part of God’s story.
I was born into an awesome family. Both my mom (you know her as Bett) and my dad (who died when I was 13) had been raised in Jewish families. I would not say that either of them were devoutly Jewish but it was very much a part of their upbringing and heritage. I was born in Columbia SC, where my dad’s family lived and my mom and dad met. They loved each other a lot – until they didn’t. And as happens to many families, my brother and I became children of divorce when my folks split up when I was about 6 years old. My mom and dad turned out to be really good friends – they were just not good at being married to each other.
At this point my mom, my brother, and I moved to Aiken, SC which proved to be a very significant life event for me. This was primarily because it removed me from any Jewish influence upon my young life. Really from any religious influence upon my life as we spent many a weekend playing tennis rather than attending any kind of religious service.
When I was 10 years old we moved across town into a house next door to the England family. Chuck and Byron were about my age and we would become really good friends. They were very involved at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Aiken. When I was 14 they invited me to go with them to their youth group. So I started going pretty regularly for two reasons: 1) they made it sound fun, which it was, and 2) there were girls there that I was hoping to get to know better. Admittedly my motives were not spiritual but God has used worst motives to get a person’s attention.
The pastor of the church was a man named Jerry Robinson. His son, Tim, would also become one of my best friends and I would spend a lot of time at their house. In many ways Mr. Robinson was like the dad I’d never grown up with (and remember, by this time my dad had already died). It was at First Presbyterian that I began to be exposed to the gospel. Up until this time I really knew nothing about Jesus and who He was and what He had done.
Now during high school I had a lot of things going for me – at least by worldly standards. My family life was good. My mom did a great job of raising us as a single mom. I had a lot of good friends. I lettered in 3 different sports. I was a straight A student for the most part (graduated #3 out of over 600 students). And even though this was a culturally crazy time for our nation (it was the early 70’s) I was a fairly well balanced kid. And yet I knew that there was a level of discontent that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
As I hung around 1st Pres over the next few years I began to hear things that resonated with my soul:
- There was a God and He was holy. The idea of God made perfect sense to me. My analytical mind reasoned that there had to be a beginning to creation and therefore there had to be a Creator. And the way the Bible explained this seemed perfectly plausible.
- The world was broken because of sin and a refusal to live according to God’s blueprint. This also made perfect sense not only because of what I saw happening in the world around me but also, and especially, because of what I knew was going on in my own heart.
- There was nothing that we could do to fix the mess of our own making – but because of the immeasurable love that God had for the people He created, He sent His Son to bear the weight of our sin and to reconcile the broken relationship between us and the Father. The mystery of the cross still amazes and astounds me but to me it is undeniable proof of that great verse in John 3:16 that begins “For God so loved the world.”
- The only “requirement” that God has for us to experience and enjoy this new life of fellowship with God is to trust that His ways are indeed right and good, to turn our backs to sin and our faces toward God, to trust that His Son has indeed brokered this new life for us through His life, death, and resurrection, and to trust that everyday is a new day to demonstrate our love for Him – for as the Scripture says, “we love Him because He first loved us.”
So sometime during my junior year in high school I intentionally placed my trust in Him. I did not fully understand all that this meant at the time but it seemed like the prudent thing to do. And while I experienced many bumps and bruises and ups and downs over the next few years as I was getting my “faith legs” under me, I knew that I had made a decision that would change my life forever. I have never regretted that decision in the 44 years now that I have been a Christian and know unequivocally that my life would be much much worse for the wear had I not become a follower of Jesus.
There are more stories to tell of how God shaped my life in the years following my conversion but I will save those for other Pop Pop epistles.
Never forget that you are very loved!