A jump back in time – me as a teenager with the hat and bull whip.
I want to share about one of the pivotal moments of my life. Perhaps the most pivotal. I would have been about fourteen or fifteen years old. I lived in a Christian family and done a lot of thinking and researching about whether I also believed in God the creator and His son Jesus and decided that yes, I was a believer.
About this time, my mom brought me, my brother, his girlfriend, and I think Emily (my good friend) and Lydia (my good friend cousin) and some other kids to Christian conference thing. At the end of the main topic, the speaker began giving an invitation. I don’t exactly remember what he said… it was some sort of an invitation to come up and submit to God and be prayed for. I do not know what his words were, but this was the moment, the pivotal moment in my life.
In my heart, I heard things. I knew things. I don’t think I even really heard the words of the man speaking. It was God speaking and He said, “I want you to show everybody that you are mine. I want you to walk forward and confess your submission to me.” I was mortified. I was there with my friends, proud and confident as only a teenager can be. The idea of showing weakness, of being embarrassed by going forward in front of everybody to an altar call was horrible. I.did.not.want.to.
God continued speaking to me. It wasn’t in so many words, but I argued with him internally. I told him no. He told me yes. My heartbeat was loud to my ears and I began to have something like tunnel vision. I did not want to go up, but I felt that I should. I began to understand that to not go up was to deny Him. He told me that if I did not confess him in front of my friends, that he would go away from me. He had been with me since I was a child, but he would leave if I denied Him.
I had a choice.
I delayed. I delayed. I waited while other people went up and while the speaker kept talking and my heart kept pounding. And I knew that this decision was more important than all the decisions up to this day. It was a choice with consequences. An adult choice, if you will. I fought. The part of me that wanted to not change, to stay hidden… it fought. And then I cast my pride down and left myself in the hands of His grace. I stood up and I went forward. I had to climb over the legs of some friends. I think I told them I’d be right back. I didn’t look at anybody I came with – I was too scared. But I wasn’t going to let God go. I needed His protection. I needed Him to stay with me. So I went.
While I stood in the front, nothing remarkable happened. Somebody asked how they could pray for me and I told them I didn’t know. My mom noticed I’d gone missing and came up and found me and I was crying. But I still had so much pride that I couldn’t tell her why I was up there. I didn’t exactly know myself… I just went because God told me to. And it was over. I had obeyed.
A little while later – minutes or hours, I was in the bathroom. It was one of those big venue bathrooms with a long row of sinks and an equally long mirror. I stood there staring at the mirror, washing my hands maybe. And I saw something about myself. I saw the clothes I was wearing. I remembered the motivations that caused me to pick these ones out. And I was shocked with the awareness of the filth of myself. The sinfulness. The selfishness. I recognized for the first time the depravity of my heart and the direction I was headed. I should say, the depravity of my former heart and the direction I had been headed.
Because something was new.
God had taken my obedience and done something new. Something in my heart was new and has never left me since that day. I think it’s what the Bible means when it says “born again.” I felt a new heart inside of me. I don’t know how else to say it. There was something inside of me that was unselfish. It had a new set of hopes and goals in life. They weren’t big long term goals, they were more basic and simple. I think it was when God planted some of His spirit in me – love… joy… peace… patience… kindness… goodness… faithfulness… gentleness… self control. Mostly I remember the pleasant surprise of unselfish thoughts. And the contrast with the thoughts I had that morning. It was a new beginning.
Thank you, Lord, for moments when you have reached into my life and touched me. Thank you for the memory of this day that makes my faith stronger. Thank you for what you did that day. Thank you that you haven’t finished working on me.
There’s still a battle inside me – the old self and the new self. That battle will be over when Christ returns, but I already know who won. And He has never left me. And I am still His.