I was born into a Christian family, but that is only a small part of why I am a Christian. I am grateful for the foundations my family gave me, however every soul needs to find their own answer in Jesus for faith to mean a blessed thing. In my case I did all the Christian things. I went to church, Sunday School, later youth group, was baptized and did the short-term missions trips. (I didn’t do summer camp though, that was not particularly attractive to this homebody.)
Then I went to Bible school in Austria and things began to unravel. I think I had grown quite smug and arrogant having every question answered in my mind; answered but untested. An untested faith is a very precarious faith. And upon my return to Canada, I just didn’t know whether I believed (or wanted to believe) in the God I had grown up with.
I don’t think I even knew myself what was going on in my own heart, but secret sins started to infiltrate and take hold. The thing with secret sin is that it only reinforces the lies that already exist in our minds. “You are all alone.” “No one would understand.” “They wouldn’t accept you if they knew.” So, my sin remained secret.
I gradually slipped farther and farther into depression, broke up with my girlfriend and basically lived in personal misery. Somehow, I pulled myself together enough to realize I had made a mistake with Tara and asked her to date me again, and shockingly she agreed. I knew that I would marry her if she took me back and within two months I popped the question; while still dealing with personal darkness and depression (which I didn’t admit to Tara).
As fresh fiancés, we decided to help with a mission’s trip to Mexico and travelled down together to Kansas where we met friends and went the rest of the way with them. The trip proved to be the start of an unravelling that would take years to complete. At the end of the work part of the trip we stayed in a small rural Texas town to debrief our experience. My oldest brother, Sam came down and lead the youth in processing their experiences and consider what they would need to do to assimilate back into their regular lives.
One evening during worship I found myself at the front of our small Texas host church worshipping with my brother. When Sam knelt, I decided I would too. Then Sam bowed his face to the ground and I followed suit! Perhaps I shouldn’t have, because in that posture of submission and worship God convicted me fiercely of my selfish and dark heart. I began to come undone. Sobbing ensued.
Sam came over and did pray for me but he wasn’t sure what I needed. I on the other hand knew I needed to speak to someone. I had made fast friends with a youth pastor from Winkler, a town just a few hours from my home in Manitoba and I told God that if Brad was looking at me when I stood up I would ask him to come and pray with my outside, but, I told God, if Brad wasn’t looking, I would go to the washroom, clean up and take my secret to my grave. That’s quite an ultimatum… but then again, I was pretty arrogant. Good thing God isn’t.
Brad was looking directly at me as I stood.
He followed me out into the hot Texas night and gave me a hug. I could barely pull myself together long enough to confess the guilt that I carried in my heart. The detail of the sin isn’t important, but what is important is that Brad didn’t move. He didn’t let me go. He wasn’t repulsed or shocked, he simply hugged with God’s arms.
After I composed myself, we sat down together and Brad taught me how to hear God’s voice and how to let Him heal the pain in my past that had led to my sinful pattern. It was a remarkable moment.
But it didn’t last. We went home and the conviction faded and I struggled with patterns of sin. Brad met with me several times to try and help me overcome but still I resisted. But now God had gotten a hold of my heart and I knew that something would have to give, which only made me feel more and more hopeless.
I had often considered killing myself and had even thought of the most effective ways to do it. My imagination was a dark and unhappy place. One evening in October I found myself at my very lowest. I was living with a roommate in a rented house on my family farm but I was home alone and wanting to simply escape life. I finally felt scared by my thoughts and I decided to call my pastor, Rick.
Rick talked to me for some time and I confessed to him that I was scaring myself and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Rick was a wise dude. He asked me where this depression was coming from and I replied that I simply wasn’t sure if I was a Christian and it was driving my crazy. In hind sight, killing yourself is a stupid way to find out if you are truly saved, but that was the state I was in.
Rick told me to set aside all the things I had done that had given me the appearance of being saved. Leading worship, prayer meetings, mission’s trips – just forget it all. He told me to simply pray and accept Jesus as my Savior so that in the future whenever the devil would tempt me with doubts of my salvation I could point to October 2000 as the time when I submitted my life to Christ. So, that’s what I did. I didn’t think about the theological implications that I was apparently baptized before I was saved, or that I was admitting that I had been a sham Christian. I just went for it and bowed my life to Christ.
The problem is, life still didn’t get better. Oh, I struggled to find my joy. One time after praying with Brad in Winkler I nearly drove myself off a bridge on the way back home because I was so frustrated with my inability to overcome my weakness.
Brad sensed that it was time for him to introduce me to his mentor; the man who had taught Brad how to bring healing to our lives through the living and active voice of God. One week before my wedding Brad picked me up on the farm and drove me to meet Dietrich, a pastor of a unique little inner city church. He was one of the kindest men I have ever met. He prayed so simply, so intimately and so confidently to the God he knew could set me finally free.
And God did set me free. Patterns of thinking that had been with me literally for as long as I could remember fell away from me like the scales that fell from Paul’s eyes. How do you describe the power of an encounter like this? It was the cross for me.
The Scottish Anglican missionary, bishop and scholar, Stephen Neill is quoted as saying “In the Christian theology of history, the death of Christ is the central point of history; here all the roads of the past converge; hence all the roads of the future diverge.”
That was my experience. On April 21, 2001, I was at the cross. At that moment, all the roads of my life converged and from that point have diverged. I have never been the same.
If there is a story that summarizes the question “Why I am a Christian” it is this story. God left little room for doubt. When He met me, an arrogant, unhappy, unkind and lost soul and set that person free, I not only came to know Him as my rescuer, I came to know Him as my friend. Quite simply, I am too loyal to give my heart to any other.
There is not short cut to the path that Jesus lays before us. Being born into a Christian home is a wonderful thing, but every soul on the planet needs to find their own way to the Savior. Our children are no different. My prayer is only that when I tell them this story, that they are motivated to search for the same God of their father.
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