Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day 1972 Revisited, Part 26: The Starting Line

There I sat as the preacher asked any wanting to follow Jesus to raise their hands. It was only recently that these alter calls had been tempting me. After a year of thinking about it, I had concluded that the Jesus I had read about in the Bible was not a con artist, a lying schemer out for money or manipulation of some sort. I eventually, later, also came to the conclusion that the Jesus portrayed in the gospels was not insane. He was not suffering from religious delusions and thinking he was God when he was, in fact, not divine, but merely another flawed human being like everyone else. The elimination of those possibilities had left the third alternative, which was that Jesus was all the Bible claimed him to be: God come to earth in human form to give his life for a fallen and rebellious world--a world he loved so much that he was willing to become one of us and suffer an agonizing death in order to save us. From reading and thinking about the whole of what he taught, and how he lived and loved, and died, and the life-changing effect he had on his disciples and millions of others through the centuries--from all that I had come, little by little, to believe that he was indeed the way, the truth and the life--the unique Savior through whom sinful humans can come to a holy God.

But still--even assenting to all this in my mind, still--I was not yet a follower of Christ. For although I had come to believe a number of things about Jesus, I still had yet to commit my heart and life to him and begin to follow him as a disciple. I was very close to becoming a Christian, but there was one final step to be taken. I had been reluctant to take it. It was a decision which would have deep and profound implications for every aspect of my life and my future. If I were to take this final step, there would be no turning back. It had to be a complete and unreserved commitment.

As the preacher continued to invite people wanting to follow Jesus to raise a hand, I had a sensation which was like the feeling one might have watching the last train for some destination leaving the station with a loved one on board. You should have gone with them but for some reason had procrastinated. Now, in a few moments time the train would pick up speed and you would be left behind for good. I saw that train as standing for spiritual progress and growth and those on it were headed for a real and meaningful destination. I however had been clinging to the platform, frozen in indecision and moral cowardice. Now was my time. I had to make a choice and act upon it while the opportunity was open. My creator was knocking--had been knocking for some time, patiently, persistently--waiting for me to respond. He had been calling me. The next move was mine. Would I make it? I would. I wanted to be part of God's unfolding work in the world. I needed the forgiveness and new birth he offered. "Yes," I said in my heart and mind, "Yes, count me in. I will follow you--beginning here and now. Come into my heart and life and do whatever rebuilding is necessary. I submit to your will. Just lead me and show me the way.I will give it my best, but I will need your help and guidance. I am yours. Amen."

I am not a very outwardly emotional person. I did not have tears of joy or jump up and down with shouts of praise. I did not experience and rapturous spiritual sensations. I just quietly walked out at the conclusion of the service with a profound inner peace and sense of freedom. There was also a feeling that I was on the right track--a totally new, but at the same time very ancient track. It was the Way. Jesus was the guide. Our journey would now begin. The first step had been taken. Many more would follow.

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I walked out of that church building that June evening a changed young man. That change awakened me to seeing things--even things in the physical world--as if with new eyes. I remember being struck by beauty of the tree just outside the door to the church, and the flowers on the church grounds. The greens of the leaves and the colors of the flowers were so much more vivid than I'd ever seen them before; the colors more saturated, more deeply tinted. This seems to me now an unusual and in some ways trivial experience. I only relate it to show that, though my conversion was accompanied by no overtly spiritual sensations, sill I was profoundly effected--even in the way things appeared to me. It was as if I had never really seen the richness of God's creation around me every day. This changed way of seeing things was only one small advance indicator of how I would need to learn to see everything through new eyes and with a new God-enhanced understanding. That change continues to this day. Happy Father's Day!

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