How can I explain to you the decision I made so long ago to accept the Christian life? How can you who have not lived my life understand the process leading up to that single moment? Perhaps this will be the most difficult piece of writing I will ever do. I have asked God to give me the words needed to send this message. In faith I will relay this testimony.
I was twelve when this decision was put before me. My life up to this point was a hazy set of memories from childhood, and as I was still a young boy there was not much expected of me. I was happy and I was loved. My family was supportive and there are no examples of abuse or domestic trauma that others have experienced. As I consider the many broken and devastated lives that I have encountered, my life was blessed beyond measure. But at the time I considered my family to be the norm and even a little below normal.
I was and perhaps still am a solitary person in many ways. My father and I were unable to form a relationship or dialog of much meaning. I know that he loved me but I also knew he did not understand me and I could not explain myself to him. My mother and I were closer but my brothers and sisters were a mystery to me. I spent more time in my head than others. My father reading the comic strip Calvin and Hobbs once said to me “Michael, I see so much of you in this.” I suppose there is a lot of truth in that.
I had a hard time accepting the importance of some things, like school work. Beyond moving to the next grade I was unconvinced that retaining the information was going to be mean much to me. I regret a lot of this now because I have learned some bad habits around study and preparation that have affected some aspects of my adult life. I have never been out of work but there are times I am missing some skills that would make advancement more possible.
I was not fully dispassionate but I was very much disconnected with things. This did not seem to bother me very much but in this existence I was becoming crippled emotionally. I was unfamiliar with many aspects of expressing emotion and feeling. I knew laughter and fun, pain and anger and fear. But I did not know how to temper or blend these in ways that were affective. I could go from happy to rage and bypass things like irritated, miffed and upset. You can imagine how someone like this would react to being insulted or otherwise impugned.
I spent the three years of middle school in a shell of fear and isolation because of my inability to interact with my classmates. I created social mistakes that in this setting made life miserable. My shirts would be frayed at the shoulders because I wall-hugged in the halls. My attempts at being invisible did not protect me from the bigger boys and with each new altercation I would slip deeper into this shell.
I could not tell anyone the truth of what living my life was like. My parents tried over and over to figure out what was causing me to be so distant and destructive. I know my father worried about my state of mind and in one conversation he asked me if I ever thought of hurting myself. I could not understand what he was talking about because all I wanted was to just be left alone. I wanted the pain to stop not to add to it. How could I say to a man who was once a boxer that his son was so weak? I had so little of his heart as it was and I could not risk loosing more of it. I could accept him looking at me in disappointment but not in disgust.
It was around this time that my Uncle Gary came to visit. A “Gary Visit” was always an event we looked forward to. He was a fun and larger than life kind of man to us boys. We loved to try to wrestle him to the ground and he would toss us around the yard like little puppies. At times we would land too hard but after a few tears we would rush back into the fray, bruised but determined that this time the old man was going down. He never did but we sure loved to make the attempt.
My mother asked Gary to speak with me because she knew that where her love might have failed Gary’s faith might not. Gary has been a Prophet and follower of Christ for as long as I can remember. He has lived a life in service to God that many of us would find a little odd. To tell you the truth even us that loved Gary found him to be a little odd. But there was never a doubt on where he put his faith.
Gary one night shared with me a message. He told me about a God that was aware of me and knew of my every moment. He told me about a God that was desperately seeking after my heart. He told me of the fellowship he had with this God and how there were no secrets between them. He told me of a God that even knowing all of the bad parts of my life still wanted to love me. He told me of the possibility of acceptance without achievement and love beyond all measure.
I can not express to you how those words affected me. I am almost forty today and as I write this to you, my eyes have misted and my breath is haggard as I recall how like water to a parched earth those words filled me. I wanted to know more about this God and I wanted it right then. Gary told me that there was something I needed to do in order to experience this type of relationship. My heart sank when I heard this because I was afraid I would have to perform some terrible or costly deed. But when Gary said all I needed to do was ask for it I was speechless.
How can it be that all of this can come to me just by asking for it? Was Gary insane to think that anyone as powerful as God could sell this type of thing so cheaply? Just go up to God and ask for it? But then Gary explained that while it seemed free to me, there was a cost. He explained to me what Jesus did to pay this cost. How God became flesh and endured the tortures of a cross. How he was whipped, beaten and abused on the path to that cross and how in the end he died on that cross. He did this on the odd chance that I might say “Thank you and I accept your gift.”
This is the truth of what Jesus did and I believe strongly that truth once heard will have an impact. I was struck down with shame that for so long I had allowed Christ to have done all that in vain because I refused Him. So I asked for him. I asked him to forgive me, and to accept me and to restore me. I asked him to be with me and to teach me how to live the life he had for me. I asked and Jesus answered.
In the short days after this moment my feelings of self worth were magnified beyond understanding. I knew that the God of all creation thought well of me, and this knowledge filled me with courage and hope. I moved from the wall of the hall to the middle of the hall. I was able to walk straight and tall and look at people in the eye. I was able to accept that while people may hate me this did not devalue me.
I felt like a new person, a new creation and I wanted to share this feeling with others. I sought out other Christians and entered into fellowship with them. My mother saw the transformation in me and one day she too asked Jesus for his love. My two sisters followed and for a time while the boys resisted there was conflict in our home. But in all things God has his purpose fulfilled and now all of my brothers have asked for Jesus. Every one of those people would make you proud to call friend. I have traveled around the world and have never known people of such compassion and depth of love.
I have witnessed first hand the life changing affects of placing the love of Jesus in the heart of Man. I have seen the healing of bodies and spirits that have provided the validation that what I believe transcends what I feel. Today I am husband and father, son and brother and am able to experience the full expression of those relationships. My life is different but not perfect, and I seem to fall more often than I should. But when I do fall the thing that gets me back up, is the love of Christ that gives me peace beyond all understanding.
How can I who have been given so much not try to share that with others? The answer is I must not keep this to myself. I must go out and tell people about my God, not to condemn them but to restore them. When I think of all that has been done for me and my family and know that the wealth of the Kingdom of God has not diminished I am in awe. I hope that you continue this exploration with me. I hope and pray that my story will become part of your story. Your story can change the lives of countless others.