The date was Monday, July 16, 2001, and there were many of us. Kneeling on the plain, hard tile floor, hearts pounding, we filled the front of the room and the whole center aisle, almost to the back door.
It was not the surroundings that had drawn us here to camp: the room was plain and we sat in hard metal folding chairs. Neither was our choice to come forward a response to a dramatic speaker or an emotionally pumped situation. The speaker was loud, even annoying at times, and did not create the necessary environment to manipulate our emotions. It was God that was present, God that was moving in our hearts, and sitting in that metal folding chair, like so many others, I changed a knowledge of Who Jesus was into a personal relationship with Him. Coming forward and kneeling with them, I became a part of something so much bigger than myself.
Many factors led up to the choice that I made that night. The most immediate cause is obvious: I became a Christian that night because I was at camp, heard what was said, and felt God move in me.
However, I did not intend to go to camp. I went because Dennis, the youth minister at my church, invited me himself. Then, when I gave my standard short-notice excuse, that it cost too much, he told me simply, “You’re paid for.” The fact that he wanted me to come so much surprised me: I felt genuinely cared for. I signed up, and even got excited about going. As the day grew closer and closer, however, I felt increasingly uneasy, not about going to camp, but about my situation with the Lord. I had professed salvation at eight years of age, because it seemed like the thing to do and I thought it would be nice to go to heaven and not hell. Yet, as a twelve- and then a thirteen-year-old, watching my grandmother die slowly of cancer made me question the decision I had made so young. That was the surface cause, the time in my life that I can put my finger on and say, “This is the event that made me want to become a Christian,” although underlying needs pointed to a deeper problem. The pain and the family issues that ensued after her death made me, for the first time, truly desire God— but I felt a million miles away from Him. I knew that I had never really understood what it meant to become a Christian: I knew that I was separated from God. Still, I postponed the questions and the apprehension, thinking that I would deal with it at camp, which I did, although I certainly wouldn’t recommend the “Yeah, but later,” approach to salvation. For a long time after camp I considered my story personal, and my reasons for becoming a Christian pretty simple, cut-and-dried. My grandmother died, and I realized I needed God and His strength. That was true enough, but only later did I start to see more of the big picture.
Ultimately, I believe that there is a universal reason why people become Christians. There is a common hunger, a common need that drives us as human beings: we are the creations, and there is a desire to know the Creator. As the human race we study the theory of evolution, we dissect atoms, and we touch the moon in a desperate attempt to take apart and understand ourselves, our world, where we come from, what holds us together, and what the purpose of it all is. As individuals we strive for success, wealth, and general satisfaction in this endless quest to find happiness, peace, and a point to life. We want to make a difference, to leave a mark, to feel like there was a reason we were here. We were made to worship, and every one of us will worship something, and every single one will, somewhere inside, feel empty until we are worshipping the One we were made to worship.
That is why on July 16, 2001, my life was changed. In that moment, as the sincere cry of a broken heart reached the ears of a listening Father, eternal standings shifted, and as seen through the blood of Jesus Christ a sinner ceased to exist, now covered in the righteousness of God.
Some effects were immediate. I can remember such a huge relief, as if an enormous weight had been lifted, while a wave of peace and joy rushed in to take its place. I felt as if my feet never touched the ground, I was so happy. After camp, I permanently cemented my involvement in the youth group and in the church itself. I started coming every time the doors were open: I suddenly belonged there. I still love everyone there, they love me, and I’ve found a life of ministry as well as growing in Christ that I couldn’t be happier about.
Happiness, however, is temporary. Things change, friends let us down, different crises arise, and sometimes it’s hard to hear the voice of God, even when He’s right there, whispering gently in our ears. Life is not always easy: sometimes it seems like it’s never easy. However, other effects were eternal. That is why inviting God into my heart was such a life-changing decision. My life has meaning, a purpose that God has had planned for me since before time began. I do not live on the headlines I read every day, but on the trustworthy hope of Jesus Christ, who loved me and died for me. He was raised from death, conquered sin, and has all power, so I don’t have to be afraid. My life rests in the capable hands of the One who created me, sees me, loves me, and cares for me as His precious child. My broken heart was restored, healed, and made new. My soul finds peace in God, and even when happiness is shattered, inner joy remains true.
Now I have a daily, personal relationship with God, and I’m still discovering new effects every day.
©Denise Walker, 2005
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