One particular Sunday evening when I was five, Mom and Dad allowed me to ride to church in the very back of the family station wagon. During that ride, I pointed at my two brothers and parents and thought, "Saved. Saved. Saved. Saved. I'm the only one that's not a Christian."
A wave of unhappiness swept over me. But I didn't understand who Jesus was, and honestly, my experience with authority up to that point left me suspicious and scared. My dad was a Christian as far as I knew, but he only acted like it on Sunday. When I grew older, I came to understand how bad habits and guilt from mistakes in his past kept him from being a loving father to us kids. But at the age of five, in that station wagon that Sunday, I only knew he got mean when he drank.
For the next three years, anger grew inside of me. Oh, I wasn't rebellious at home, but I did pick at my older brothers unmercifully. I didn't get in trouble at school, but I imagined a host of scenarios where I beat up bad kids. I went to Sunday School just like all the other kids, sang in the kids choir, and avoided my dad at all costs.
The only time I made the mistake of acting out my anger, the results were bad. A skirmish with some neighborhood kids ended with a nasty cut on my arm. Walking home with blood all over my shirt, staring down at the blood on my hand from covering the wound, I could only think, "there has to be more to life than this." At the tender age of 8, I was weighing out my future.
My parents never mentioned the fight to me, but there must have been conversation between the two of them about it. One evening, Dad summoned me to his "office," the couch in the dining room where he always sat, drinking and smoking and working crossword puzzles.
Oh great. Now I couldn't escape speaking to Dad. Trudging into the dining room, I stood before him, dreading the inevitable shouts and condemning remarks. However, he took a different tack this time.
"Don't you think it's time you became a Christian?"
What?! Where had that come from? He didn't yell. He just looked at me, waiting for an answer. Staring blankly, I couldn't get my mouth to form that answer. I wanted to run, but my feet wouldn't budge. When he realized I wasn't going to say anything, he called for Mom.
"Don't you think she should become a Christian?"
"Well, I guess I could set up an appointment for her to speak to the pastor."
"Fine. Do it."
The conversation was finished, and I didn't hear about it for months afterward. Then, a couple of weeks before Easter, Mom announced I was going to meet with the pastor on Wednesday night before kids choir practice. An uneasiness like I'd never known crept over my soul.
The conversation with the pastor got off to a rocky start. I wouldn't even look at him, and didn't give him honest answers to most of his gentle questions. After about thirty minutes, I could tell his patience was growing thin. But the struggle within me was intensifying. I didn't want to be mean and full of anger any more. Could Jesus really change me?
Suddenly, I broke. Tears streamed down my face as the battle between the Holy Spirit and my spirit shifted to God's advantage. I prayed a prayer of repentance, and left that office a totally new person. I'll never forget that walk from his office to kids choir practice on that Wednesday night. The next Sunday, Palm Sunday, I stood before the congregation to publicly testify: this sheep had been brought into the flock.
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" Luke 15:4
He certainly does. Yes, amen.
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