My Jesus story began, like many others, I’m sure, with a girl. A beautiful girl. She got my attention. Up until that time, church–and by extension, Jesus–did not occupy my thoughts. Church was something we did to make grandma happy when we traveled back east to visit her. But other than that, there was no ecclesial experience during my formative years. (I’m told I was baptized as an infant in the Methodist church).
Having Catholic friends, Jewish classmates, etc., I once asked my mom what religion we were. Her answer? “Protestant.” If by this she meant we protested the attending of church altogether (not even Easter, or Christmas), then yes, we were Protestant.
I share this to make it clear that God was not a paradigm with which I was familiar. If you asked me as a teen what I believed I would have replied that I was an atheist. I simply did not believe there was a God, or a Jesus, with which I needed to contend. And if there were, and he was anything like my dad, I wanted nothing to with him. Why would I want to be ignored by a cosmic father, too?
I want to make it clear that from the outside it may have appeared that I lived a comfortable life: I had a home, food–the basics. But I was largely ignored, left–as most latchkey children are (my parents divorced)–to my own devices.
Because if my upbringing was marked by the absence of faith on the the one hand, it was also bathed through-and-through on the other with permissiveness. There were little or no boundaries. And without boundaries, there was no sense of security.
And thus no real feeling of being loved.
Then I met this girl, and she cared. She wanted to know how I was doing. She read my (bad) poetry. She cared. I felt real love for the first time.
She invited me to church; I went. We went to prom together. She hailed from a large, warm, loud family. This was so different from my cold, quiet one. There was food, and laughter, and talk of Jesus. The singing of hymns around a piano.
Her family felt so very alive.
God knows what He’s doing, friends. He used a beautiful girl to get my attention, and showed me a different life. I saw her family, I went to church (just to sit beside her), I heard the Gospel.
On a warm May evening in 1988, I prayed in my car: “God, if you’re there, I want you in my life. I can’t do this alone anymore. It’s too heavy, too lonely.”
For my family of origin, faith was the road never traveled, but it has made all the difference.
And the girl? The one who loved me enough to tell me of different life? The one who led me to Christ? Two-and-a-half years later we married, and for the last twenty-three years I’ve been proud to call her my wife.
That’s my Jesus story. What’s yours?