I haven’t publicly written much about being saved, but this week I really have felt convicted to do so. Here is an essay I just wrote about my conversion, though there are many other awesome aspects I didn’t even share…
You may be interested in comparing this to my claims against God in Summer of 2007.
A Mountainous Journey
We had crested the mountain. “We did it!” and “I love you guys!” were the general chorus as we snapped photos together with our homemade Nerd Herd flag. Almost nothing compares to the wonder you experience when standing atop a mountain with your best friends, gazing for miles in every direction. As we descended the mountaintop, awe and euphoria fell to contentment, which landed on exhaustion. Back at home, I returned to my familiar, deep depression before beginning the fall semester.
After a dreary week, the school year started with band camp. I had no idea this would be the first phase of change that I would pass through on a journey to end all my despair.
Phase number one: where I began my ascent. Hans was on the drumline with me. On the first day of camp he and I ended up eating our home-lunches together in a break room while the rest of the band went out for lunch.
“You like saving money too, eh?” Hans quipped.
I laughed. “Ooooh yeah! The cheaper, the sweeter.”
And so began our discussions of money, music, people, memories, and ultimately, God. I was an non-believer. In high school I had turned away from my family’s strong ties to church. Logically and personally God made no sense, especially with all the bad things in our world. But within my deep depression, I was wanting change. I wanted to be happy, to have purpose, and to open my mind. Somehow, Hans saw this and began prodding my thoughts. Most days he brought up a new little question about what I thought about God or the Bible. But the subject didn’t dominate our conversations, as I enjoyed talking about our mutual interests more.
Phase number two: addicted to climbing. Once the semester was underway, Mandy, whom I had shouted at the top of my lungs with on the mountain trip, begged me to come check out a Christian discussion group she had started with a pastor and some friends. Because of our friendship, I couldn’t resist her offer. And besides, my interest was growing…
Discussion group was a completely new experience from the traditional church I had grown up in. I mean, these guys were excited about God and the Bible. I didn’t understand why they were putting so much stock into this gold-leafed book, and having so much fun doing it! I began going every week, occasionally throwing a log on the fire of discussion. I was the Devil’s Advocate (literally!) and the pastor always thought I was kidding, as he didn’t know of my non-belief. At the end of each session we would have time for prayer requests. Awkward. I began with concerns for my schooling or family, but never for my personal faith, even though I was wanting it more and more. The pastor’s prayer at the end always felt so real to me, like there really might be someone listening to our seemingly one-sided conversation.
Phrase number three: the false peak. Autumn came, and the leaves were turning to those colors we wish they were year-round, gracefully falling to the windswept grass. I was falling too. I was in love with a girl named Amanda, who was awesome at her art, fun to be around, cute, and a faithful Christian. I looked up to her perfectness. I found her faith so appealing, even though I didn’t have any myself (nor did I deserve a relationship with someone who had it!). In our first fun conversations she wondered about my beliefs. She learned how I didn’t trust in Christ. When we talked, I was honest about how I was beginning to enjoy faith conversations with Hans and discussion group. I thought to myself, “If only I can secure a Christian girlfriend, maybe things will all make sense! That’s where I’ll find joy!”
On our third serious meeting, we walked around campus and Amanda explained just what I didn’t want to hear.
“David, you’re a great kid. You should be happy that I gave you a chance. I mean, you’re the first guy I’ve even considered in three years!” Wow! Okay, well…thanks I guess? …And now she is going to tell me I’m “just not the one,” the same break-up reason you hear every time.
“But David, I just don’t see you being a strong spiritual leader in our relationship, and that is my number one priority. I can tell you need a relationship with God more than a relationship with me.”
Surprise! Now that is deeper than “You’re not my type,” or “It’s not you, it’s me,” or “Bluntly dear, I just don’t agree with your eating habits.” Even though I didn’t want to hear this news, I was somehow okay with it. Moreover, I was really intrigued by her God-based reasoning. We kept talking for another hour. Curiously, all the personal questions I didn’t have in discussion group started brimming forth. Amanda did her best to answer and explained some of her own faith journey. As we parted that evening, she handed me a nicely-wrapped book: Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and explained how God had told her to break-off things with me and instead give me a gift to learn more about Him.
Phase four: understanding from a higher viewpoint. Here were three different friends entering my life in extremely interesting ways after I had been so depressed for my entire 19th year of life. What did this mean? I immediately began reading Case for Christ and found there to be some strong, logical evidence for Jesus Christ’s resurrection, other than just the Gospel accounts. I thought the Gospels were too shaky to base your faith on, but there were so many other forms of corroborating evidence I never knew about. I got excited about these new possibilities – they just made sense! Hans kept questioning me. I was still loving discussion group. And the memory of how Amanda pushed me away was strong. Why did all this happen in the course of two months? What did all these friends of mine share?
Love. Unconditional love. I began to realize how terrible I had been to so many people, especially these three people I cared about. Countless times had I neglected my friendships with Hans and Mandy, and how wrongly had I been driven by an infatuation with Amanda. Regardless, each of them had grace to love me and try to show me the well-lit path. I figured the only way they could’ve invested so much of their energy, prayer, and love in me was if they were getting it from some miraculously large source!
Even though I wasn’t sure about what this source was, boy was I thankful! I began to have moments of sheer joy and hope, things I had never experienced. I began to appreciate my family and people around me more. The Thanksgiving holiday came, and was more meaningful than it had ever been. I began to love everything about life. I saw beauty in the fact I could breathe! Just randomly remembering my heart was still beating made me extremely joyful! I distinctly remember before falling asleep one night: it literally felt like my heart was expanding and rising out of my chest as I was overwhelmed with all the love and blessings surrounding me.
After a couple weeks, I was finishing up Case for Christ. Lee Strobel wrote, “I had asked questions and analyzed answers with as much of an open mind as I could muster. Not I had reached critical mass. The evidence was clear. The one remaining issue was what I would do with it.”
I paused to reflect. Was God simultaneously prompting my friends’ ministry to me evidence enough? Was the logical satisfaction I had finally gained in Strobel’s book, evidence too? Was the sheer joy, love and opened-heart I felt the final affirmation?
Yes! YES!! And what to do with it? I chose to trust in one man, who was Jesus Christ, son of God, who came to show us His deepest love, by defeating all our sin, through death on a cross and a miraculous resurrection! One day, two-thousand years ago, God showed us our hope is justified in His promise of eternal life and love.
Phase five: believing. Without God nudging me up that mountain trail, I now realize I could not have made it. Both literally and metaphorically. God catapulted me to the top of a mountain, a new view for Life. He gave me assurance that Christ would tread back down to the base of the mountain with me, and keep right on walking with me in everyday life. Mile after mile.
You can take a hike, make a new friend, and fall in love, but it all means nothing without eternal hope. Will you see Him walking with you too?