I have had experience on both sides of the road. I was “lost” longer than I have been saved. For the first 20 years of my life I didn’t realize I was lost. I didn’t know there was anyone looking for me. I was a nice person, I never murdered anyone, I didn’t lie hardly at all (and if you know me- you know I’m being very serious here). So, why wouldn’t Peter let me in the Pearly Gates?
I knew very little of the Bible. The first time I ever cracked open my dad’s King James was when I was 19. It was on the third bookshelf above the knick knacks to the right of the fireplace in our living room. The denim book cover had a monster zipper with huge teeth. The pull itself was almost two inches across. It seemed so heavy and important. Even though I didn’t fully grasp what it meant, I figured it was something to be read in hushed tones with reverent eyes and clasped hands. I unzipped the huge cover and tried to find Job. I had asked my dad earlier that day about my AP English homework, “How does the story compare with the story of Job? (I pronounced it like jahb) — Who the heck is that? What are they even talking about!?”
“It’s in the Bible.” I remembered being very surprised that my dad, of all people a vehement agnostic/atheist, would know anything about a person from the Bible. It turns out he studied the Bible a lot when he was attending church in his 20s. He ended up leaving the church and never looking back. His lack of continual faith, he said, was to be blamed on hypocrisy and divisiveness in his church.
So, there I was flipping through the tissue paper thin pages trying to find the story of Job. How do these numbers work? I was so confused. Number colon number. So many many books inside. Where do I start? There were two parts to the thing, right?I finally got around to reading the story of Job with my dad helping me navigate. I don’t remember my first impressions of my first foray into the Bible – other than it was long and was boring. I remember how I came to know Jesus, though.
I was 20 years old. It wasn’t a particular conversation. It wasn’t a gospel tract. I’m sure there were people who prayed for me, but honestly, very few people knew I was not a Christian until they asked me. I would say, “I’m agnostic.” “Oh, what does that mean?” “It means I believe it is impossible to determine whether there is an afterlife or a higher being.” They were all very impressed with my confidence, my quickly and verbosely defined status. In high school people assumed I was saved. Why? Because I was nice. I could not have been further from it. I have battled darker demons (I use the term lightly here, because I believe, theologically, there are such things as demons) than some. Insecurities, anger, depression, deception, defilement…the list goes on. But I don’t need to go on. I’ll tell you why.
Salvation is a head rush. There is an excitement that rushes up within your gut. It feels an awful lot like adrenaline but it’s not the same. (The actual physical feeling could me my personal experience, so take this with a grain of salt, please) Salvation is a one-time event. A moment of realization, a decision and that is when you begin. It is not the destination. Far from it! Sanctification is what happens after. The less glamorous harder working side of the life of a saved person. My salvation came when I was sitting in a church in Stillwater. I had been going to church for several months before all the pieces came together. Oh, OK. Jesus was God, came down to earth, lived a perfect life as a human, went through all the temptations we went through, died a sinner’s death on the cross in our place, paid the price for our sin, was buried and three days later rose from the dead, and now sits in Heaven waiting for us. Now you have the rest of your life to figure out what that means for you.
Being saved ruins your world view. It messes up your life completely. No longer can you sit idly by and let life happen to you. You can’t enjoy the same things you used to. Everything changes. A filter is put into place and everything is different. You’re more merciful to people. More forgiving. Because I know perfection in my God, I know that no one can be perfect. No one can save themselves because we’re all wicked. We’re all on a level playing field. I pray for people, I serve people, not for the transcript boosters, not for the volunteer hours, but because I love Jesus and Jesus loves me. No other reason.
I messed up badly after I was saved. BADLY. I still do. I make a lot of mistakes. I do a lot of unholy things. But you know what is awesome? I go back to the cross, I lay it down and I ask for forgiveness. If I repent…change my mind…then I am forgiven and I start over fresh. That’s amazing. There is something miraculous about being right with God. It’s scary. It’s awesome. It comes with a crap-ton of responsibility. You can’t live like you used to. You can’t scream obscenities at the driver who cut you off in traffic. You can’t cheat and steal your way to the top. You can’t be unforgiving to your spouse. You have to be like Jesus. And trust me, those are some tough shoes to fill. But, hear me – it’s not about what I do!! Jesus has done all the work. I just show up. I just believe in him. I believe in his atoning sacrifice. I believe that he is enough to pay for my sins and everyone’s sins…ever.
If you have any questions, please feel free to hit me up in the comments. I’m not perfect. I point to a Savior who is. He is the Lord of my life. He is in control of who I am now and I love it. I am different. I am changing and will continue to change. I eagerly await his return, or my death, whichever comes first. I get it wrong a lot, but I have his Word (which I can read very easily now, thankyouverymuch!) and his promise that he will love me forever. I am a wicked person, who relies on a God who reached down and said, “Come with me if you want to live.”