What a ride this has been!
On Saturday, September 8, I will be celebrating my spiritual birthday. It marks forty years since I first made the decision to trust Christ as my Lord and Savior at a Christian Servicemen’s Center in Yokosuka, Japan, 1972.
As I look back on that far away time and place, I can’t help but marvel at all the Lord has allowed me to experience in my walk with him. In my wildest dreams I could not have envisioned the places Jesus would take me.
Through the remainder of this article I will share my path in coming to faith in Christ, and also some of the lessons I have learned. Some of these lessons I have had to learn more than once!
My parents grew up in east Texas which is part of the geographic area in the United States known as the “Bible Belt.” The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the south-eastern and south-central United States.
Following their marriage in 1933 it was to the northeastern section of the United States that my parents moved. They settled in Connecticut just outside of New York City where my father commuted to work. Not long after I was born in 1948 my parents were separated and eventually divorced.
The first time I can remember ever setting foot inside a church was when my mother remarried in 1955. I was not quite seven years old. My understanding of church was limited. I knew nothing of God or Jesus, salvation, sins, or the need to have those sins forgiven. My brother John and I were taught to say our prayers every night, dutifully kneeling by our beds with eyes closed, hands folded, reciting the standard prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep . . . .” embarking on a litany of family members most of whom I barely knew because they were in Texas. But this nightly routine was as spiritual as we got.
From time to time our mother would mention that it sure would be nice to have another minister in the family. John and I figured there must have been someone like that back in the family tree, but for two rambunctious kids it sounded like a death sentence, so we avoided any such talk.
Our step father was interested in church – specifically, Christian Science. He however, did not have the Bible Belt background. Instead, he came from the Boston area where Christian Science was founded. On those weekends when the folks talked about going to church John and I would attempt to change their minds. Mostly I remember church being rather odd and altogether boring. I had no idea what was going on or what I was expected to do. Over time, church gradually dropped off our schedule altogether.
Strangely, throughout those years growing up, I sensed something was not quite right in my life. I could not have told you that at the time, but it was nagging at me. It was like something was broken in me and I had no idea how to fix it. I had no answers. I kept it to myself, though, since I didn’t know anyone who did have answers, or if there were even any answers to be had.
The transformation occurred when I was 24 years old and a sergeant in the Marines. I had been growing increasingly frustrated by the way I was living my life. There seemed to be no purpose or meaning. A song by Peggy Lee a couple of years earlier summed it up for me – “Is That All There Is?”
On that night of September 8, 1972, I was in town with a couple of friends when we happened upon a Christian Servicemen’s Center. I heard the gospel message presented clearly. God loved me, Jesus died for me, and I needed to accept him into my life. For me this was a no-brainer. I figured if God loved me enough to die for me, I could sure trust him with my life. I gladly asked Jesus to come into my heart. I’ve never once regretted that decision.
So, what have I learned in these 40 years as a Christian? Well, as a follower of Jesus I have learned several critical things. First, Jesus always knows what’s best. Trust him, especially when it doesn’t make sense. Second, study God’s Word, the Bible. Let it become part of your very being. It will lift you up, particularly in those times when life knocks you sideways. Third, spend time with Jesus as often as possible. Daily is best. Talk to him – he’s listening. He will strengthen you. Fourth, sin is like an addiction. It is very powerful. It takes no prisoners. Call on the Lord. He will set you free. And because we are weak, we may need to have him set us free often, even repeatedly. Fifth, Jesus promised he would never leave you nor forsake you. I’m holding on to him with everything I’ve got.
Gospel writer, Andre Crouch, wrote a song in the ‘70s called, “Through It All.” The chorus goes like this: “Through it all, Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, Through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”
Indeed! I have learned to trust in Jesus!