It’s Evangelism Week here on PoG, and I said in Sunday’s post that I’d be sharing some of my stories with you throughout the week.
But first, a quick mea culpa… I said in last Thursday’s post that I would be spending quite a bit of time on Friday doing some research for a post I’ve wanted to write for quite awhile now concerning the state of current Christian music. Well, a couple of other things came up that were a bit more important (lunch with my wife, for one), so I didn’t get it done. I’m going to try again for this coming Friday.
So, stories of life-change…
I suppose the first real instance of Jesus making a difference in my life came at the tail end of middle school. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that, since I was baptized and “gave my life to Jesus” in the summer between 3rd and 4th grade. (Some other time I might tackle some of my thoughts about when baptism should occur…) But, looking back, I think I was one of those good little church-kids who got baptized because I knew I was supposed to, and because I believed everything I was supposed to believe (as well as an 8 year old can). There wasn’t any change in my day-to-day life at all. Actually, there was day-to-day change, but it went in the wrong direction…
In 4th grade one of my classmates (a little girl, if you can believe it) taught me how to cuss. She taught me the words, how to string some of them together, and that using them was the natural and okay thing to do any time I got mad. To this day, I still have to check myself pretty hard when I hit my thumb with a hammer or something, or when something makes me angry.
The natural result (I believe) of indulging in profanity and other angry outbursts is more anger. That was certainly the result in my life. I was an easily-frustrated kid to begin with, and adding profanity to my vocabulary also added more frustration, anger, and isolation to my life.
So I went from 4th grade or so until probably the beginning of my 8th grade year as one of those kids who would fly off the handle at almost nothing. You say my mom is dumb, well I’m ready to fight you about it. You say I’m ugly, well $@!# you, you *$!#ing #$@*! By the way, I was a regular church attender throughout this whole period of my life.
In 8th grade, a couple of things came together to start a sort of transformation in me. First off, my teachers that year were Kathy Hill, Richard Stubbs, and Helen Senger. All three of them knew my family (they all taught my sister, too), were great teachers, and were committed Christians. I don’t know if they intentionally did this or not, but each of them spent some time with me throughout the year talking some about their faith and challenging me to grow in mine.
The other thing that came into my life was the writings of C.S. Lewis. I had been given the Chronicles of Narnia in elementary school, but never really read past The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until 8th grade. I read all 7 books before Christmas of that year, and they impacted me in a way that’s difficult to describe, but also incredibly profound. Moving forward into 9th grade and beyond, I got into C.S. Lewis’ other writings in a big way. His apologetic and theological books completely changed how I thought about my faith. In fact, they caused me to actually think about my faith for the first time.
The combined influence of my teachers that year, and the themes, morals, and lessons from Lewis’ writings, resulted in an awakening in my faith. I was curious about Jesus again. I wanted to know more, to understand more, for the first time since that summer that I got baptized. And as my curiosity grew and I went searching for God and answers again, guess what? He showed up and revealed Himself to me.
As I grew more in my knowledge and understanding about Jesus, I entered into what I call my “mellowing-out phase”. The anger and frustration that had been bubbling just below the surface since late elementary school subsided. My sarcasm became much more good-natured. I was more kind to others. I was more willing to serve. I had a better, more positive attitude.
I don’t have any doubt whatsoever that God placed those teachers in my life. I also don’t have any doubt that He used the writings of C.S. Lewis to speak to me. (More on that in My Story #2). The change he affected in me during those 18 months or so (8th-9th grade) set the stage for most of the other changes that have happened in my since then.