I am in my seventh year of being a Christian. For my entire time as a Christian, I have never known the exact date that I became a Christian. It happened over a period of time, so I never remembered the exact moment that I made the decision.
Last night, I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep and a million thoughts were running through my head. In the midst of that hurricane of thoughts, it just came to me. Somehow I knew when it was. I wasn’t searching through the database of my mind for an answer. It wasn’t even something I was thinking about, but it came to me.
It happened in my sophomore year of high school. I knew that much, but I didn’t know the date.
On my first day of high school, I thought I was a Christian. I had walked the aisle in a small country church on July 13, 2003 and repeated everything the pastor said and I was baptized right then. Looking back, I did it that day because I was encouraged to. I wanted people to be proud of me. And I didn’t want to go to hell when I died.
Fast forward four years, I was a sophomore and my life had changed none since 2003. I was still seen as a well-mannered teenager that mostly obeyed his parents and took his homework seriously. But I know what my heart was.
I was full of pride. I thought of myself as the best young man around because I wasn’t smoking, drinking, partying, or having sex. My mind was full of lust. I really wanted a girlfriend, not because I was interested in her, but just because I wanted to have make out sessions. I looked down on those less fortunate than me, the bad kids, people of a different ethnicity, and especially the students who just wanted to copy off me in class.
I wasn’t the type of person you would consider a bad sinner (one who gets drunk at the bars and goes to strip clubs), but I was just as bad. I saw myself as the god of my universe, but I was a deity not worthy of your praise.
Then came September of my sophomore year. My hometown was experiencing the worst heat wave I remembered in my life. My dad was driving me home from school and the sun was shining in the window. I pulled back out of the rays and complained, “Ugh, when is this heat going to end?!”
My dad said, “I think we are getting close to the end of time.”
Now, seven years later, we are still here, but as a 15 year old, he could have told me my grandfather died and I might not have experienced as much fear in my heart. Despite that I saw myself as my own god, I still generally believed that God and Jesus existed and that what the Bible said was true.
Growing up in a small town in the Bible Belt, I had been taught a theology known as the rapture. This is basically the idea that everything will for the most part be hunky-dory on earth until Jesus appears in the clouds, takes the Christians out of the earth, and leaves the world to chaos, ruled by the Antichrist for seven years before returning for good and destroying all evil. As I have studied the Bible, I don’t hold to this theology today, but it was very real to me at that time.
I didn’t want this to happen. Firstly, I believed that because I had walked the aisle in church in 2003, I would have been taken from the earth if the rapture happened (but I wouldn’t have). Secondly, I wanted to live my life before Jesus returned. Surely, he would return when I was about 50 and all my body started to go bad, right? Save me from the bad stuff of life, because remember, I am the god of the universe. Everything should serve to my interests. Let me get married, start a career, learn to drive, and have kids before you interrupt my life.
So when my dad and I got home, I began to look up the end of the world on Wikipedia. Not a good idea if you are scared of it, because you will start to find all kinds of theories of when it’s going to happen. The next theory of when it would happen was October 12 and so until that day, I was scared to death. It didn’t happen that day.
In my research, I came across a book series called Left Behind. This is a 16 volume series of novels that tell a fictional account of the rapture and the seven years following it. I was set that I wanted to read the series to figure out what it was going to be like.
On October 31, 2007, I went on a field trip with my high school BETA club to Louisville, KY. We were going to be in Louisville for 3 days. While we were out to eat downtown, I saw a Barnes and Noble, so I asked for permission to go in and buy a book. I purchased the first Left Behind novel that night.
When we arrived back at the hotel, I wanted to immediately dig into it. Most of the students on the trip went to hang out in someone’s room. I sat down in the hallway outside of my room and began to read. I read the whole first chapter, which details the actual rapture event.
That night is when it happened. I didn’t fully understand it, but I was convinced that Jesus was the route that I had to take. I didn’t yet understand the theological things that took place at the cross. I didn’t understand that all the stories in the Old Testament were pointing ahead to Jesus coming. I didn’t understand much of anything. But I knew I wanted Jesus. And I was willing to submit to him as God.
My story for the past seven years began. It has been a bumpy road. Honestly, for the rest of my time in high school, I was more like the devil than Jesus. I don’t mean that I was living in sin, though I was still struggling with it. What I mean is that I was walking around as an accuser. I was pointing out people’s sin and being mean about it. I made myself God’s hall monitor. I’ve had to repair a lot of relationships that I damaged then and probably still have more to come. When you become a Christian, you are born again. You have to grow up over time. In my first years as a Christian, I was like a whiny baby, because I hadn’t yet grown up.
In a lot of ways, I still have tendencies to be like a whiny baby. As I pursue Jesus more, he helps remove those things and I long for the day when I will be a fully grown adult when I am with him.
But I wouldn’t change any of those times of me being arrogant, rude, or a pain to live with if I could. I’d never be where I am with Jesus today if I hadn’t went through those phases.
But I know now that October 31, 2007 is the day that I became a Christian. My story is one of irony.
The one who thought of himself as the god of the universe surrendered to the God of the Universe.
God revealed himself to me through a theology that I don’t even believe anymore.
On the day of the year that people associate with death (Halloween), I came alive.
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.