April 9th marks the beginning of my walk with God. It was the spring of 1991 (I think). I remember I was writing something in my English class when two good friends of mine came over to my desk. They squatted down beside me and invited me to a youth activity at their church.
“There’s going to be food and games. It’ll be fun.”
I was the type of kid who would agree to just about anything if it meant I was getting out of my house for a little while. My parents had been divorced for about three or four years by this time, and Mom’s way of coping with her life involved drinking alcohol every evening until she fell asleep.
To make a very long story very short, I heard and understood repentance and forgiveness through Jesus. I’ve shared how little I really did understand at the time. Still, it was a start. What happened that evening at church was repeatedly referred to as “getting saved,” so that’s all I knew to call it. Whatever you call it, my life changed.
I vividly remember inviting my aunt and uncle to my baptism and hearing my uncle say how happy he was to hear that I had asked “Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.” What is he talking about? I got saved. So he said it one more time and filled in the gaps in my understanding. Clearly, I would have benefited immensely from a basic Christianity class.
One thing that amazed me was the church. Everyone welcomed me and promised to pray for me. I had a whole new group of friends.
Though I was nervous about telling him, my father was very happy to hear my news. He drove up the attend my baptism the following Sunday. He shared with me his memories of growing in faith, stories from his childhood I had never heard. For the first time I had a connection with my dad.
Imagine the jolt upon hearing, “I was afraid you were going to do that,” when I told my mother my happy news.
She was hoping, I guess, that I would follow a more eastern religion. Throughout my young childhood, she was careful to not steer me in one direction when it came to God. She always encouraged me to study the faiths and carve out my own path to God. “Don’t get stuck in one,” she said. She was a member of Oprah’s church before Oprah.
So whenever I recall my first evening as a new creation, I remember how my mother was not pleased about it.
Then, I remember how, for the next four years, some days she just hated the sight of me. I understand now that my life and attitude were a constant source of conviction/condemnation for her. She said some terrible things to me after a few hours of drinking.
Then, I remember how happy she was when I sinned. She would ask, “You know that’s a sin, don’t you? You’ll never be able to keep all the rules.” I provided daily opportunities for this remark.
Then, I remember one particularly painful night for me when she came into my room to try and comfort me. I was crying and poring over my Bible for something, anything to encourage me and give me hope that life was going to get better. She put her arms around me and said, “I don’t know why you keep looking in that book. It does not have any answers. Life is just hard and you have to do the best you can.”
Then, I remember she was wrong.