I was raised in a Christian household and from a young age was introduced into the teachings of what I thought it meant to be Christian. I was acquainted with all the well-known stories in the bible and made aware of this man named Jesus who loved me and was my savior. I had many great role models. However, as I began to mature and grow up, I know in my heart that I didn’t fully grasp what it meant to believe in the lord and the teachings of the bible. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that how I felt about Christianity and Jesus was not my own personal story. I was just going through the motions. I was comparing myself too much to what others had experienced. I felt empty in my faith when the realization had occurred that I hadn’t felt the same way that others were. I just couldn’t relate. This uncertainty and doubt was only exacerbated went I went to college at Rutgers university in 2009. There I met many mentors and professors who based everything on what they believed with hard evidence and science. It just made sense to me. Many discounted any existence of a spiritual world. I was convinced religion was just a remnant of humanity’s archaic past, and it was just a stumbling block for my own and the world’s progression.
Throughout college and into the first three years of my career I lived life without a thought of faith or god. I was my own god. I seemed to have found the answer for a short time. Then in 2015 everything came to a head. I was unhappy in my career and was struggling with an unexplainable mental state of anxiety and depression. I had nowhere to turn. On Christmas Eve 2015 I was called into work at a jobsite in Manhattan, it was an “emergency” according to my boss and I had to be there despite my protests. Upon completion of the job I began to drive home. I hit traffic, which at this point I was used to, but this traffic was exceptionally bad. Hours went by, and we hadn’t moved more than a mile. Around hour 4 something in my mind snapped, I wanted out of the situation. I had reached my limit and began speeding down the shoulder of the road blinded by rage and screaming at the top of my lungs. I don’t know how far I drove but I eventually came to a stop and put my car in park. I then screamed at god. I wasn’t a bad person, I didn’t deserve the depression and the job I hated and all the anxiety and fear. At that moment a box truck drove past me as I sat on the shoulder with the phrase “Jesus saves” someone had scribbled with their finger in the layers of dirt on the truck. I couldn’t help but laugh. I still remember thinking to myself that it was just a coincidence; but something visceral told me that it wasn’t. I felt a peace I had not felt in a long time. I began to pray, and meditated on my grandmothers favorite verse that I had heard her say to me so many times, John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life.” That word truth resounded with me and it still does. Truth about life was what I was seeking. After this experience I quit my job, and continued to press into exploration of my faith. I was making progress slowly; doubts would come often. Again I continued to compare myself to others; they all seemed so sure yet I still continued to be uncertain. In 2016 I started a new job, and shortly thereafter met my now fiancé Dottie, which in turn brought me here to Christ Church. In hindsight God knew that I needed a companion with Dottie’s personality to continually challenge and press me in my faith, and to stop me in my tracks when I was overthinking. I was too over analytical with everything. Being extremely analytical was one of my greatest strengths; it’s what made me good at my career. But it also was turning out to be my greatest weakness. I was still plagued with this notion that I was progressing too slowly in my faith, despite the fact that I was in fact progressing.
In early 2018 I attended a men’s conference at covenant fellowship in West Chester with Pastor Jeff and other men from our church. The speaker at the conference Roy Ortlund said something that impacted me profoundly; it made me realize that my biggest hang-up on my journey of faith was not a hangup at all. In fact it was normal. I was not progressing too slowly. There is no one size fits all Christian conversion story. I will share the excerpt from his talk.
“Even if we receive him halfheartedly and reluctantly, he still receives us enthusiastically, non-grudgingly.” You don’t need to be afraid to receive him. You don’t have to find the perfect way to receive him. If you move toward him at all HE will figure out how to move toward you; how he can work for you. He is the king of grace. And you can receive Christ in your own way. There is no one size fits all Christian conversion. It can take many forms, for example. During the first great awakening in the 1740s there was an Anglican evangelist Named George Whitfield. When he was a student in college he longed for god, he was so earnest for god, he never felt freed from his past, then even in his sense of failure he later wrote about his conversion.
He said “God was pleased to remove the heavy load, and to enable me to lay hold of his dear son by a living faith; oh what joy filled my heart when the weight of sin fell off and the abiding sense of the pardoning love of god broke upon my disconsolate soul. My joys were like a springtime flood!”
Roy Ortlund continues: Well, It would be cool every conversion was like that, and some are. Many of yours were. But C.S Lewis, when he was converted it was really different. Here’s what he himself said.
“You must picture me alone, at my room in college, night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In 1929, I gave in and admitted that god was god and I knelt and prayed. That night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what was the most obvious thing; the divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The prodigal son at least walked home on his own two feet, but who can dually adore the love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful and darting eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”
Some of us came to Christ that way too. I came to Christ that way. And he found a way to make it work.