One of my earliest childhood memories is watching my mother and father sign divorce papers at our kitchen table. That moment changed my life forever because it planted a seed of pain that grew into the roots of dejection that seemed to fill my heart from that moment on. My father rarely came back to visit us during our childhood. He pretty much stopped seeing us at all by the time I entered middle school. This neglect produced in me deeper feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and illegitimacy.
Up to that point in my life, our family had gone from being nominally Catholic to religiously ambiguous. Because my spiritual life was lacking, I was left grasping for more concrete ways of proving my self-worth. Like so many teenage boys, I turned to sports as my hope for purpose and praise. This path, though rewarding at times, was by and large littered with disappointments. I often felt like a failure; I was not good enough for my father and not good enough for my coaches.
As time progressed my family began to experience many more problems. As the middle child, I naturally assumed responsibility for our family’s health or lack thereof. Thus, our family’s downward spiral pointed to my inadequacies and failings as a son and a brother. Where was my hope in such a time? Though I tried so hard, I found that I was repeatedly proven to be unable to be my own savior, let alone that of my family.
As God would have it, a friend of ours was noting our plight and invited us to attend her church. Not only had it been a long time since I had been to church, but I had never even attended a non-Catholic service before. I was really nervous as we drove into the church parking lot. Honestly, I felt so out of place that I just wanted to turn around and run the other way.
Upon opening the doors to this Lutheran church, however, I was immediately captivated by a sense of life, joy, and peace in the hearts of the individuals that I met. As I sat in on the service, I was blown away by worship that seemed genuine and loving, both from the hearts of those on stage as well as those in the congregation. I grew in excitement as the pastor spoke from the Bible with vigor and urgency, talking about this God whom he seemed to know so well. I don’t remember exactly when, but early on in attending this church I was told about the hope that sinners have in Christ Jesus. As I grew in the knowledge of the Bible, attended youth group, and eventually moved on college, I began to have eyes to see my own sin and need for a savior. I realized that my works could never earn a place before God and that only by the blood of Jesus could I appear before him as redeemed.
I can only describe this feeling as the most comforting assurance I have ever known. The tireless hours of effort and toil that had characterized all of my life had finally come to an end. I had been freed from self-slavery, had the heavy burden of sin lifted, experienced the confession of personal weakness and failure and plunged deep into the love of the Father who has promised to love me despite me. God was suddenly no longer distant or ambiguous but present and loving. I was now able to see him as my true father, the one who would never leave me or condemn me despite my failures.
It has been a decade since my conversion; ten years mixed with joy and sorrow, and pain and pleasure. I have grown to know Jesus as my best-friend, my good shepherd, my conquering king. All of my hope is in him, and there is no where I would rather be than in his arms. I still struggle with sin and times of doubt. I am still drenched in selfishness and reek of pride. Yet my savior is better. He has promised to continue his work in me and present me before the Father as pure and spotless. I love him. He has been so good to me. I long for you to know him too and would love to share more about his great grace to you.