Becoming a Christian was probably the least likely decision I ever expected to make. I was born to parents who were both raised Catholic but never met God. My mom was an atheist to her dying day, and my dad remains an agnostic (perhaps a deist) at age 91. As I grew I adopted their beliefs, and by high school I was a force to be dealt with. I was sure that science would answer all my questions. The idea of God was laughable.
Yet here I was, a freshman at a secular university, praying to “receive Jesus.” What happened?
God came and got me.
It all started because of the car my grandmother had given me at graduation the year before, and the cute blonde guy living in the dorm room above mine. Yup, I had a car. Out of the 50 or so students in my freshman dorm, that was a rarity.
And then there was the Cute Guy. He was smart, fun, and yeah, he was one of those Christians, but I didn’t think that would be an issue. I definitely wanted to get to know him better. (God sure knew what would get my attention!) But how could I do that?
Sometimes, circumstances just seem to arrange themselves. Sometime in late April, Cute Guy’s out-of-town mother came to visit. He had been riding his bike every Sunday to a church about five miles away, but didn’t think his somewhat plump mother would like to head off to church on a bike, so he asked if I would give the two of them a ride.
“Of course!” I said, pleased that he had asked. “And what time does it end, so I can pick you up afterward?” Whereupon he invited me to join them for the service. Imagining an hour sitting next to this very interesting male, I agreed.
Mind you, I’d never been to church before—and this was probably the worst possible introduction! Being Lutheran-flavored, the service was liturgical, and I was clueless. Then the sermon was about angels, and I didn’t believe a word of it (at least not the parts I understood). Cute Guy even apologized afterward! Yet, I’d survived. It seemed that religion wasn’t as scary as I’d thought.
As we drove back to campus, I pondered the role of religion in my life. I’d always pretty much ignored it, except when I was arguing against the existence of God. Yet, this intelligent, sensible guy clearly thought it was important. Maybe if I could believe in God (just a little, mind you!), he’d be more willing to pay attention to me. For the first time in my life, I opened my armor a crack. Merely the smallest, tiniest crack.
And God poured in.
A few days went by, and all I could think about was whether or not I could believe in God. To my utter astonishment, I realized I wanted to. It seemed… right, somehow. I acknowledged my desire, and my utter lack of faith. I wanted God to be real, but I just couldn’t believe in him. And then I found I could. I did. In some mysterious way, faith just arrived, as if from an external source.
But Jesus, now. That was another story. How could I believe all that hype about some guy who lived 2,000 years ago?
At this point, about a week after my first church service, Cute Guy offered me a Bible. It was the newly published Living Bible, understandable even to someone unfamiliar with church jargon. At his suggestion, I began reading in Mark. And I read. And I read. I couldn’t get enough. The more I read, the more real Jesus became to me.
I’d tried reading Gideon Bibles in motel rooms but they’d never made any sense to me. This time, it was as clear as could be. In just a few days—maybe a week—I finished the New Testament and started back in Genesis. Used to studying for classes, I highlighted meaningful verses as I came across them. The whole book began to glow pink and green and yellow.
Finally, May 14, Monday afternoon right before dinner, Cute Guy knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to talk about God. Yes, I did, very much. Did I have any questions? Yes, just one: what do I do next?
He asked me if I had prayed. I said no, it hadn’t occurred to me and besides, I didn’t know how. So he led me in what was essentially a “sinner’s prayer”—God, I have messed up and I need you to forgive me and come live in me and make me alive in you—and I prayed along quietly beside him. A warm glow of joy spread throughout my mind, as I became a follower of Jesus.
Enough for now; more next week…