I’m a Christian and have been since March of 1989. I didn’t set out to become a Christian in part because I thought I was one and partly because I had no real idea what it meant. I had a typical (for the time) upbringing by many standards. I have a natural and a step-sibling. My parents were divorced when I was little. They each remarried. We had the typical backs-and-forths that come with divorce and, predictably, it was both OK and weird / not OK.
I spent the adolescent years living with my father and step-mom. They poured themselves into the three of us spending time, money and energy in setting the conditions for us to succeed in life. Religion was a du jour item: my father’s family was historically Roman Catholic and so we little ones went to first communion and confirmation, etc. I remember the basics of that time and was still not impressed in my soul that I was in eternal trouble.
The hard work of my parents (and me!) led me to the United States Military Academy. There I was numbered with 1000+ cadets whose stories were like mine. I was awash in a sea of over-achievers and brainiacs. I was neither, really (perhaps geekish, but that’s all). I think I was there because I had a date with my Redeemer. Of course, I had no idea at the time.
Then, in the fullness of time (as the apostle Paul put it to the Galatians), Jesus Christ showed up in my barracks room. His messenger was a man named, Kris. And it was strange, indeed. It’s almost mythical now, but I remember him knocking on my door, asking to come in (I hardly knew him) and then asking if I was interested in reading the Bible. I thought I was doing Calculus at the time and so, after a moment’s consideration (“Hmmm: Calculus or the Bible…) he entered and we sat down to read the Gospel of John.
That sounded simple, right? In fact, it was profound. I was prevailed upon by the Lord but I didn’t know it. It is not that I was deceived, but that I was persuaded or wooed. I wasn’t eager because I wasn’t looking but I was interested – curious, is better. I had no plan except (to my mind) that I didn’t want to do Calculus. God, however, had a plan. Kris read John 1 and asked if he could return the next night. I agreed. And so the routine persisted until Thursday night when he finished John 3.
There, two things are written that are quite significant. First:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into to the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
I didn’t know about this. K-n-o-w: understand, apprehend, get, believe, accept, trust, agree. And why should it matter anyhow? Here I was at West Point beginning a journey that in the world’s eyes was successful and fulfilling. I won’t suggest that I felt empty or lonely or anything like that; that wasn’t me. I was simply drawn to see the truth of the agenda of God and how it involved me. I was blind to many things: my offensive life to God, the danger to my soul of being His enemy, the temporal nature of any success that I might have. By the words of John in the first three chapters, and some urging and explaining by Kris, I was made to see. I was saved from all the dangers to my soul; dangers that all of us know though we might deny.
The second truth is the one that springs from the first and is the heart of God’s agenda:
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
We all want to extol the virtues of servant leadership. Yet, truly, most of us just want the latter. In a sense I was saved from my own small and pitiful agenda unto a plan and purpose that extends past the grave and into unmarked eternity. At the time, I had great joy because once I believed these words of the Bible, and in the One about whom they were written, and I yielded up my life to Him, then a brightening occurred in my life. I felt it right away. However, that melted into a day-in and day-out relationship with God that I know will never end. Now, with that, I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who know what I know. It isn’t heaven, now, but it is hopeful.