July 10, 2010

Testimony of a Man, Part 3

I was raised a Catholic until the age of seven. I attended Catholic School and attended Mass three times a week. I went to confession and had my first communion, but I don't remember ever reading the Bible. I received a Children's Bible from someone when I was younger (you know the one with the nomadic tribe of Israelites wandering across the tan cover?), but I never read it until I was sent to live with my mother and stepfather.
Something happened to make me an undesirable child when I went to live with my mom. I don't know why, but I became an outsider in my own family. I am not going to write about all the things that happened in those several years, but it is important to note that my two sources of comfort were long walks with a worn out old yellow Lab named Boris, and that worn out old Children's Bible. If I had time to myself, I was either walking that dog or reading that book. By the time I was 12, I had read that book through several times. Now, it wasn't the complete scriptural text, but it was enough to introduce me to the full narrative of the Bible; and that is when it happened.
Sometime during the 12th year of my life, I began attending a small Baptist church right next door to our neighborhood. I went alone every week, and that brought me to the attention of several people, including the Pastor. I remember the morning that He preached the Gospel message in Church and I heard it crystal clear for the first time in my life. I understood how all those stories I had read fit together, and something inside me started to - well, I don't know how to explain it except to say that it felt like what I think a panic attack feels like. My insides were all knotted and I could feel and hear my heart racing like never before, and I was breathing just about as fast. That's when the Pastor looked directly at me and said, "If you feel the call of Christ on your life today, don't fight it. Give your life to Christ."
The gentleman sitting next to me was sensitive to what was happening in me and he asked me if I wanted to go forward and talk to the Pastor. That morning, a complete stranger walked me to the front of that little old church and led me in a sinners prayer. Immediately the panic left, and for the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere.
The Pastor came over to me, laid a heavy gnarled hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, "I've been waiting for you son. I'm proud of you." And that was it.
I know my story isn't a novelty. There are many who experienced abuse as a child. Of all the abuses, I think the worst is emotional. I am a father now of three wonderful boys. 
I can't imagine them ever feeling unwanted or unloved in the home their mother and I steward for them. I am so burdened by the mistakes I have already made in their short lives through careless words and impatient disinterest of their attempts to get my attention. I don't want them to ever feel what I felt.  
I know the pain of being unwanted by those who are supposed to love you. I know the emptiness of living every day without even knowing that life could be different. I know what it is to be alone and rejected.
That is why those words were so powerful when I heard them for the first time.
"I've been waiting for you son. I'm proud of you."
The reason the Gospel is good news is because it is good and it is news. Simple - I know, but true.
What is better than "You are loved and wanted, and everything has been arranged for you to belong -forever"? And no matter where you are in life when you hear the gospel, it is news to you. But it is news that is refreshing, uplifting, loving, and genuinely personal.
There was a lot more that was said that morning and a lot more that followed, but that is what I remember most.
I hope you know what it is to belong to God. I hope you know what it is to know the favor of your Lord and Savior. Scripture says that we are adopted by God and He calls us His own and He loves us. What a powerful love it is.
This was my first adoption. When I turned 15, I found myself being adopted by earthly parents. But that's the next part of the story. I'll tell you about it on Monday. God bless.
With you for His glory

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