Chapter Four: “Where do I start?”

A Tipping Point

Many churches, for many years, have what are called “Bible Study Groups” and over the years I have attended many, hosted them in my home and served as the leader or teacher.  At the risk of sounding overly critical, the very mention of the word “study” turns me off and if it hadn’t been for my wife, I probably would have never attended the first one.  Yet it was at that first “study” I came to realize just how much I needed God’s forgiveness and that without my being reconciled with him, my life would continue to be meaningless.

It was 1975 and I had landed a sales job with IBM and even better, was moved to Ft. Lauderdale Florida, at the company’s expense.  Cindy and I were staying at a beautiful beach front hotel waiting for our furniture to arrive and everyday seemed like a vacation.  I had been promoted twice in a little over a year and it looked like my career was all upside and no downside.  During those four weeks, every night was dining out at some of the area’s finest restaurants and weekends were nothing but sun and fun.  Now you would think that I would have been the happiest guy in the world, but there was something missing and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  One perfectly gorgeous evening, Cindy and I were walking on the beach and I turned to her and asked, “Is this all there is?”  Before she had time to answer I explained, “I’m 25 years old and if this is what the rest of our life together is going to be like, then I don’t want to play.  I love you honey but there’s got to be more than this.”

We walked for a while in silence and then Cindy said, “I don’t know what you want me to say, I’m not even sure what you mean, but maybe we need to go to church.”  Believe me; that was not the answer I was looking for but then again, I had no idea what I was looking for.  All I knew was things would not have a happy ending if we continued down the path we were on.  Cindy and I had been together since high school and I desperately loved her more than anything or anybody on earth, yet even that seemed in jeopardy.  We didn’t speak about it again for months until one Saturday afternoon when Cindy, out of the blue, suggested that we go to church the next day.  I grumbled a bit, but why not, it couldn’t hurt.  I was raised Catholic and Cindy came from a conservative Protestant background so the obvious question was, where?  Our going to church wasn’t something new for us, we even tried it in college, but this seemed more serious than in the past.  We selected a church the old fashioned way; we looked in the phone book and chose the one closest to our home.  Cindy seemed comfortable with our choice and I really liked the music so we went back on a semi-regular basis.  Was this what I was looking for?  Maybe, but somehow I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d get bored with it and find a reasonable excuse for sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

I had just got home from work and was opening a beer when I heard a knock at the door.  I peered through the peep-hole and it was the pastor of the church we’d been attending so I opened the door and welcomed him in.  He was dressed in a white polo shirt and shorts, still sweating from playing tennis in the hot Florida sun.  He immediately apologized for his appearance and I offered him a cold drink. He politely declined my offer and said he only had a minute and just wanted to welcome us to the area and the church. We chatted for a couple of minutes and as he got up to leave, he turned and said to me in a rather matter of fact way, “One question, if you don’t mind my asking, have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?”  I was stopped in my tracks by the question and quickly tried to figure out what answer he wanted to hear, but instead blurted out, “I’m not completely sure what you’re asking so I really don’t know what to say.”  He just smiled and said, “Just wanted to see where you’re at, thanks for being honest; hope I see you Sunday!”  Well, my curiosity was certainly peaked and later Cindy explained to me exactly what the pastor had meant by his query.  We did decide to continue attending on Sunday and eventually Cindy convinced me that we needed to attend a young couples “Bible Study.”

Understand, I was OK with church on Sunday, but this churchy thing on Wednesday was over the top for me.  But I agreed to go, only if I wouldn’t be held responsible for my bad attitude.  Most the couples who attended were OK and I was cordial and cooperative to the extent of investing a couple bucks on a bible to bring along, after all it was a bible study.  My real issue was with the study leader in whose house we met, I couldn’t stand him.  Remember it was 1975 and there was still the hippy and pseudo hippy’s to contend with and he and his wife were one or the other.  She wore baggy tie-dyed clothes and he was a white guy in bell bottoms with a big Afro, not a button down guy like me. I figured it was all part of his act, since he sold advertising for a local rock radio station.  To make matters worse, they had a pet skunk which would race around the floor like some kind of rat.  To say I was uncomfortable around them would be an understatement.

We continued to attend, in spite of my misgivings, but I had to admit to being more than intrigued by the bible study itself; for it seemed more like exploring than studying and I was beginning to more fully understand the import of the question the pastor had asked of me months before.  One evening after the study, I stepped outside for some fresh air and our hippy host followed me out.  We chatted a bit and then he asked, “I get the feeling you want to ask me something, am I right?”  I surprised myself by telling him that I thought I had found what was missing in my life…a relationship with God, but didn’t know exactly what to do about it.  He very comfortably said that I needn’t make a big deal about it and that I could meet God in the person of Christ that very night, right there on his front walk and that my relationship with him would be forever and not just for a lifetime.  We prayed together, I followed his lead and when we were done, he gave me a big hug; something I was most uncomfortable with. And then he said, before going back inside, “You’re not going to believe what happens next, man.”

When we got home that night I told Cindy of my experience and we talked about it late into the evening. She said that it was time for her to recommit herself to Christ and after she went to bed, I stayed up for a while longer; overtaken by the whole experience, crying tears of both relief and joy.  I thought about that last statement the guy, who I couldn’t stand to be around, had said and wondered what exactly he had meant.  As it turns out, he couldn’t have been more right, that evening did change my life and continues to even today. Over the years I came to realize that it wasn’t because of anything the young man with the Afro and bell bottoms had said which had brought me to my moment of decision, it was God’s word.  That $12.00 book contained everything I needed to inform my heart and it was the Spirit of God who had moved me to my point of decision.  Because of what happened that night, I’ve spent a lifetime reading and exploring God’s word; it’s what motivated me to write the very words you’re reading.  It’s the foundation upon which my marriage is built and what I rely on to help me understand and face the challenges and demands of everyday life.  Yes, it has changed my life forever and it can do the same for you.

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