These days, it's so strange that here in the USA one has to be careful about talking about God in certain circles. So, if you're one of those squeemish ones that easily takes offense or gets particularly nervous when someone begins to talk about God, then turn back NOW. But if you are curious about my "story", read on...........
In order to lay out the proper background and context, I must begin by saying that I was raised in a very "normal", healthy family of 5. My grandparents were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia, and as such, were of the strong Catholic tradition. From that religious background came the understanding that if a person managed to meet certain criteria of goodness, then he'd hopefully go to heaven. If not.....well, then he'd likely go to the other place, right? Oh, yeah.......and then there was the other place.....sort of the middle ground where a lot of people supposedly went if they didn't quite make the grade but weren't worthy of the fire and brimstone. At this place you could sort of suffer for awhile until you were ready for the streets of gold. Perhaps things were more theologically taught at the time, but in the end, this is what I came away with. So, like so many young people do, I went to church for years, trying to stay awake (it was only a 35 minute service) and get something out of it. But I secretly was greatly disappointed with God. Was he really there??? Did he really care about me or anyone else for that matter??? Even after I began my studies at the university I continued to go to church. It was something you did because of your cultural background. Religion is a social aspect of a normal life, right? But there were some changes ahead.
As many college students do upon finding their personal freedom away from home, I began to "walk on the wild side". This new freedom included the introduction of alcohol, and yes, drugs, mainly due to peer pressure. After all, who doesn't want to have a good time and experience life?! And so I did! Gradually, though, through all of this and more, I became disallusioned with life and suffered more and more with depression. For the most part I had lost hope in any reality of a personal God. Then while at the university I met a girl who was instrumental in the course of events. We had planned to meet at the library one evening to study for a biology test. When I arrived, there she was, reading a bible. Of course. She must have a Bible Literature class. But when I asked, she simply responded by telling me that she was reading it because she was a Christian. Yeah, sure, me too. But as she talked I began to hear a different Gospel than I knew as a child, one that offered a relationship with God and that required a response. I knew that something was different about her and the way she spoke about God. But what really shook me was the scripture that she read to me from the Gospel of John, Chapter 3. It said that unless a man was born in spirit, he could not see the Kingdom of God. She talked about God not desiring religion but a personal relationship with Him, and how we could have that by inviting Him into our lives to take control. As I left the library that night many things bothered and bewildered me. She must be a fanatic. I never heard any of this before. Why not? How could I have gone to church for so long and never heard this? Can it all be so simple as just asking Jesus into your life to forgive you and take control? Is there such a thing as a spiritual birth? After is was all over with, I still had an aching in my heart. I knew that I didn't "know" God. I knew that I didn't even like my life anymore. Deep inside I yearned to have the peace and reality of God in my life. Feeling rather uncomfortable, but knowing my need, I prayed a simple prayer to God on the way home that night, asking Him to come into my life that I, too, might know Him and experience the reality of this new birth. I cannot tell you how, but following that simple prayer, I knew that God had both heard and answered.
To say the least, life began to change for me. Some things changed the very next day while others took many years. But God began a process in me that has been the most exciting and fulfilling adventure of my life. He has given my life meaning and purpose.
Here, now, are some things that I have come to learn:
For the young....You can love God and be a "real Christian" and be cool! Yes, it's true. God is not out to make you into some geek who needs to be in a monastery. He wants us to experience life abundantly. You can even have fun!
RELIGION= man reaching up to God to be worthy, but never quite making it.
TRUE CHRISTIANITY= God reaching down to man with the gift of righteousness accomplishing in man what man could never do.
God REALLY DOES know what is best for us. What do I mean? He knows that eventually "sin" (oooooo, do I dare say the word?) hurts us.Why do you think He holds His views about sex before marriage, drugs, alcohol, and pride, and a host of other things? Because He hates fun? Nope! It's just that He is the author of the creation and knows what is good for it and what will damage and hurt it. Sin is like a cancer that all of us, even the best of us, have. Our determination, education, and best efforts against it only address the symptoms. It takes a remedy that works from the inside. That is why we have the need for a spiritual birth and the relationship with Christ that will change us from the inside out.
But my purpose here is not to theologically defend or try to convince anyone. I merely share my story because I feel everyone has a right to know the truth of the Christian message and the reality of a personal God. I became the living proof of the words I found in the Bible. God is no longer distant and impersonal. I have the privilege of feeling His presence, care, and guidance day by day, which to me is the greatest thing in my life.
Please, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them.......