Unfortunately, for the next twelve years, from six to eighteen, I never did grow in my faith much. Like the majority of children probably, my childhood was very chaotic and traumatic. The trauma actually started before I was five years old, and if it was not for the grace and mercy of God, I would have been lost. I’m sure my childhood wasn’t as bad as others, not as good as some. If the Great Shepherd, my Lord, had not guarded my soul and pursued me, I would have been a lost sheep. Jesus declared that He would lose none given to Him by the Father (John 6:39).
Attending church during this time period was sporadic at best. We did not have a church family. I was not taught very much, and a lot of what I was taught was wrong. I didn’t understand the truth of the Word. And through those years, even though I didn’t have a lot of knowledge, I knew God was there. I would pray and I would ask for His forgiveness for my sin. I truly believe God restrained my sin, and kept me from making too many mistakes. Especially the older I got.
When I was seven years old, we had attended church one evening. During and after the service, I had a very strong impression in my heart that God wanted me to serve Him with my life. I believe that was the night I received my call to serve Him. The calling and drive has never ceased. It has always been there pushing and driving me for the last twenty-eight years. I can’t deny or escape it. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t want to, but there was a short time where I really struggled against it.
I remember one event around eight years old, when we were again at church on a Sunday evening. It is a real shame that so many churches and Christians don’t bother with a Sunday night service anymore. The service was very worship based, and at one point many of the attendees were praying around the stage on the steps. I was on the steps praying as well. I remember the pastor standing up above me on the stage, and in a loud voice saying to everyone, “I see the hand of God on this child.”
At around ten years old, I was attending another church, and during the service I felt a deep and powerful sorrow over my sins. More so than I had ever known. I believe it was what Paul called, Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). I went down for prayer at the end of that service. I wanted my life to completely belong to Jesus, and I needed Him in a real way. Far beyond what I had experienced up to that point. Sadly, I was left sitting in the front pew by myself, and no one bothered to pray with me.
A note on Godly sorrow, it produces repentance that leads to Salvation. Worldly sorrow produces death, as in the case of Judas. With the intensity of worldly sorrow that Judas felt, it led him to suicide. Godly sorrow leads to a turning away from sin and seeking forgiveness from God, the other leads to selfish destruction. With time, worldly sorrow will evaporate and the sinner will return to his evil. And in many cases worldly sorrow is caused because the person got caught doing something wrong.
As a child, the enemy really tried to destroy me in multiple ways. And as I said before, if it wasn’t for God I would have been lost. As a teenager, I was able to learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid a lot of bad things. Sadly, I fell into all kinds of different sins, but God was always there drawing me to Him, pulling me away from sin, and restraining me. And, I so regret and sorrow over all the sins I have committed in my life. I sin daily, and how I hate it. I hate my sin, and I yearn and groan for the day when this sinful flesh is transformed into a body like Christ’s. When I am set free from temptation and the various lusts of my own flesh.
The shackle of the world really took their hold on me as a teenager, yet God kept drawing me, pulling me to Himself. He was always speaking to my heart, and Jesus would not let me wander off completely. Though there were times when I could not be distinguished from the lost of the world.
From eighteen until twenty-two I went through a real transition in my life. That transition was all done by the Word of God. God used those four years using His Word, to make me grow in my faith and spiritual walk with Him. I did not have or attend a church. The genesis of that began while attending college. In the Student Union building, there was a man there named Don. He was a Christian man devoted to sharing the Good News with any and all students who came into the building. Anyone who attended that school over the past twenty years knows of Don.
One day, without a doubt God’s plan, Don started a conversation with me. We began talking about some truths of the Word. I found out that some of the things I had been taught growing up were in complete error. Instead of living in fear, I could live in Christ’s loving assurance. I could rest in my trust in Jesus, that He loved me and would always be there for me. And when my time came, He would be there.
God used that conversation to stir up a hunger for His truth. I wanted to find out the truth for myself. I wanted to pursue it and learn it. It was ground shaking for me. I didn’t even know that there were other translations of the Bible outside the 1611 King James. I had no idea that study Bibles existed. So a four year journey began and gathered critical mass where I was brought to a point of decision. I would either follow Jesus fully, without reservation, holding nothing back, or I could not follow Him at all.
Jesus, my Lord, Savior, and Shepherd, came after me. He would not let me wander away into the desolate wilderness to be lost forever to Him. The brightness of His love, His light, and His grace worked in my heart. The Holy Spirit drew me, began forging me, and lifted me from the darkness and ashes. For the first time I had real food to eat and real drink to drink. For the first time, I began to really grow in the Lord.
I am thankful for His refinement, His fire, His hammer, His anvil, and the cooling water of His love He plunges us into.