Mine is a story of Love.
I grew up in a home with two of the most fantastic, loving, and spiritually stable parents a person could ever grow up with. I had a childhood that was virtually free of trauma, free of worry, and surrounded by beautiful scenery, adventures, open fields and small town ignorance which as a child, is just the kind of naivety that could make someone believe anything was possible.
I've been extremely shy for as long as I can remember, and growing up it was the most natural thing for me to want to be good at things like public speaking or acting and yet be crippled with stagefright and the anxiety that brings.
Growing up in the church and learning every Bible story that could be found in the Old Testament through Christian elementary school and church served me well, and as well as teaching me about a loving God, it increased my desire to learn about other things. See, I've always been interested in philosophies of any sort, and well crafted world views always gave me pleasure to read, especially if they were done in intriguing ways.
So I've always had a strong foundation, but sometimes it takes more difficult situations to bridge the gap between heart and head.
After moving to Chilliwack in middle school, I (the shy one, you recall) had to make new friends and start from scratch, changing the entire environment I'd become accustomed to. I found this extremely difficult at first, but like everything difficult in middle school, two weeks later you look back and find that things were not quite as impossible as you might have believed.
All the way through high school I went to church, even was on youth leadership teams and became a leader at a local youth group, and this was good for me, but once again, my knowledge and understanding of scripture, though logical and well-reasoned, never cut into my heart. But more on that in a moment.
After high school I continued on in youth leadership, and still when my parents, and some of my family, moved away for missions work to England, I was eighteen at this point.
Things seemed to go alright for a time after that, but after a bad break-up, and financial difficulty, and added to that the lack of peer-pressure (far more dangerous than peer-pressure itself for someone trying to stand against the current) led me to explore for myself the means for making myself happy.
Here I need to mention another blessing. That mind that was given to me by God is the same one that (pridefully at the time) I cherished far more than escape. For, I thought, what am I, if I cannot think? According to certain philosophers, if I cannot think, I cannot be sure I exist, so why would I diminish my consciousness? I tried to lean on alcohol for a time, but both my stomach, and my mind, would not allow this. This is something I thank God for often.
So I was working to live, and my free time was spent wasting my mind (I'd long given up my reading) on video games, movies, and parties. My parents did almost literally everything they could to support me all my life, but sufficed to say, there are things one cannot be protected from.
I think, now looking back, that I was probably quite depressed, but all I knew was that I was "free". But instead of being filled with joy, I was filled with frustration.
But like any situation in which tension increases, there comes a breaking point. Throughout this whole depression and spiral "out of control"(about as close as I ever came), I had never, and have never(another blessing), cursed God or asked him to leave my life. One things that I could never let go was that he was there, and though I never lived like it, even then, I thought that if he did end up being real, that it would be better for me to have never rejected him outrightly, it felt too weighty.
There came a point where I thought to myself that it was ridiculous to hold on to old fashioned beliefs that I didn't even have any proof existed, after all, what was the difference between when I went to church and when I stopped? I was determined to find out for sure. So I made a deal with God(traditionally this does not go well for those who make them.) I said to him, "I will read my Bible, and pray, every single day for two weeks, and if I don't notice a difference between now and then, and if nothing changes and I'm not spoken to in that time, then you aren't real, and this conversation will have been wasted on the air."
Three days later, my friends and I all were camping in the back yard with a fire, there were a lot of people there, drinking and having fun in those sorts of ways. I began to become upset with myself for the ways I hadn't been able to live according to Biblical laws in those few days, and that I hadn't stuck to what I'd promised. Three days into reading my Bible and I had become pharisaic and legalistic. But just like before, and like it had always been, my judgment was reserved for myself.
That night I left and went inside to my room and grabbed my Bible. I felt angry for no reason, I felt disheartened and alone. I felt as though the turmoil in my soul would never cease, much less be understood by another person. As a person who holds onto rationalism and unemotional thought, I was hoping for an epiphany, after which the whole world would be come clear, if only my moral and mental glasses could find the correct prescription.
I was reading in Romans, in chapter 7, and praying to God for a restoration. For a change, for a spark, for anything that would help me understand why I sinned, why did I hate, why I despaired.
And this is what I read: "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Suddenly I was overwhelmed by a feeling I could never remember feeling ever before. It was like the understanding of myself and my failure to trust God, my failure to love or have patience for or find peace with others all became transparently clear, and tears filled my eyes. I immediately had my eyes opened to see the life I was in, this body of death, that reeked of the deterioration of the body and spirit I was intended to have, and the hate and the lack of life that was in my anger.
What only makes sense to remedy anger that has no real reason is a Love that goes beyond reason, and peace that passes all understanding. Paul, the moral teacher and writer of most of the New Testament, admits his lack of ability to follow every rule and be pure without God, and that there is a continual war waging inside himself, the very same war that had created chaos and frustration in my heart all that time.
So there I was, at the beginning of a long journey, where before I was full of anger and frustration, full of despair and hate. And with a carefully timed and placed "I love you," from the God of the universe, I was elevated to heights I never thought possible, to understand peace in spite of circumstances, to understand grace, to understand forgiveness, and all of these in unlimited quantities, became the reality of the conversion of my heart. No longer was my life inconsequential, no longer would I think about things of no purpose, but I would set my sights on heaven. Though at the time this seemed simple, the weight of that moment, and the recognition that someone as foolish and destroyed could be loved was the single most important anchor point in my life.
Though it was only the start of the fully accepted conversion of my soul, and though difficulty was far from over, I can look back and see this as the balance point of my life, the time when I was redeemed, saved from pain and frustration from looking to myself to make myself perfect, and accepting what has been freely given. The love of Christ.
"Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"