Wednesday, September 15, 2004
From the Start
No, the question now is just how I managed to survive until I made that decision. I'm especially interested in the period prior to 1971-October-18, which is the date I first let Jesus open the door.
There are many ways to fail, starting even before a person is born. The mother could be uninterested in health, resulting in a baby that never has a chance. After that many more possibilities come up, from family break-up to general disinterest.
Even more difficult is the survival of ideas and ideals. How many people survive childhood with any of their spark left? Most children grow up into adults, which, as defined by our culture, is a fate I regard as nearly worse than death; it's only better because of the possibility of recovery.
So, you're born, you grow up. You go through schools and parents and jobs, and hope that some of your corners are still intact when you go out on your own. How unpopular are you willing to be? Freedom comes with unpopularity, but also loneliness, so how do you survive that? Many people don't.
Now I know why: we're made to need God. Only His strength, as given to us in the Holy Spirit, enables us to be ourselves rather than a lousy copy of something we've seen on TV or modelled by our parents.
Thus, the question. I managed to make it into adulthood with some dreams intact. I was powerless but still had the idea. How? Was God looking after me even before I turned to him formally in 1971? This sounds heretical, but I've learned in the last year that God Himself is highly heretical. I wouldn't put anything past His love.
So, that time I jumped over what I thought was a manhole cover, and landed on the manhole cover. What I'd jumped over, purely on impulse, was the open manhole. The time we got T-boned by a pickup truck on the way to Crater Lake, and didn't get knocked off the road. And a whole lot of more subtle things, experiences in school and such.
Somehow through all of that I was able to hold myself intact. I had standards. Anything I learned had to fit with observable facts. Why did I have that conviction, and the intellectual ability to make it work? I refused to throw out parts of myself just on someone else's say-so.
"You can't do that."
"It's not dignified." Etc, etc. It took a better reason than that to dissuade me. Basically I learned how to learn, and nothing has ever shaken me off of that. Why? Where did the strength come from?
Then came that momentous day, when, after a few weeks of intense thought, I gave my life to Jesus. I have since learned that following Jesus is a process, not an arrival. It's not a once-for-all event. It must be, like anything else worth doing, learned.
Unfortunately I learned some bad things. Applying the principles I knew of learning, I tried to find God on my own, and wound up not only throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but flinging the bassinet and everything else. I became legendary among my co-workers for my anti-church stance. God was an opinion, a bad solution to real problems.
Now, if I'd have been God, I would have washed my hands of the whole deal. God's love is different from anything we know about, and He didn't quit. He guided events, as he seemed to have done since the day I was born, so that, in time, I'd be abject enough to look again to him for answers.
The Holy Spirit is badly misunderstood. Either He is made the be-all and end-all of Christian experience--Have you been filled with the spirit?--or else He is ignored. The truth is that every Christian is filled with the spirit as soon as they commit. Learning to live with Him is a different story. So, when I was abject enough and turned to God, this time I paid more attention to what was going on. One more chance. I let the Holy Spirit take my hand and guide me through all the clutter I'd picked up.
He is the Spirit of Truth. I look back over the years and see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in my life everywhere. His hand protecting me, giving me the right idea at the right time, and perhaps even shoring me up long enough to get to a better place. From the very beginning, loving one confused boy and helping him get to the point where he could start asking better questions.