I was a “Cardboard Christian.” From the time I was a young boy, I remember going to church each Sunday with my parents and my sisters. I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1969, was an acolyte, and remember keeping track of how many Sundays in a row I attended church as if it were some type of spiritual contest.
Once I left for college my church attendance dwindled. While I was at UNL, St. Mark’s on campus was just down the block but I NEVER attended it once. I did make it a point to attend church when I came back home for the weekends but that was the extent of my time with God each week.
I thought I was leading a “good life.” I didn’t smoke or do drugs of any kind. I did drink from time to time but not that much. I didn’t gamble or use the Lord’s name in vain. So I didn’t know why my wife was asking me to attend a “Walk to Emmaus” weekend in Hastings in late January of 1997.
My marriage to Mindy was on the rocks. Sadly, we were only about three years away from a divorce, when she left me, and I was desperate to keep my marriage and my family together. If she wanted me to go then I would go …. But did I really need that experience? I didn’t believe so but I would humor her.
As a few dozen men gathered for the opening session of the weekend I looked around me and heard stories about drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling addictions, wife and child beating, etc. Who were these guys? Why was I here? I didn’t have their problems. I soon learned my problem was MUCH worse.
It was Friday Noon and we were having a communion service. We were instructed to put our burden(s) on a piece of paper. I started my list and it grew and grew. My marriage was a mess, my priorities were a mess, but, most importantly of all, my relationship with Christ was a mess. It didn’t take me long to realize that God was showing me that I needed Him and this was the weekend that I was to be “born again.”
I took that piece of paper up to the cross and asked God to take the heavy burdens from me that I had been laden with for such a long time. I surrendered my life to God that day and felt a sense of peace and “restoration” that I had not felt for so long. I listened to the sniffles all around me and realized that this room full of “MEN” were crying loudly. The Kleenexes were being handled out liberally. For the first time in my life I knew that God was in control of my life. I professed Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior and realized that he was crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day for me and for the sins of the whole world. Suddenly, it all made sense. At age 40, I finally got.
I had been a Christian for the first 40 years of my life. I went to church sporadically and when I did go I could have just as easily been a cardboard cut-out sitting on the church pew. I was not giving to others and I was not allowing God to work through my life to serve others. I, indeed, had been “the mess.”
When I left Hastings that weekend at the conclusion of the Emmaus weekend, I was spiritually on fire. I couldn’t get enough of my God’s word. I wanted to share my experience with everyone. I had no idea that being born again would release me from the bonds of my sins.
Since that amazing weekend, I have experienced many highs and lows in my life. But, through it all, I knew that God was in control. I have been able to surrender every part of my life to HIM and know that HIS will is the only that thing that matters in my life. I now realize that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to eternal life. HE is the ONLY way to my Heavenly Father. Without HIM, I am nothing. With HIM, I can and will be all that HE wants me to be.
Truly, “THERE IS POWER IN THE NAME OF JESUS!”