November 1990. Twenty five years ago, the Holy Spirit moved in my life, replaced my heart of stone, gave me a heart of flesh and led me to the Savior. It was 25 years ago that God’s rich and unfathomable grace, was poured into my life and I was rescued from Satan and the kingdom of darkness, and brought into the Kingdom of Light.
Up until that point, I had been a child of the world, living for myself, pursuing satisfaction of the flesh and loving the life of debauchery. By His grace, after hearing the gospel through my cousin Hank, a Missouri Synod preacher in Wichita Falls and Tommy Nelson at Denton Bible Church, I trusted in Christ for my salvation.
I remember the night clearly. I worked all day at the newspaper and got off around 11 p.m. I rushed home, grabbed a bite to eat and headed up to my room in the house I rented with a photographer from the paper at 1801 Pearl Avenue. I never saw my roommate, so it was pretty much like living alone. I sat down at the table I used for my desk in my room and begin doing what I had done every night for the previous two weeks, I read the Bible. The words were alive to me like never before.
This was in stark contrast to my previous reading of the Bible in the summer of 1990. Then I used a King James Bible with all the “Thees, Thous and Verilys” and not much of it made sense. The words were just words, stories, lessons for me to point the finger at others less self righteous than I was. But after I read a great deal of it, they had no more place in my life than if I had been reading James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Then came the emotional collapse. The woman I dated that last two years of college wanted to move on and enjoy life in Dallas where she lived. My stellar journalism career was in shambles and life was quite bleak.
I did what any single guy would do in such a situation, tried to find comfort in cheap beer and long, lonely nights. It was after one such bout that the LORD began to move in my life. I had been drinking up a storm in Lufkin, TX with Richard Free, a high-school buddy, to the point that I was completely hungover for my six-hour drive back to Wichita Falls in my beat up 1979 Buick Park Avenue with the worthless air conditioner and broken antennae. That antennae may seem like a silly point to make, but even it had a role in me coming to know Christ. My broken antennae provided the worst reception so that I could only listen to the stations of the towns that I was driving through at the time. Remember, this is 1990, and I was driving through East Texas, which means, the best you can do is listen to the country AND western stations they have to offer.
I found one particular station that was coming through loud and clear. I didn’t like country or western but listened any way. It was hot. My head hurt. I was depressed. For those of you who don’t know, that is the perfect setting in which to listen to country and/or western. The station must have been on a commercial-free segment because I was able to listen to six beauties in a row. They were about guys losing their girlfriends, pick up trucks, being down on your luck, lonely, losing your girlfriends, women cheating on you, getting drunk, etc.,
For some reason, I pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the radio. I just sat there thinking that if I didn’t become a Christian like my cousin Hank, that I would end up becoming like those guys who were singing the songs, only worse: I wouldn’t be famous for my misery like they were. I would be anonymous and miserable.
That night, I called Hank. “Can you get me that special Bible?” He told me during one of my visits that if I wanted him to get me a Bible I could read better than the King James Version, that he would do so.
The Bible arrived in early November and I met Hank and his wife Diane at Denton Bible Church. He was so excited to give it to me and I was so excited to get it. Something had definitely changed from my summer reading of the word to the moment Hank gave me that Bible. I opened it and the words…made sense. The words…were alive. The words, were real. There were no more questions about the truthfulness of the words found in those 66 books. The Spirit, which I had yet to understand, was convincing me of these truths.
I didn’t want Hank to explain to me the features of the study Bible that he gave me. I just wanted to find a corner of the world and read. Those words were so precious that I found myself skipping dinner and foregoing sleep for the next two weeks, devouring every page I could. The biggest reality for me was the truth that Jesus Christ was truly MY Savior. He was truly the King of all creation. He was exactly who the Bible said He was and He had dealt with the 29 years of sin that were on my account (and all future sins as well, but I didn’t know that at the time). This truth was too good to be true, yet it was true. All I could do is read, and read, and read.
Finally, in the back of the Bible that Hank had given me, there were some questions: “Are you a Christian? Do you want to be?“
YES! With all my strength, ability, every aspect of my being, I wanted to be a Christian. Never mind the years of taunts and jeers that I had hurled at Christians under my breath (I was mostly a coward in my hatred of them). I didn’t care what my family thought, or what the liberals I worked with thought. I wanted to be a Christian.
I said the prayer they had before me. That prayer didn’t make me a Christian. I already was. I was already born again, and believing, trusting and resting in Christ for my salvation, although I could not articulate it. But by saying the prayer, it brought me to the point that I was agreeing to the commitment that Christ had already made toward me. It was my wake-up call that I had been changed, and there was no turning back, not because of anything in me, but because of His hand upon me.
For the next 25 years, I would be tested in more ways than I could have imagined. Yet, even in my darkest hours, and there have been more than I would like to admit, His hand remained on me. Remember that when He told men to follow Him, He was heading to the cross. He has led me to my cross and through plenty of trials, toils and snares. There have been times where I wanted to punt my faith and walk away. But I have never been able to do so. Like the disciples when Jesus asked them if they wanted to leave, I have only been able to reply as they did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
So 25 years after trusting Christ, in the solitude of my room in a house in Wichita Falls, TX, He is still leading me. He is still telling me to follow Him. He is still guiding me to the cross, to die to self, and live unto Him. For that, I am eternally thankful.