I knew the right words to say, but the desires of my heart betrayed me.
I went to church every Sunday, but I didn’t know Jesus.
I’d been raised to know right from wrong and that God ought be an important part of my life and I feel like that kept me pretty straight for the most part.
But I soon came to the end of what I could do on my own, as far as keeping myself out of trouble. I knew the things I wasn’t supposed to do, but putting all that into practice became more difficult as I got older. It was just easier to sin, then hide it, keeping up the veneer of being “an upstanding young man”.
The “good kid” facade broke down during my senior year of high school. I’d just gotten out of a bad relationship, the kind with lots of secrets. It was kind of a relief when we broke up. It was easier to not have to live under constant fear of being found out.
But then I got caught. Not by my parents. Not by a pastor. But by one of my friends, Sarah, who through complicated series of events, ending up finding out all of my junk from that bad relationship. This is the worst moment for a person trapped in sin. When despite your best efforts, the truth becomes known about you. I was sure in that moment that Sarah, one of the most solid Christians I knew, wouldn’t want to be my friend. Not now that she knew who I really was.
Her reaction was the complete opposite of what I’d expected. She saw the fear on my face and talked me down, saying “Andrew, I don’t look at you any differently knowing this” and went to great lengths to show that I had nothing to worry about. That she was still my friend.
She invited me to go to her youth group with her. I agreed to go, but, if I’m honest, I only agreed to go because I felt I needed to commit some kind of act of penance. This seemed like a good start.
So I went, feeling awkward most of the time. I’d never been to a church where they played guitars before (or had a full coffee bar). I sat in the back, feeling desperately out of place. A couple guys came up and did a sketch where one of them had gotten a stain on his shirt and all his attempts to remove the stain only made it worse. It was a tad cheesy (this was an event for high schoolers after all), but I got the point. Sin. We all had it. I knew enough to get that part. And I understood the helpless feeling of trying to fix it on my own.
Then a guy named Josh taught out of Luke 15, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Most of you know this story: the son curses his father, takes his inheritance, leaves, loses everything and is forced to come back home, penniless. And then, as the son returned, it says…
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him…the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:20, 22-24)
And those words hit me. Not all at once, but with the slow building pressure that falls on one faced with an important revelation. That story was my life. The failed son. Lost. But I was starting to see that this wasn’t the end of the story.
You may call it coincidence, that in my awkward, guilt ridden state I was emotionally vulnerable, eager to feel some semblance of forgiveness. But I don’t think that’s what happened.
That day God spoke to me. Not with words, but in a language only spoken in deep places of the soul. He told me that He welcomed me as a son, and that my sin and my stains could not change the love He has for me. That He was not only awaiting my return, He’d gone far out of His way to find me.
Of course I didn’t fully realize this at the time. While I felt dramatically different, I could not have told any one why. I tried to explain it to one of my friends and ended up confusing both of us. It wasn’t ’til months later that I looked back on the one night and saw that something had changed in me.
Not simply “life improvement”. Like I said, I’d been a “pretty good kid” all along. There’s lots of terminology for it, but I like to just say that I wasn’t the same person. Literally. The physical body was the same, but a different “Andrew” had taken up residence.
And it’s continued…for 10 years now. Exactly 10 years today.
It’s not been the easiest road and I’ve been far from perfect. I’ve been sidetracked a few times, but never lost. I don’t know how long I will be on this journey. Maybe I’ve got 10 more years. Maybe 50. Or maybe just tomorrow. Point is no matter what happens, I’m always certain that the road I’ve been put on leads back to my Father’s house.
If you’re on this same road with me, I’d love to hear your story sometime. Leave a comment. Hit me up on Facebook. If you live in Carbondale, let’s grab coffee.
Cause all have a story and I’d love to hear yours.