I met Jesus on a mountain top in Colorado when I was 17. I didn't mean to. I didn't think I was even looking. But looking back now, I knew something was horribly broken in the world and broken in me. But I had never heard the gospel so I was unable to make sense of my sinful condition before a holy God.
It's funny how often girls and sports get wrapped up into someone's salvation story.
So, junior year, varsity baseball, I'm the lead off hitter. My plan was simply to lead the league in hitting. It didn't quite work out that way. I had the worst hitting slump known to man. Seriously, I've never heard of someone going 1-47. How is that even possible? All I know is that by the summer following my junior year, I was broken young man.
Along came Young Life. I had started to attend this high school ministry because I thought there were some hot girls who went there and besides God was certainly up there, somewhere. I got invited to a week long camp and promised it would be the best summer of my life or else I'd get my $183 back. After my experience at Frontier Ranch I never thought of asking….
It was awesome. We did mountain climbing, rappelling, white water rafting, and basketball--my fav. Each day they talked about Jesus and that was fine, because I had always thought he was pretty cool. Then on the next to last night, they talked about…Sin. The talk blew me away. I remember leaving the lodge pissed off at God because I knew, with crystal clarity, that (1) there was a God, (2) He had been revealed through Jesus, and (3) I did not know Him. I knew OF Him, but I was separated from God by my sin, this indwelling power that had wrecked me and left me immeasurably less than I was supposed to be. I was hopeless.
The following night, they explained the cross of Jesus, how His suffering and death was the payment for my sin, bridging the gap between me and God. I drank it in and believed every word. That night, I decided to go for a walk by myself. It's impossible to describe how God transformed me. I really wish I could go back and somehow be outside of my own body to witness the miracle of new birth. All I know is that I found myself deeply moved within by the love of Jesus and cried out to Him in prayer, asking Him to come into my life and change me. I know this doesn't happen for everyone, but--bang--the Holy Spirit made me new and I knew God.
Here's what I wish someone told me that night: "Son, you are forgiven, but as much as you love Jesus now, you are going to screw things up pretty bad. You're going to struggle to believe He still loves you. You're going to struggle to receive God's grace. You're going to struggle to look at your upbringing issues. You're going to struggle in marriage, struggle with your kids, struggle in life. You're gonna battle hopelessness and depression. You're going to be disappointed in yourself and in others who hurt you. You're going to go through trials that will take your breath away, and knock you to the ground where all you can do is pray.
But I will walk with you and teach you how your life and My Life intersect. That is what you were designed for, what your purpose is!
So buckle your seat belt on, son. This is going to be a wild ride.
But that is exactly what Jesus has done for me. He has closed the space between the Bible story and my story. He has connected the dots, not by escaping the pain, confusion, and struggle of life, but by leading me through it and teaching me from it.