Summer of my 7th year 1958 I asked the Lord Jesus to come in my heart and be my savior. This was a familiar Sunday school lesson and I knew what to say. Our church building was under construction on a second floor. The pastor met with me between the unfinished 2 X 4 walls. The scent of the fresh cut wood and drywall dust is still with me today. At that time and age I was ready to make a life time commitment to love the Lord Jesus and to seek out HIS will for me in life. But my personal experience with our precious heavenly father came a few months earlier in the spring.
My childhood was blessed by the Christian values of my family and the community I lived in. I learned from these Christians that you must take every word of the Bible as the true and complete word of God in faith or not. It is our individual choice to believe fully or not at all. There is no place in the middle.
With my family I attended a local church on a regular basis. But something was missing from the experience of fellowship. I was a believer because I was told to believe. Yet I did not share the joy of having faith in the church teachings. Was the Bible a book of truth or had something been lost in the translation?
My grandfather was a pastor and musician at his church. I can still hear him playing his trumpet. The church was out in the country surrounded by the local cemetery. The building was cold with that closed to long smell. And the piano was out of tune. I ask him once why he stayed at a small church instead of one of the fancy ones. His answer was right to the point. The smaller church was in need of so much that there was plenty for him to do.
Then we talked about my faith. I ask him how could I love someone that I never met? I did not want to believe in the Lord just because my Sunday school lesion said to. How can I know the Lord is real? His answer is still blessing my life today. He put me on his knee and held me close. Then he said “You need to just ask the Lord to make himself known to you when you pray”. Grandpa encouraged me to have a personal conversation with HIM. “Speak to the Lord the same way we talk with love towards each other”. Grandpa told me to simply ask the Lord for a sign that HE existed. I was not aware that my aunt was listening to this little chat.
Then a short time later my aunt and I were in her car riding home from a family get together. It was after dark during a bad rain storm. The rain was so heavy it was hard to see the road and drive the car. But it was the thunder and lightning that scared me the most. It was that quick flash of light so bright it lit up the night. A loud crack like a gun always followed. My aunt tried to settle me down. She did this by suggesting that I try to pray for what grandpa had shared with me. I knew then she had heard him tell me to ask for a sign that the Lord was there.
I was blessed to grow up surrounded by men and woman that knew how to pray. So breaking into a serious prayer during a rain storm was no problem for me. I closed my eyes and began to pray. Soon thereafter time stood still. My body was overcome with a breathtaking good feeling. This was also experienced by my aunt setting next to me. She was so affected that she pulled off the road and stopped car. We just sat there hugging each other between the flashing light and the roar of the thunder. She was first to speak. “Honey you got what you asked for now let’s go tell grandpa”
I was very much aware that I had experienced something spiritual and physical. Oddly enough I was also aware this new feeling would not last and it was slowly fading. This blessing lasted for three days then it was gone but the memory never fades. Members of the church came to my grandpa’s home to see and talk to me. Some of them said that the Lord had touched me because my face had a healthy glow.
All at one I could recognize sin and it was offensive and appalling to me. Yet this also would fade and leave me back in the old way of thinking. But now I could firmly stand on the faith that the Lord Jesus had made himself known to me. Many times later my path crossed with someone that did not have any faith to stand on. I wished they had experienced something like what happened to me as a young Christian. I thank the Lord nonstop for answering the prayer of a young man.
This experience is as fresh and real today as when it happened back in the 50’s. Several times during my life when I found myself in an uncomfortable position I was able to call upon his name to help me. The first big fear of my youth was going to Vietnam to be in the war. During my high school yeas dreams of being captured by the enemy kept me from getting a good night sleep. Back then if your grades were not good enough they would draft you right out of high school. One day you were in school and before you knew it the military was your new home. When I was requested to register at the draft board they told me they needed young men small like me for a special service. They would give me a flash light and a 45. They would make me a tunnel rat. My job would be to seek out and destroy the enemy that lived underground in the tunnels. I knew that the Lord was always there for me. It was easy to put my trust into HIM because of my personal experience as a child. To this day how a 4F military deferment came to me in the mail is a mystery. But I knew that my personal relationship with our Lord had saved me from what I feared.
I have witnessed other people struggling with the trials in their lives. With some it was easy to see that they did not have the Lord in their heart. They could not fall back on the truth that the Lord was there for them also. Sometimes I tried to share my personal experience with them. But it seemed too hard for them to believe so my testimony sometimes was ignored. I felt almost ashamed that the Lord had made himself known to me and I had that to stand on and they did not.
My favorite prayer these days is to thank the Lord for my heritage that came during my youth from the Christian men and woman that raised me. The Lord was a real part of their daily lives. They taught me how to pray and worship HIM. I am sure that I did not live up to their expectation’s and I appreciate their patients with me. The best I can do is to follow in their footsteps and seek HIS will for me and witness to others.