By: Chad Steenerson
|I grew up
going to the building called the church every Sunday. Big deal. I knew
all of the answers for all of the questions about spiritual issues: how
to become a Christian, what it meant to be a Christian, what would
happen to me when I died because I had prayed to Jesus and gone through
all of the motions of seeking forgiveness for sins I wasn't really sorry
for and didn't want to stop doing. But I fooled myself into
thinking that just because I went through the motions of praying, that
must have meant that I was serious about wanting to quit doing the
things I'd been doing. But talk is cheap. Talking about forgiveness and
saying the same things over and over again when I prayed didn't do
anything for me because I kept insisting on approaching God on my own
terms and according to what I wanted and the way I thought things should
I first prayed the so-called "sinner's prayer" in the spring of 1982, when I was in fifth grade. I did so at a Backyard Bible Club-sort of get-together in my neighborhood, and having gone through the motions of "going to church" my whole life, I had assumed on that day now more than 17 years ago that I had done my duty as a Christian, that I was now assured of going to heaven and, since all was okay (meaning only that I wasn't going to go to hell), nothing more was required of me. It wasn't that I specifically assumed this, but how is a spiritual infant to understand all of the aspects of growth? Simple: the hard way.
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WHAT I BELIEVE
My mother was certainly one of the most significant spiritual influences in my life during my childhood. And she and other family members, as well as various people from the many churches we attended as my family moved from state to state, would frequently talk about the level of understanding I had about the Bible, about the fact that I had memorized so many passages of Scripture and other such things so that I felt as if I was someone special. The problem was that I started to believe I was someone special, not in such a way that anyone else would notice, but sometimes a person's ego is invisible to everyone around them while they themselves are blinded by it.
My family moved extensively as I was growing up, living in six states in just a seven-year period from fourth grade to the middle of high school. To say the least, this didn't do much to promote my social life, as I knew nobody all over again once my family packed up and followed a new job for my dad. By ninth grade, I was sick of it. I had been on the outside for so long, and I was determined to do whatever it took to make friends, on my own terms (I thought), to the detriment and exclusion of everything else. I had to become my own worst enemy before I realized that this life, by itself, was nothing in the first place.
At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, my family had again moved to a new town, and I vowed that to cure my misery, I would make it my sole focus to make friends. Little did I know I was only throwing myself an emotional shovel. As my freshman year of high school dragged on (emphasize the drag that it was), I couldn't understand why, although I was doing everything as right as I knew how to make friends, it wasn't happening. To make matters worse, I probably tried too hard and ended up driving people away with my overbearing, intense focus to make myself happy. Finally, I snapped. One day the person to whom I felt closest (my very first girlfriend, in fact) did, due to my overbearing, intense focus, flee emotionally from my life, leaving me totally disoriented and wondering what happened and why and how would I ever find happiness now that the only person who had seemed to make me happy was gone. But what I had thought was happiness was really just a matter of things not falling apart as quickly as they otherwise might have done. And so, with my last means of what I construed to be emotional support gone, Jesus finally had a direct line to me.
There was no particular significance to June 3, 1986 except as the day upon which I chose to end my own life. It seemed hardly soon enough to stop my misery, but I doubted the effectiveness of my course of action anyway. Regardless, I knew of no other way out of the pain, loneliness and utter misery I was in. And so that evening I sat in bed, with a note in hand ending with the words "I'm sorry," and a bottle of pills which, if all went well (pardon the irony), would kill me. But the pills never reached my lips. I was an absolute chicken, not knowing for certain (and certainty of any kind would've been nice at that moment) if the drastic action I was about to take would end my own pain. I had gambled that I would go to heaven regardless of obedience to Jesus, because I had prayed a prayer years before and knew all the right answers. But knowing the answers isn't the same as knowing the Lord and Savior who is the source of those answers. I didn't know at the time that I didn't know Jesus; I only knew that I wasn't sure. It was not a chance I was willing to take, to die and not know for certain of my eternal destination. But my own knowledge--regardless of how enlightened other people told me I was--didn't do a thing for me because I didn't really know Him who gave the peace that puts our empty, simplistic, one-size-fits-all answers in proper perspective. I wasn't willing to bank on simplistic answers. I needed to pursue Jesus.
During that following year, I went through counseling, learning all of the "right" psychological techniques and coping mechanisms to deal with emotional problems. But the spiritual hunger that fed the empty emotions in the first place never was satisfied until I got out of the way, stopped trying to tell Jesus that I knew how to run my own life, stopped trying to find happiness where it was never meant to exist. (It is never meant to exist outside of Him, and it doesn't.) It was only as I gradually learned to trust Him, and to find Him able to be trusted, that I found peace that I still cannot understand or explain.
On Aug. 18, 1990, Jesus called me to preach. I still do not know of any pulpit, program or specific plan which He has in store for me, but that doesn't matter. I can see now, as I wish I had years ago, that what I lack in understanding, Christ more than provides in faithfulness. Without Him this life is worth nothing but dirt. And I hope that I never forget it.
A Brother in Christ,
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