Touched By An Angel - Autumn 2003 To Winter 2005
My insight into the value of suffering would pull me one step closer to God, who, probably much to the average person’s surprise (certainly to mine when I finally discovered this), guarantees suffering in believers’ lives, yet promises there is always a reason for suffering, that it always has a way to strengthen us, and that He wouldn’t let us experience something we couldn’t handle. However, I think the single most important entity on my journey toward becoming a believer, would be one Christian girl, Lauren, who I met by chance online on October 11, 2003. I met her on a teen message board, a board that had sadly began reeking of messages from perverts and other sex-crazed teens during the months I regularly lurked (and occasionally posted) online, just because it was something to do, something to stave off boredom and insanity. Well, she posted a message saying she wants a guy to talk to, who doesn’t want to talk to about sex or on other stupid bad, inappropriate topics. Was this too good to be true?! I wondered. There was only one way to find out—I got up the courage to respond to that message, and I turned out to be the only one to respond to it. The rest is history, as she and I started emailing and instant messaging each other.
Touched By Love
I learned much from Lauren by connecting personally with her, such as, how real friends never desert each other, no matter what, and how true friendship should concern more of what we can do for our friends and less of what our friends can do for us. Lauren and I also bonded quickly, within weeks of meeting each other online. Distance didn’t matter—I didn’t care that she lives far away in another state, and I didn’t care that I wouldn’t be able to see her in person for a long, long time, if ever. I was falling in love with her, primarily as a friend, which at first, I didn’t even know is possible. But, as I came to start understanding what real love is, from her introducing me to 1 Corinthians 13, the “love” chapter in the Bible, I figured it is possible. And in March 2004, right around my birthday, I got up the courage to tell Lauren I think of her as an angel, and to tell her “I love you”, and she appreciated that! She said “I love you” in return to me. Wow, what an awesome birthday gift for me, being able to show love to a friend I truly care about, without scaring her away or anything.
Lauren did so much for me, mostly by simply being herself, a powerful yet gentle ray of sunlight in a mostly dim world. She introduced me to Christian music in November 2003, and I began getting hooked on it late in the following month. Also, gradually, I think parts of her Christian character rubbed off on me. I still didn’t correctly understand yet what being a Christian means, though, and “sin” was still foreign to my vocabulary. “Living for Christ?” Back then, I couldn’t even describe what that means. More time would pass before things started making sense, though.
Introspection, Conviction, Death Sentence - 2004
As 2004 progressed, I gradually began questioning myself and my notions of God. Is He a despot, always watching us, always ready to punish us when we do wrong? How do we know when we do wrong, anyway? What exactly is sin? Is it just committed wrong actions, or can it include thoughts too? Even omitted right actions? I had a feeling it’s all of the above, but I simply didn’t know, and I didn’t even know where I could turn to in the Bible for answers. The Bible’s size intimidated me, anyway. I wasn’t even sure how I could address my concerns with Lauren, or anyone for that matter. So, for a time, I was content with just trying to avoid anything that could potentially trip me up spiritually. But then I began wondering if certain incidents happen as punishment for sin, whatever it is. For example, in June, I had unusually few opportunities to talk to Lauren, which saddened me. The same thing happened in December, but much worse. I finally tried finding answers online to my burning questions, yet I came up with varying answers or perhaps fragments thereof, which didn’t help me right away. Eventually, I reluctantly and shyly thought about how I could share my concerns with Lauren, and I finally figured to just be blunt would be best—I figured I could ask her what sin is, and what it constitutes. I knew I could trust whatever she told me. So I asked her my question the first chance I got to, in an email. But in her response, she apparently forgot to answer my question. That wracked my nerves. Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable asking her one more time, but I figured if I don’t get an answer from her, I might not get an answer at all anytime soon. So I asked her in my next email, and the night I got her reply email, December 29, I received a swift conviction and death sentence.
My Hour Of Salvation
My original hunch proved right all along; wrongful actions and thoughts, as well as failure to do right actions when needed, are all part of sin. With that, fragments I had picked up while scouring for answers online began piecing themselves together in my mind too, such as: “Sin in the Garden of Eden created a vast gulf between Man and God, resulting in broken fellowship”, “Sin is punishable by eternal death”, and “Everything you do or don’t do, everything you think, will be accounted for”…That all sounded condemnatory, and it indeed condemned me. I had sinned plenty of times so far, infinitely enough to warrant me a death sentence. Nevertheless, Lauren’s email left me with a strong sense of hope, because of one other fragment I had learned: “Jesus Christ died for our sins, so that we who faithfully accept that can receive forgiveness and justification in the eyes of God, and bridge the gulf that sin originally caused.” I realized that I had never yet personally accepted God into my life, repented of sin, and accepted forgiveness/justification from Him. Sure, all along I had believed Jesus exists or did exist, but now I knew that wasn’t enough… Real Christianity requires an active commitment, not mere passive belief. That fateful night of December 29, I became convinced of a need for the Savior, Jesus. I died that night, to myself, a spiritual death of my old self. Upon dying, however, salvation also spiritually rebirthed me, as a new believer ready to live committedly for Christ, whatever that may entail.
Smashing Naivete - 2005
For whatever reason, I assumed at first that living as a Christian would be much easier than living as a non-Christian. Even now, I still see that assumption peddled around in some form or another, such as in the form of the “prosperity gospel”, which essentially presumes God wants us to be rich, and that we can by using faith, attain some form of personal success (see http://www.theopedia.com/Prosperity_gospel for more detail). Well, now I just look to the world’s millions of impoverished Christians to debunk the prosperity gospel. I feel my own experiences have personally debunked it as well. Maybe God indeed wants us to be rich. But He’s not just going to hand us bundles of money only because we ask or beg, or do everything we want Him to do for us, out of “faith” that may as well actually be selfishness. Never! At times, we will have to work for our blessings, and all the time, we should have to submit to His will, let Him exercise control over our lives, not us try to manipulate Him into doing our will. I’ve gradually learned all this since becoming Christian, but especially in 2005, did I receive a first-hand lesson on the difficulty of experiencing a trial beyond my control, and of trusting God faithfully in it. It would be my hardest test of faith ever at the time, even harder than the storms of 2002 and 2003.