I can’t remember what I was wearing the night I first reached out to God, other than jeans–but I’m always wearing jeans, so that probably shouldn’t count. I can’t remember whether or not I was wearing a baseball cap. I can’t remember what kind of beer we were drinking at the time (there were several). I can’t remember if we’d gone to the Padres game that day, or were going the next. I can’t remember if we started drinking in the afternoon, or just that evening, when Ken threw the frog legs on the grill.
But I remember how I felt before I knew God was there, and felt His presence. And I remember how I felt after.
It was pretty strange, really. One moment I was contemplating the death of a man named Tim Wakefield, who was the first pastor I ever knew on a personal level and liked. I was a little sad, but otherwise fine, and blissfully unaware of anything but the little bubble I complacently lived in.
And the next moment I was not. Somewhere between imagining Tim’s last few moments on an Arizona freeway and picking up two medium sized coolers full of ice and cheap beer, I became aware, fully aware, for the first time in my life.
And I felt.
I had been numb for so long–or tried to be–that the rush of feeling I was experiencing was overwhelming. I felt the loneliness that had somehow always been there, even while in the midst of friends–the awareness I was the only person on earth that felt how I felt, and had experienced the type of events that had shaped my life. I was aware that no one understood me.
I felt the pain of my losses anew.
I could sense my surroundings with absolute clarity, in HD before HD existed. The Rolling Stones playing two houses down (I later found out it was a live album called Get Yer Ya-Ya’s OUT”). People were milling around on that cabin’s deck, but the darkness was so thick without the lights of civilization casting even a dim glow, that they could not see me a hundred or so feet away, standing on a dock.
I could hear frogs, and crickets.
And I became aware of two things in close succession. The first was my sin–and not only could I see in sharp definition all the things I’d done in my life, but I could remember how I’d felt when I’d done them, and why.
I’d consumed alcohol to dull the harsh noise of the world, and numb the clenching pain in my heart. I’d eaten and eaten and eaten for the same reason.
I’d slept with several women I barely knew because it made me forget, for a moment, how alone I really was.
I’d lied, and cheated, and even stolen on a couple of occasions. I’d been deceitful to get what I wanted, and had become quite adept at it. I had not killed, but I’d wanted to. I’d looked on people and hated them–even my own family.
I’d ignored God my entire life, had slapped away his outstretched hands. I’d turned a deaf ear to his cries for me, to his calling of my name.
I’d hated him for the life he’d given me.
I felt all of this at once, falling around my shoulders like an immense cloak. It was heavy, and dark, and suffocating.
The weight of it literally drove me to my knees, and I could hear the thin fabric of my jeans tearing as my kneecaps encountered the rough wood of the dock I was standing on. I let go of the coolers and fell forward onto the palms of my hands. I could hear the river slapping the side of Ken’s dad’s fishing boat.
And then I did the only thing I could, the thing I’d never done before.
I cried out to Jesus, and then I just cried.
And after a few moments, I became aware of the weight of my sin being drawn from my shoulders. And on the heels of that awareness was another: I did not have to bear that weight any longer.
I felt the heaviness of that dark cloak being slowly replaced with a lighter one.
I felt peaceful, for the first time in as long as I could remember.
I felt forgiven. I did not hear a voice, either whispered or shouted, but I just knew. I knew in the way that a child is aware of their parent’s love, without having to be told.
I felt like a child, like I’d fallen and my Father had picked me up, held me against his chest, and just loved me.
And while I knew I was still the same person I’d been, I also knew I was a
and had a clean slate, as far as Jesus was concerned.
I still had the head knowledge of what I’d done, and been through. But I also had the heart knowledge that in the eyes and heart of the only One whose opinion mattered, those things had dissappeared.
That was the beginning.
The first baby step I took toward the most important relationship of my life.
I was thirty-two.
I’ve had people ask me what’s different in my life now. It took me a little while to realize the main difference is simply this: I have hope now.
and this is why:
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
-Isaiah 53:2-5 NIV