Thirty-One Years Ago Today

On January 7, 1979, I became a follower of Christ.

Saved. Born again. Became a Christian. Accepted faith. Whatever terminology you use, the result was the same. I gave Jesus my life that day.

I was 17 and had recently been to a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church — the first Christmas Eve services I remember attending.

Dallas was also in the middle of an ice storm, and my best friend was spending the night at my house because he didn’t have any power at his. So we talked late into the night.

He had alluded to his faith a few times before then, but on that night he was straightforward about it. “Jesus is coming back and I want you to be ready for it.” That kind of thing. He spoke of the book of Revelation.

I remember vividly that the room began to spin. It was almost like I was on a roller coaster. (And no, there was no marijuana or beer involved.) But I knew in the middle of those out-of-body sensations, “this is not by accident. SomeOne is trying to confirm in my mind what I’m hearing with my ears.”

So the next morning — and I still remember this so clearly — I went to our little study downstairs, put the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks, 1964-1971 on the record player, and read through the book of Revelation in The Way Living Bible translation that my brother had given me some years before (see picture under Books I Like). Think about the irony of that: listening to Sympathy For The Devil while reading about the mark of the beast.

And then I sat on my bed, folded my hands together and prayed. And that was it. I didn’t have an understanding of prevenient grace or substitutionary atonement or my sinfulness before a holy God. I just knew that I wanted to line up with who Jesus was and what he was about.

Oh yeah . . . and to be ready for his return.

Over the next several weeks, I had a continual feeling of elation; an assurance that I was now part of something much bigger than myself. I still love seeing that in people today who come to the same kind of decisive moment in faith.

I also knew that this decision meant: a) that I would not have sex until I got married –not that opportunities were knocking at my door anyway, b) that I wouldn’t get drunk — not that my limited experience had been much fun anyway, and c) that I would read my bible and pray every day — which I did.

So January 7th is always special for me. The intervening 31 years haven’t been perfect — there have been plenty of dark nights of the soul and even some wondering “why did I ever commit to this?” — and there are plenty of places today where I have more questions than answers.

But I can’t get away from the earthy truthfulness of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

And I can’t forget that spinning room and those impassioned words from a friend.