At some point during the January of 2005, my life completely changed.
This January of 2015, I have been a Christian for 10 years. The milestone has brought me to reflect upon my life, where I was, where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, where I’ve changed, and things like this. Some of that reflection is what this post is, and what you could call my testimony.
My becoming a Christian did not occur when someone handed me a tract or hassled me about coming to church. Rather than being someone who responded to an altar call, I was much more like Jean Valjean in Les Miserables after the bishop scolded him for forgetting the candlesticks as well.
“What just happened to me?”
Hold on for some back story. I grew up in a Christian home, had Christian parents, and went to church. When I was 14, I got baptized because I had never been. When I was 18, I went on a youth retreat to Colorado and didn’t really care about the mountains, if you can imagine that. (We even went to Rocky Mountain National Park.) I went down the aisle and said a prayer, and got baptized again, thinking that was the key to heaven. At best, I was a deist. I believed that God existed, but I knew very little of things that were true of God. Let’s stop and talk about that for a second. I believed a Christian was someone who said a prayer that was equivalent to magically saying “abracadabra,” someone who was a good person most of the time and said “Forgive me, I repent” when they were a bad person, went to church, got baptized, voted Republican, only listened to “Christian” music, avoided movies that were rated R, and was what we called in the late 90’s “straight edge” (didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs).
I was still living the same way I always had, seeing myself as the anvil to which the world around me must be hammered out and formed against. There was only bad fruit from a bad tree, to use some language from the Bible. My roots were still dead, so all of my actions grew out of that, twisted and gnarled. Did I ever do anything “good”? Maybe, but the motive behind any of that was surely how it would benefit me. Not so good, really. I knew the lingo and could say a lot of religious stuff. I even recorded my own album at the time, and it was very religious sounding. I was only building an empire of dirt that would crumble. I went to church, but had no idea what the preacher was saying. I counseled with the youth pastor, but all that really was about was changing my behavior. My days consisted of the self-righteous pursuit of whatever pleased me, whether that be lazy indulgence, berating people for my own amusement, or fueling my deeply rooted misanthropy. I had tried to “be a good person” and learned soon enough that wasn’t working out for me. I had heard that you find God at the end of your rope, so at some level I suppose I set out to find it, even though I dismissed God in the process. The details of that descent aren’t that important so I will spare those gory details of what I was involved with, but perhaps if we are ever sitting around a campfire together and the opportunity comes up, it would be a story to be told. That being said, I don’t particularly like remembering who I was at that point in my history.
It was during this time that I met Jenny. She truly is an instrument of God’s grace in my life. I met her in March of 2001, and we got married on March 20th, 2004. Jenny was indeed a Christian, loving the Lord and walking with Him. She was (and still is) a woman full of grace. We were both under the impression that I was a Christian after that walk down to the front of an auditorium in Colorado, and though a lot of my behavior had changed, my heart had not. I was more engaged in covering up who I had been.
My job at the time had me working in near isolation. Out of an 8 hour day, I was alone for at least 6-7 of those hours while my engineer supervisors were busy figuring out new methods and materials for research and development. Sometimes I’d be building jigs, painting booths, running wire, or wet sanding aluminum molds for hours on end. When I wasn’t doing that, I’d busy myself with small tests, other small projects, or riding the fork lifts around the warehouse. That much time spent alone makes for opportune times to hear from God. Make no mistake, though, I wasn’t wanting to hear from God. I wasn’t seeking Him, and I wasn’t praying to Him. If anything, I was giving Him the finger. In that quiet and isolation, I had listened to all there was to listen to, read all there was to read, done all there was to do. Just me, alone, with the quiet. Over the months, I came face to face with who I was and who I had been. I don’t know how long it was, but over the course of time, there was what I could call a tenderizing process in me. What was built up was being torn down. What had grown deep was being uprooted. What was established was being crushed. Where I was proud, I was being humbled. While I was not pursuing God, I encountered Him, and I was undone.
Very clearly, as clear as I can remember hearing from God, in a way that was not audible and I have no words to explain further, I was stopped in my steps and presented with, “Josh, you have two choices for your life. You can trust me, or you can not.“
To which I could freely but only respond with, “God, I don’t really even know what this means, but I trust you.”
And I didn’t really know what that meant beyond a surrender. I don’t know if I could articulate what the Gospel was at that point. I only knew something had happened to me, and I was not the same anymore. Looking back, I guess you could say that it was my first step on the long road to Zion. It would be over the next 10 years that I would discover more of what all that would look like, but that is another blog post.