MichaelI was brought up Christian, for the most part. My grandmother started taking me to church in rural Arkansas when I was about six. But after a while, in my 6-year old mind, I had this thought. I was singing these songs about Oh, how I love Jesus! and At Calvary, but I didn't really understand it all. So it occurred to me that I was LYING! I didn't believe all those things that I said I did, so for a while, I stopped singing. It made my grandmother very confused, because I love to sing to this day.
She took me to one of those old sawdust trail revival meetings. The evangelist (who just happened to be the pastor of the Church, Brother Palmer) gave a very stirring sermon on the passage (in Luke?) where there were three parables with the same message: 1) the lady who had lost a coin from her headdress, 2) the man who lost a sheep, and 3) the prodigal son. (I think those are the stories. If anyone can correct me, feel free).
Well, it hit me like a ton of bricks. That's why I didn't believe all those things! "I" was that little lost sheep. I was the prodigal son. So I walked the aisle, and gave my heart to Jesus. Mind you, I didn't have a clue about what all that meant, and it would be several years before Jesus came to collect what was His.
I went to High School, and left for college, and even though I had lived a semi-good life, I was not basing my life on my relationship with Jesus, just my instincts and my intellect. In college, I met a girl, fell in love, got kicked out of college, joined the military, and started a family all in the space of about a year. Spent three years overseas, then came back to a stateside assignment. After getting back to the states, my wife and I started having problems. It seemed in the time that she and I were overseas, we grew apart. I had to grow up fast in my first few years in the military, and she was interested in a career of her own. I won't go into finger printing or unnecessary details, but after about 5 years we were divorced. She got custody of the kids.
I then realized that I had my turn to sew my "wild oats". I started living my life the way 'I' wanted to. I dated around, and lived a fast life. At one point I was "dating" three girls at one time. More unnecessary details, but the end result was that I had to dump two, and wound up marrying one. She was a dream girl, and I couldn't risk losing her.
Have you ever had a dream come true? Every guy has a mental image of what his dream girl would be. A perfect 10. One day, I met her. Only she was more like a 12 or 13. She could cook, she was a drop dead gorgeous redhead, a model (not just that she LOOKED like a model, she WAS a model....) A published writer, an accomplished musician. You get the picture. She was everything I wanted in my life. So, needless to say, I had a hard time deciding that I wanted to get married again, because I had already been burned once. This to her, I'm certain, appeared like a lack of confidence in her. After a steamy romance, we were married, and took a beautiful honeymoon in the Keys. We came back to the states, and settled down for the perfect life: Two-bedroom condo, plenty of money, wife of my dreams.
Then one day, my world collapsed. She wanted a divorce. It seemed that I was not quite the man that she had signed up for, and as a result, wanted a separation. Six-months into the marriage. I was devastated. More than devastated, I was crushed. I tried to commit suicide. I wound up spending a one-week paid vacation in the base mental hospital.
So there I was. Alone. In the mental institution. Estranged from everyone I cared about. I had a lot of time to think. I thought I had lived an OK life. I tried not to hurt anyone; I made mistakes like everyone else. But I tried, and failed. Badly.
Lying there in the hospital bed, I had one of those "God" moments. I was lying there thinking, "God, what did I do wrong?" I heard him say to me, "Well, you have tried your way. Now try Mine."
OK. You win. I don't have any other choices. There is nowhere to go but up.
During the past few months, there was a guy at work who kept asking me to come to church with him. I had refused on the grounds that I was already active in the base chapel. He really pestered me about it. But the next time he asked, I accepted. The church he went to was one of those "fundamental" types. But as you can see, it was exactly what I needed. More than that, I needed Jesus again (still). They spoon-fed me on the Word, and more than that, they showed me by example what it meant to believe in Jesus, and how important it was to have a life grounded in His teachings, not my own ideas and ambitions.
One final word of analysis, and I will be done. Thank you for sticking with me this far.
While I was in the military, I worked on planes (A-10's). Let's take a typical airplane instrument like an altimeter. An altimeter is there to tell you how high up the plane is, above ground. When the plane is, say, 100 feet above sea level, then the altimeter is supposed to say 100 feet. (I know, this is an oversimplification, but work with me here.) But due to impedance changes and temperature changes, and such things, the instruments in the airplane "drift". An altimeter might say 90 feet, when the plane is actually at 100 feet. This you can see is a problem. It won't be long until you fly into a mountain at that rate. So what is supposed to happen is this: every 90 or 180 days, the mechanic removes the altimeter, and puts it on a work bench, and tweaks the resistors so that when the altimeter says 100 feet, it is literally at 100 feet, no more, no less.
That is what Scripture (God's Word, the Bible) does for us. True, we have a conscience, and most of the time that is a pretty good judge of right and wrong. But unless you "take it out of the machine", i.e. apply your conscience to the unerring, never-changing standards of God's Word, then your conscience will start to "drift". In short, your conscience is not a reliable judge of right and wrong, unless you also are grounded, morally, in the Word of God.
That was my major malfunction in my life. God gave me a second chance. Now I have a beautiful wife, loving children, and everything I wanted previously in life He has given to me. My prayer is that someone will read this, and it will motivate them to not trust their conscience, so much as trusting in what God has revealed for us, what He has in store for us through His Word.
If there are any questions, feel free to email me.