My parents had had enough of their 19 year old son drinking his life, talent and education away. My friends were all headed away to University, following their dreams onto bigger and better places, while I set new personal "Budweiser Best" totals. The beer however, was never the problem.
I didn't "Believe" in much. I still don't. Overly positive people , "system" pushers, and Pavlovian drones got my goat. I refused to participate in a system I knew was flawed, propagated by jaded gatekeepers, who saw these flaws but were dependent enough on their weekly paycheck to unquestioningly force-feed tripe down my gullet. I wouldn't have it. I still won't.
I picked at the hypocrisy of man and prodded whoever was within sticking-distance. I saw the ugliness. I hated the mindlessness. I alone could see the answers and errs. It was as plain as the nose on their faces; why couldn't anyone else see it? Christians were the worst because they CLAIMED goodness. They were easy marks and boy did I love putting them in my sights. Fish in a barrel. Made one or two cry on the outside in my time, but on the inside, there were more... because I was good at it. Still am. That toxic mix of arrogance and insecurity was (and is) exhausting and inescapable.
Inexplicably in fall of 1995, in my 6th year of high school, something changed. You know that day that happens every April when you first smell spring in the air? You're walking to your car and... ahhhh... the season blows in. You did nothing to bring it, but all of sudden there it is. That's what sprung up from the ground in the fall of 1995. Salvation.
At the back of my history class after an infuriating, intrusive and undesired trip to the guidance councilor; I found myself unnervingly emotional. I felt like I was drowning right there and then. A short, blonde girl I barely knew with blue sweat pants (who sat right in front of the teacher for what I could only have assumed were brown nosing motivations) looked back and saw me. Puzzling that others didn't as many of my friends were in the same class. She asked me if I wanted to talk. Much to my surprise... I said yes.
We met in a school library cubical after. She quickly became the "illogical" ... "out of nowhere" ... person from a very different social group than me who I could talk to. And she was a Christian. One of "them," yet she let me be angry. You see; she knew of me because she knew how much my actions hurt my brother and Mom. She had heard the prayers of her friends for this angry, sarcastic, disillusioned guy.
We became friends over the next month, much to the chagrin of my friends and to the well-meant nerves of hers that Miss Blue Sweat Pants getting in too deep with someone who might hurt her. As "friends" turned to "like" it became clear that I was at a crossroads. The God and girl... or not. I knew they were a package deal. But you don't blindly accept the validity of a DEITY for a GIRL! It was against everything I believed to be true.
But salvation was springing up from the ground. It's wind kept blowing.
I agreed to chat with an expert because something like this deserves a little rational consideration. Over a Swiss Chalet Festive Special we dialogued about things immortal. Over the Toblerone after, we had a heart to heart about things invisible. I told him that I'd consider what I'd heard and went back to school.
As I opened my locker... salvation sprung up from the ground and rushed over me.
Something not of my doing was happening. Embarrassed at not being in control, I grabbed my stuff and headed home. I speak no exaggeration in saying the sky was bluer than it had ever been that afternoon. The sun was brighter than it had ever seemed. I couldn't understand why the trees looked so BRILLIANT all of a sudden, nor could I explain the tears streaming down my face while the lyrics of Amazing Grace rang through my head. This was highly unusual behavior for Thursday afternoon.
My mother was surprised to see me home at 2 o'clock but was considerably more surprised when I began to apologize for how I'd treated her over the last couple of years. This was the same son that had mockingly (but viciously) screamed, "Onward Christian soldiers... right Mom?" in her direction a mere couple of weeks earlier.
It felt like I was being broken and fixed at the same time... because that's exactly what WAS happening.
I slept on it, because I knew the narrow road that Christianity taught. I knew that I was an adult and it was time to make adult choices. If I woke up with this same freedom... I was in. If not, I'd tuck my emotional outbreak away down deep and move on. But there were no more decisions necessary. When someone is saved from peril, they know it. I KNEW that this God who identified himself with Jewish Patriarchs, Radical Royalty, Paupers and Jesus Christ a crucified Carpenter King... had SAVED me and set me free. I could breathe again.
The one who created the heavens and the earth had searched me out, not only to pull me OUT of my muck... but to pull me UP so I could see the beautiful picture he was painting out of humanity that I couldn't see because that darn veil kept getting in my way.
The beauty of that picture is was makes me move even today. I need the gift of salvation to pull me out from under myself every day. And to make it even better... I married that cute girl in the blue sweat pants.
"Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them.