There are certain moments in life I am convinced you never forget.
The first time you come in first. The first time you truly hear the words "I love you." The first time you see your newborn child.
For me, one of those days is the first day I ever heard the Holy Spirit calling me to serve God.
I still remember the feeling as if it were yesterday. The scene was the Copley United Methodist Church in Copley, OH. The event was the funeral of my wife's grandfather, Richard Martin. It was the week after Thanksgiving, 1999. We had shared lunch with Dick and his wife and other family members that Thanksgiving Thursday. So when the call came Sunday evening telling us the news, we were in shock.
Maggie's sisters and their respective partners were staying with us at our home in nearby Kent while Maggie's parents kept an eye on her Grandmother. I was unemployed, money was tight. To top it all off, I had never shared a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I had been raised Roman Catholic and the God I knew was a God that inspired loyalty through fear in His power. That God stopped being part of my life the year my Dad's parents died. That was eight years before Dick's passing.
I had felt God's hand in my life the day I got married, of course. But acknowledging God and accepting Him are two different things. Maggie and I had tried our fair share of churches in four years of marriage. Some small, some big, some contemporary, some traditional, but none of them was for us. Maggie's grandmother, Dick's wife, had been politely urging and praying for us to find a church home for about a year.
Now Maggie is the oldest of three sisters and as I sat there in the church, listening to Dick's eulogy, I had one arm around my wife and the other around her youngest sister as both of them broke into tears. I myself was reliving my memories of the times I had spent with Dick, from the days I was courting his granddaughter to our numerous visits to his home as man and wife. There were a few tears on my own part I must admit. I would miss him.
Yet, in the midst of all this sorrow, I "felt" a voice calling out to me. It's hard to explain how one "feels" a voice but that is the only way to describe it, for the voice was calling from somewhere deep inside of me. I am not prone to "hearing voices" that other people don't hear so I expect I should have been disturbed by this phenomenon but there was something familiar about this voice, something soothing that inspired strength and trust in me.
It would be days later that I interpreted what the voice was saying. It would be weeks before I found the courage to follow my heart and ask my wife if we could go back to the church where the funeral had been held. I expected reservation or hesitancy but there was none.
What the voice had said, in the simplest terms, was this:
"You know who I am for I was with you from the beginning of your life. You have seen me from time to time though you may not have known me. You have felt my touch, gentle when you were in need of comfort, strong when you were in need of strength. Yet you have chosen to walk alone and have forgotten the lessons of your youth. Look at where you are in life and tell me you are satisfied. Look at who you have become and tell me you are proud of the man you see. I do not say these things out of guilt or arrogance but out of love for you and for those around you.
Because I love you this much I have come to ask you to return to me. Let this house of worship be not just my house but your house as well. Let not just these people be your family, but become part of my family. For I am your Father that created you. Put your trust in me and see how the weight you carry shall seem as if a grain of sand. Serve me and see how you shall not worry for want of things you once thought you could not live without. For through me is the Kingdom of peace and happiness."
All of that may seem long-winded to someone just beginning to look for Christ but imagine for yourself what it would feel like to have someone speak those words to you and to know in your heart of hearts that God was speaking to you through His own Holy Spirit. To realize that there is a piece of Himself that He has left in you, that you belong to something greater than yourself. Believe me, if you struggle with that concept you are not alone, so did I.
However, in the last two years I have seen His hand at work in my life. Where once bills went unpaid or past due, now there is money where there was none before. When I was once unemployed, now I have steady work. Once I was selfish and short of temper, now I am learning to think of others first and to behave with a kindness and gentleness born of Christ. I have seen marriages on the brink of ruin return to the love that first united them and seen illness that even doctors thought uncurable healed through the power of faith and prayer.
Shortly after I began attending the church I started receiving flack from my family that I should consider joining the church choir. I had sung in high school but that was twelve years earlier. Besides I was new to this environment, to these people and this type of music. "If God wants me to sing, he'll let me know." I finally told them. One day later, He sent a choir member to speak to me, to tell me that they had noticed me and would I be willing to give them a chance. What would you say?
In the years since I've accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior I have had occasion to think back on that day. What a good and decent servant Dick must have been that God chose to use him for this purpose. Through that funeral service both myself and Maggie, as well as one of Maggie's aunts, have become members of that church. Where once two members of Dick's family served Christ at CUMC there are now four. Out of unlikely sadness and loss, God is glorified here on Earth. Take it from me, it doesn't matter what your past circumstances are or how low you think you may have fallen or become, there are none so low that the Lord cannot lift them up or use them for His purpose. For the Lord cares more for the one lost sheep than for a whole generation of the righteous. All you have to do is accept His sacrifice as a gift to you and dedicate yourself to sharing the good news that He has risen. He has risen indeed, for all mankind.
If there's one thing I can say I've learned in the last two years, it is this:
In thanks to those who made this site possible: