04 Sep The Night My Life Changed Forever
You should have seen me as a youth: angry, sad, and on my way to addiction.
My grandpa and uncles? Drunks.
My older cousins and brother? Addicts.
My extended family’s calling card? Profane arguments and occasional fisticuffs.
Despite Mom dragging me to church most Sundays, my kinfolk’s generational sin was quickly becoming my own.
I duked it out on the playground of my elementary school. I went to class drunk on the last day of 8th grade. By high school I fully worshipped at the idols of popularity, sports and girls. And I felt sad…and empty…and alone.
But then, just before the summer of my sophomore year, Dan Alley stepped in: the quietest boy in my entire grade—my childhood best friend.
“Uh, Jon?,” he mumbled, “Wanna go to my church’s waterski week with me? I heard it’s really cool.”
And so I found myself at a summer camp put on by Renton’s “Highland’s Community Church.”
Each day we did watersports, rode go-carts, and swam. Every evening the speaker taught us more about Jesus.
I can still recall sitting on a hardwood bench, in a covered picnic area, listening to Tom Eggum. The guy was a crack-up! After his goofy stories broke down my defenses, his words turned earnest, and powerful.
He offered, “I used to be so angry. I struggled with substances, didn’t listen to my parents, and I was incredibly arrogant. But deep inside I had a gnawing feeling of emptiness that never went away.” His story got me thinking:
*Sounds like me. But he’s obviously a happy guy now. What changed him?*
“Then I found out that God loved me (John 3:16). He really, deeply cares for all of us. As I learned more, I admitted that I had some things in my life that the Bible calls ‘sin,’ so there was a barrier between the Lord and me (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
*Oh man, I’ve been doing a ton of the same things Tom did.*
He went on, “Jesus died on the cross to spiritually wipe away all the bad things I’d ever done, said, or thought (Eph. 2:8,9). In doing so, He bridged the gap between my soul and Heaven. In time He took away my rage, and healed things with my family. But the changes didn’t start ‘til I took one last step.”
*Ug, C’mon man! I want to be a better person. I want to go to Heaven. Just say it!*
After a long pause, Tom’s now-hushed voice finished the message:
“I had to realize that Jesus was the only way to Heaven (John 14:6), and I needed to receive Him into my heart, just as I might receive a guest into my home (John 1:12). That night I prayed and asked Jesus to be my best friend (Rev 3:20).”
*Uh oh, I’ve never heard that. And I was baptized as a baby, so I always hoped that I’d go to Heaven. But a “personal relationship with God?” That’s different. I want Jesus as core part of my life too—not just when I warm the pews on Sundays.*
Eggum kept preachin’, “If you died tonight, are you 100% sure that you’d go to Heaven?”
“Well, you can be sure… right now. If any of you would like to ask Jesus into your heart, you can follow along as I say this simple prayer…”
As he prayed aloud, I echoed his words in my mind—coming to God for the very first time.
*Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me. I know that I make mistakes, and I need your help. Please come into my heart, and be my Lord and Savior. I want you to take over my life, and make me more like you…. In Jesus’ name, Amen.*
Tom concluded, “Now, with every head bowed and every eye closed, if you prayed that prayer, would you please raise your hand?”
I slowly lifted my paw, clueless as to the vast change my life was about to undergo…
[Stay tuned for more of my testimony, as well as those of other staff members, in coming posts]