Sunday, March 05, 2006

Time Machine Memory Tour-H.S. Sophomore 2nd. Half

(continuation of post regarding my sophomore year in high school)

By the time we returned to school for the second semester after our winter break, I had decided to date Rusty exclusively. He had not ASKED me to "go with him" but I just knew he was the one, or at least wanted to give it a good try to make for sure.

He asked me out to his church youth group functions. At the same time, my own Sunday School teacher was teaching doctrine different from the Methodist church doctrine, saying all roads of faith lead to Heaven. He said it was the act of faith that saves a person, not the object of that faith. If you were to just believe in yourself, it would be enough to get you to Heaven. He also owned the tavern in town, and profited from the most heartbreak our town knew-men throwing their paychecks away on strong drink (the town prostitute also frequented his locale). Don't get me wrong, I loved this Methodist youth worker, I just didn't agree with him. He was a confused man, who obviously loved youth, but was giving mixed signals to the very ones he wanted to mentor. His day job was as a teacher/coach for our school system, but in the evenings he was providing a "stocked refrigerator" to minors.

The good thing about having my own youth director teach confusing doctrine was that it caused me to question everything I believed, and to search scripture to find out the answers. I knew, deep down, that the Bible was the ultimate authority of truth.

One glitch on this road to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ was when Rusty invited me to a Revival meeting at his storefront church when a prison preacher was speaking. This guest preacher was rough as a cob and very confrontational. In your face. Literally. I will never forget those pointy cowboy boots climbing the pew in front of me and his long accusing finger pointing down my equally long nose. (Rusty always sat in front of his parents, near the front of the church on the left side of the building at that point.) This dignified Methodist girl almost peed her pants when that prison preacher hooted and hollered and nearly spat in my face due to proximity. I really thought I would never darken the doors of that church again.

But God had another plan.

I continued to attend the youth group events with Rusty's church, going for the social element rather than the spiritual lessons. Regardless of intent, the message was penetrating my heart, and making sense. Rusty gave me a brochure (he called it a tract) that explained some spiritual truths. At the same time Teri Wilhoit was doing what she called "witnessing" to me. She told me she was concerned for my spiritual wellbeing and wanted me to fill that emptiness in my life with the right thing, with a relationship with Jesus Christ. She showed me why she always had nighttime prayer and a devotional reading, even when I was spending the night. Her life lived out me a real active faith, not just a stuffy Sunday tradition to which I was accustomed.

I saw something genuine and unique in Rusty, and in Teri. I also noticed a spiritual peace and maturity. A sense of purpose. I wanted what they had. I made no big deal about my decision. No walk down the aisle or altar prayer. Alone in my bedroom I made my own altar out of a bed-top bolster. I put it on the floor by my bed and did what the tract explained. I prayed to God, telling Him about my emptiness and admitting my sinful nature. I told Him I realized there was no way I could have a relationship with Him, or enter His perfect Heaven, without a perfect substitute. I accepted the free gift of salvation paid for by Jesus when died on the cross in my place. It was the most liberating moment of my life. What Teri and Rusty said was true, an inner peace was mine to enjoy.

One of the first big changes in me was that I quit going to dances. I don't think all forms of dance are wrong, but there was a great deal wrong with teen dances. Probably my family thought I was just going through a phase, but it was a real conviction of my heart. Rusty did not tell me, "don't go to dances." He just suggested that I go to a dance, and ask God if He was pleased with what I was doing there, and what was going on around me. The first opportunity to do this was at a dance I attended during a leadership conference. I realized my actions on the dance floor were sensual, and that I was using my body as an instrument to cause the guys to desire the wrong things (lust). The music was not godly music, and the lighting was low, which encouraged all sorts of different sexual activities. The dances were not chaperoned well, with adults either wanting to be cool and accepted by the teens, or off in another section of the building talking with other chaperones about the latest gossip and gripes in their own lives. Drinking and drugs were flowing faster than the punch and cookies. It was as if a light bulb went on and I realized teen dances were all things opposite of purity. For some, to quit dancing would be a minor ordeal. But for me it was a lifestyle change. Before this moment of realization, I was attending dances of some kind on almost a weekly basis, and was one of the unofficial "dance champions" on the dance floor. But this decision felt right. It was a minor sacrifice to learn to DO RIGHT, compared to those who were sacrificing their lives for the gospel. It became no sacrifice at all, because in exchange I was given much more than I ever gave up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


What great truth is revealed in this article. I fully understand about receiving the gift of salvation in your room alone with God. I did the same on 12/28/89 at the age of 26. Ishared the same with a 20 something yesterday at the church.

David R.