Jonah cried out, “When my life was slipping way, I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your holy temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love” (Jonah 2:7-8 MSG). Jonah could not know it, but when he humbled himself, God initiated his comeback. When we humble ourselves and turn back, God initiates our comeback.
For the first 10 years after my born-again experience, when I would talk with people, they would alway ask me “how I’m doing”, “when did I come to the Lord” and “what was that experience like”. But, in January 2018, I was having lunch with one of our Church Elders and he asked me a question that I had never been asked before “Why did it take me 40 years to come to Christ?”. What an excellent question.
A few weeks later, I shared a resolution, in a very public and transparent way, declaring my identity in Christ and our household decision to serve the Lord. It is critical to both my personal and professional calling and one that I am very excited about (I actually worked for a Ministry at that time). Why would I do that? Some might consider it embarrassing (perhaps too personal). I did it because before I could move forward in my life with Christ, it was a necessary step forward for me “spiritually” and I had been concerned about how my faith would be received by those that believe me to be something else; not because of how I “walk” but because of how I had “walked”.
At that time, I had never really shared the joy and love of Jesus with many and this was stifling me in my relationship with God. It was not right that I was holding back in sharing Him with others, I was living in sin by allowing my fear to have a stronger hold on me than our Father. The Lord had been preparing me for over a year (throughout 2017) to share my faith openly and publicly, recent events had made it absolute – the time was now. What I was struggling with were the right words. My fear of doing such a public thing were blinding me to what the Holy Spirit was guiding me to. So what did He do? He humbled me and influenced me in very indirect ways. A movie, devotionals, books, some course work, and a few conversations with some great men [of God]. The bottom line is the time was right to do so, doing so was in obedience, and He graciously provided me with the resources necessary to find the right words.
But, why share at all? What specifically was I afraid of? Some may advise that this is personal and some may argue not the business of others. My personality runs smack down the middle of Introvert and Extrovert, my introversion side wanted to dominate my extroverted side. Some of you are strangers, we only exist as social media connections, podcast listeners, or we have, or had, a business relationship. Some people I had not communicated with in over a decade (some three decades) and therefore only know me “before Christ”, they did not know me any other way. There were others that knew me “after Christ” and were focused more on my transitioning from 40 years without Christ to my new life with Christ – they recognized me more based on my challenges and stumbles than on who I truly was in Him. I don’t blame anyone, we are naturally human after all and I did stumble a few times, sometimes in glorious and dramatic fashion.
I am also very bad about maintaining long term relationships (some of you know what I mean, I have been bad at it) and because I did not maintain them, they had no idea what I was going through or what I was experiencing. We’ve all read books and other literature about how failure makes us stronger – when we stumble with the Lord or go through trials, it is a true statement that we can come out stronger on the other end. I shared that public resolution to show that with God as our strength, we can overcome anything – even something like my past and my stumbles in my Christian walk. I shared to show that the Lord loves us, no matter our circumstances, no matter our past, no matter our character. I have been wondering recently how many others are holding back from being honest with themselves and are confident enough, and courageous enough, to declare their relationship with the Father, or, do they feel safer being what worldly social and cultural norms prefer them to be. This is where courage comes into place.
During my transition to building a relationship with Him, I was trying to live two worlds at the same time, I wanted to live a life with Christ but I also wanted to keep what I had and the momentum I was on, I did not let it all go and allow Him to fully operate in my life. I was a moralist trying to be a Christian and a materialist. These worlds are completely at odds with each other and I fell into a warfare, a series of ups and downs. And then, the big one hit, our son Christoffer died while serving in the Middle East – man, this was a tumble. I stopped going to church for three years and pretty much cut off all contact with my church relationships of the time. I still recognized God but I fell into a blame condition, blaming myself, but more dangerously, holding Him accountable for our loss. This affected me personally and professionally.
I fell back to my old self and was once again focused on me (me, me, me). I was wrong and was failing Him, I had removed “me” from His grace and righteousness. I did eventually get over myself when I realized that I was happier when I actively had God in my life; after three years away, I started the process of reconditioning myself back to the Lord – I was making a comeback. I repented, sought His forgiveness, and recognized that my way ahead would be via His grace and glory. This reconditioning started slow but exponentially increased. I observed and I listened. Finally, after a few setbacks in my walk with Him, I gave it ALL to Him. I surrendered. Took myself completely out of the equation and turned it all over to Him and His will for the life of my family and I. BAM!!! What an awesome experience, instantaneous freedom. This is where He wanted me to be. The more I focused on Him, the more He revealed to me. I had not experienced such peace in a very long time. My heart was lifted and most of the worries and concerns I had at the time, were erased away (the New Testament discusses this intimately). The desire to speak and the desire to share was very difficult to hold back, but I held my seat. And then, the fear to share (even in writing) starting to sneak its way in and I started to panic about what I was being guided to do. I would go through short spurts of speaking and sharing in corporate settings and church environments and then feel convicted about sharing (the time was not yet right).
I needed more revelation and I needed to be consistent. I also needed to be in unity with my wife, she needed to be on the same page and in total agreement. This condition climaxed in a series of events throughout 2017; it was obvious that every decision we had made and every step we had taken, with His guidance and His input, had led us to that moment, right then. We had new instructions, it was time to follow a new path that He had wanted us to follow. We know that with Him leading and prodding us, every step we take and every decision we make will take us to where He wants us to be. The Lord told my wife and I that it was time to walk out in total faith. With the Lord as our guide, He has truly lit our path and is continuing to lead my wife and I. For He is with us and we have placed all faith in Him; And He has delivered. Here’s the deal, it is one thing to write words, it is another thing to walk it out in a way that matches what you read. Is my walk consistent with what I am writing? This is all part of my identity resolution. I now have all of you to help hold me accountable.
Back to the question I was asked. Why did I block the Lord from my life for so long? This was something that I had thought about in retrospect but I had not pondered or meditated on too deeply. Not even Pastors that I had shared intimate conversations with or otherwise spoke with had asked me this; they were more interested in who I was today than who I was yesterday, looking forward and not looking in the rear view mirror. Nonetheless, it was very soon after this discussion that the Lord started to reveal to me the answer, what a wonderful Father.
Meditating on this question and what the Lord would reveal to me is important because it is part of who I am today and how I got here (spiritually). That simple question in 2018 was the final push I needed to finish writing and sharing my “identity resolution”. With the permission and support of my wife, clarity from spiritual accountability partners, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I began a journey to share this story, and multiple other stories, as He guides me and brings definition to things. My journey has been shared in two book so far (one an Award Winner) and other stories.
Along a three part blog series, with this one being the first one, I will share why it took me 40 years to come to Christ. This blog is an Epilogue, meaning it is something that discusses what happens at the end of a story. How did I get here? You will see that over the next two blog posts. I pray that my telling of this rather honest and very transparent story bless you and encourage you to reflect, ponder, and write your own story as our Father guides your path