Life sure hasn’t gone the way I had ever dreamed it would. Matter of fact, most of my youthful dreams were just that — dreams. As a kid, when I’d picture myself as an adult, I’d see myself driving in a red convertible, carefree with the wind in my hair, sunglasses on my face, looking sophisticated while blowing long, graceful lines of smoke from a cigarette as I toured through city streets shadowed by towering sky scrapers. I imagined myself enjoying a lucrative career, looking like a hot shot. But the reality of all of that never transpired. Instead, I took a turn down a narrow road that lead me to places that I didn’t even know existed.
One thing I wasn’t sure existed was God. I was open to spirituality, but I didn’t believe in a personal God, let alone the Christian one. Even though I considered Jesus a good moral teacher, you couldn’t convince me that Christ was the Son of God. No way. That was just a made-up fairy tale… or at least I thought so.
In college, I began the search for the meaning of life. I had tried all the things that my Southern California lifestyle told me was “the thing” to bring happiness…. sex, drugs, and yeah, you get the idea. Not only did that stuff not fulfill those promises, it left me broken. My heart yearned, ached even, for a deeper purpose of existence. I couldn’t reconcile that human beings were just an accidental results of unguided processes. In my deepest gut, I just knew that could not be true.
While I was getting my hair done near my college campus one day, the stylist asked what book I was reading. Dancing with the Light by Shirley Maclaine, I replied. Gently, and with a tone of kindness and not judgment, she said, “Oh, honey. Don’t read that. Go to the Vineyard instead.”
The Vineyard? What… some place that served wine? Apparently not. This was the name of a church she recommended.
Okay. She seemed sincere enough. But church? Nah. I didn’t need that. Yet a few weeks later, on Easter to be exact, I found myself alone, with no family or friends around, and my heart hurt for something I didn’t even know I needed. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, my brother lived across the country, my extended family was disconnected, and the friends I had then were not close ones. I longed for some sense of it all. I began to think about going to that Vineyard church. But there was no one to go with that Easter Sunday. Should I go alone?
As a child growing up, typically, there were only two days a year that my family attended church services: Christmas and Easter. So, I guess you could call us “Chreasters.” Since my stylist suggested I go to this “really cool church with awesome music,” I began thinking why not? After all, it was a nice tradition growing up. In that moment, I put my ‘big-girl panties on’ and headed to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship all by myself. And that was the day my life changed forever.
When I walked through the doors of a school auditorium (Vineyard churches usually meet in a-typical places), I heard music like modern pop songs. That was different! The only music I’d ever heard in churches were hymns. How unique… people sang passionately, like a love song to God. I was deeply moved and my heart strangely warmed. I sat down among people I’d never met and listened. As the service ended, during more beautiful love songs, I began to weep. The tears quietly slipped down my cheeks, wetting my lashes, messing up my mascara. I didn’t care.
A lady sitting next to me asked me if she could “minister to me.” What? I thought a ‘minister’ was the man up at the pulpit, preaching. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but like a trusting child, I said, “Okay.” She laid one hand on my knee and began to pray. Tears kept flowing, and I sensed warmth all over my body. My eyes were closed, but I ‘saw’ light envelope me. It was like an aura of golden light surrounding me. She asked what was going on, and before I could second-guess myself, these words tumbled out of my mouth: “I just want Jesus.”
That was on Easter Sunday in 1988. I asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior, and my life has been transformed. It’s been over 30 years now, and I could never have imagined that I’d be sitting here today, writing this to you. Yeah… didn’t see that coming.
Today, I no longer attend the Vineyard, but am thankful for that season of my life. Those who attended the Vineyard (one that used to meet in Santa Barbara) taught me how to fall in love with Jesus, and I am grateful for that foundational aspect of my faith. That must be first in a Christian’s life—to love God.
Now, I am a Christian Apologist. I blog, speak and teach on the subject (the evidences and reasonableness of the Christian faith). But I sure feel awkward when people ask what I do. There is that inevitable joke about ‘being sorry’ that is sure to be said. (Oh, ha ha ha. Funny. Did you think that up yourself?) I’ve been advised to tell people I make a “case for Christ,” the term author, Lee Strobel, has coined. But no matter what, making a case or simply defining what it means, the discipline of learning apologetics is a fascinating endeavor into the life of the mind and the riches of Christian truth.
It’s good to know that my faith is not based solely on my subjective, personal experiences with God (although I love those moments, to be sure!). Instead, the Christian faith is one that has verifiable claims to it. We can investigate the historical records of what happened that Easter Sunday over two millennia ago, to see if these claims are reasonable. We then make inferences to the truth based on the information left behind for us in the eye-witness testimonies collected in the New Testament and in other historical documents recorded by non-believing historians.
I love what I do today, and I can only thank God for it. He is the one who has led me here, to this place, to these words I share with you in this moment.
During this Easter season, let the truth of the Resurrection give you hope. Yes, life this side of heaven can be hard…
“…But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Christ has risen – Hallelujiah!