I was ten years old. My mother and I had been talking about what I would be when I grew up. Looking back, how serious do you take a ten year old? But she engaged me like I was an older person I guess. She did not make fun or push me aside with “you’re too young” or “we will talk about it later.” I was serious. I had been wondering about eternity and time and how long was eternity and what would we do forever? My head was swirling with thoughts and the abyss of thoughts that could not be answered pushed rationality to its limits. Fear would play with my mind because it was too incomprehensible to think of a forever in torment and punishment. I knew I needed to do something. Eternity was calling.
In Sunday School I had learned the many Bible stories from capable teachers who invested their time in kids. I liked the miracle worker and he touched so many desperate lives. However the part that gripped my heart and caused pain was the death of Jesus. It was an unfair execution of the innocent. It was a kangaroo court of hateful men exploiting the emotions of a mob to kill the Son of God. The injustice of all of it caused me anger and frustration.
The worst part to think about was the crucifixion itself. Imagining the agony and the humiliation of being stripped, beaten, and then nailed through the metacarpals and metatarsals caused a shudder in my body. What pain did he endure? What humiliation did he tolerate? When I went to see the “Passion of the Christ,” those particular scenes of the beatings and the crucifixion pushed me to the limits of my ability to sit and watch. I cried through the whole series of scenes depicting the moments that seemed like hours. I will probably never watch that movie again. Once was all I could take.
At ten, these eternal issues weighed heavy on my heart. God was calling. How could one man endure so much for me? For the world? For the haters and mockers at the foot of his cross? How? I knew I had to take care of my eternal destination. I did not want to be lost, forsaken, cast into outer darkness, sentenced to the Lake of Fire. I still don’t! What must I do to be saved from this eternal punishment? What must I do to enter the gates of Heaven? How do I find the narrow gate that leads to eternal life? For a ten year old these were important quests.
The preacher gave an invitation at church each Sunday. In our church, at that time, it was an invitation to accept Jesus. There was never any talk of being “born again,” just accept Christ. Our church did not really talk about getting “saved,” just accept Christ. We can use different terminology but the Holy Spirit knows how to get the job done. It was Good Friday Service and we were there. I knew when the invitation came, I was going up there.
In asking my mother what to do and how it was going to happen, I got the answer that we all do not want to hear. “ You just ask and you will know.” As always, we want a “how to” list. We want to know the procedure. Where do I sign? What are the prerequisites? But as is true with God and His important moments, it is not a list, but an encounter. It is learning to have spiritual experiences without the checklist. Too often we want to reduce the walk with God to formulae that can easily be used by all. It is not that way.
So, that Good Friday, with determination aforehand, I waited through the sermon. The sermon did not convince me, I was waiting for it to be over so I could get to my encounter. Finally he finished. I have no idea what he preached. He extended the invitation and I was out of my seat heading for the front. I knew this much, I needed to confess before men my decision to come to Christ. The preacher led me in a prayer of confession and acceptance. I then went to be baptized. I came out of the water clean in soul and spirit. There was a lightness and cleanliness indescribable for it was on the inside, not the outside.
Following that day, there was no more fear of damnation. But to this day, there is the wonder of the unknown. I still have the question, “What are we going to do for eternity?” Oh, I know a lot of what the word says we will do, but where do I fit in? Eternity is still a concept I cannot wrap my rationality around. I know it is there and I know I will be a part of it, but it still holds a lot of mystery for me.
But this I do know. One man, Jesus, paid a huge price and suffered beyond my imagination to bring us to himself and give us life eternal. The stakes must be huge to have God have His Son suffer like that to rescue us. The loss that people will suffer by not knowing Christ will be for them incalculable. What is the consequence of being wrong forever?
I am eternally grateful!!