50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part Four

20 Years Old

I am celebrating a Golden Anniversary!  50 years ago this July I started following Jesus. Here’s how it began in May of 1970…

My memories of that summer in Denver fifty years ago have nothing to do with my two classes. I’m sure there were textbooks, assignments, papers, etc but I don’t remember them. I enjoyed the time with Hazel and Marilyn but don’t recall any specific times at the apartment. I also had a job on campus in a psychology lab which was a crazy fit for me as science is not my thing even though Psych was my major. Clearly, it didn’t make much of an impression as I have about two memories from the lab.

What I can recall vividly were the Thursday night book discussions at the church on the Schaeffer book (The God Who Is There) which usually were a bit over my head but I didn’t care, the Sunday services at the church, and the impromptu gatherings over meals with these new friends. I couldn’t get enough of these life-giving encounters.

Jesus was the topic of conversational most of the time. I was comfortable with that now, but not doing much of the talking. My new friends spoke of Jesus like a personal friend, a fun one who showed up often with surprises, the one who always stayed when everyone walked out. I knew I wasn’t where they were in my faith but felt no pressure.

Following Jesus was becoming more attractive to me but I decided it wasn’t going to be a summer romance. If I made the decision to entrust my life to him it would be for the rest of my life.

The team that came to my campus that week to introduce students to Jesus was still going out to parks and public places to do the same. It was how the word got spread before the internet!  I got invited to come along. No one asked me to do the talking. Soon that was another regular thing on my schedule for Wednesday nights. It was fun to see who would respond.

I didn’t realize it would be me.

On a particular Wednesday in mid-July, we were hanging out in a park and chit-chatting with the other park attendees. It was getting dark. Only one person seemed interested in engaging in spiritual conversation and he was somewhat stoned. My group was kind of stymied about how to respond to him as he was drifting around in his responses. I decided to take a turn. I could relate to being stoned although had left that behind when I came to Denver.

I sat down on the bench and soon we were talking about the difference between getting stoned and feeling groovy (a common word in that era!) for few hours and being filled with Jesus and never losing that joy. I found myself explaining how God didn’t want a distant, formal relationship with us but wanted to relate to us like friends or beloved sons and daughters. That he chose to leave heaven and become one of us so we could know him. That we would never be able to “earn” our way to eternal life but Jesus bought it for us by his death and resurrection. Our choice to take the life he offered would change everything forever.

The guy in the park got it right away and I suddenly knew, I did too! I wasn’t just speaking theoretically but out of my real experience. I didn’t just hang out with friends who were following Jesus, I too was now doing the same. I hadn’t seen it until that moment. It astonished me (and them!) and my excitement and joy was spilling out everywhere. If you’ve ever been in the early stages of falling in love, it was just like that!

There is a lot of theology that I didn’t (and still don’t) have figured out but like the man Jesus healed in John 9 reported, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

I count that night as the beginning of my new life in Jesus. In 50 years, I have never looked back or stepped out of faith. My life was forever transformed by encountering God that summer. But some literal bumps in the road were on the way… (To be concluded next week.)

PS It was JUST this week, fifty years later that I realized I never saw the original guy who talked to me outside of the chapel again. I spent this summer as well as the following summer with this same group of people and he never showed up in the group or at church. As you might recall, I didn’t get his name. It was with a huge sense of wonder and chills that I realized he might have been sent just to talk to me and perhaps that was the first time I encountered an angel. The second time was the following summer. Another story!

 

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