And they overcame him
because of the blood of the Lamb
and because of the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
How I Became a Christian
I sinned. This didn’t make me a Christian, of course. Everybody screws up, and and they don’t all become Christians. On the flip side, no one becomes a Christian unless they know in their heart that they have sinned, so that’s where my story starts. I sinned and I knew it.
I violated my own set of standards when I was 33 years old, and I couldn’t get away from it. None of my old rationalizations would work anymore. I told myself that I was no worse than anybody else … but it didn’t help. I told myself I was doing the best I could do in difficult circumstances … but it didn’t help. I said to myself that nobody’s perfect … and it made no difference whatsoever.
For almost seven years, I lived under a cloud of guilt that would not go away. There was a gigantic empty place in my heart. Oh, I looked the same on the outside. I still went to work, and took care of my kids and the house. I still went out with friends, and generally functioned normally, but inside I was dead.
I knew that God could not be pleased with me. I was convinced, in fact, that I was beyond His forgiveness, and I was resigned to living the rest of my life paying for my sin, because that’s what I deserved.
Through a complicated set of circumstances, I left my very secure job. As I had some income, I didn’t need to rush into another 9-to-5, so I decided I would start a little dried flower and herb shop in my unused back room. All summer I dug up the yard and made new flower beds. I avoided most everybody I knew, and spent my time alone with the sun and the earth and little green plants. Instead of starting my day by hitting the alarm clock and swearing, I awoke gradually to bird calls as the sun came over the horizon. It was an extended time of peace for my sore heart.
Toward the end of summer, I decided I had neglected my friends long enough and scheduled a party. My teen-aged daughter and her friends went to a concert, but joined us later in the day, challenging the old folks to a game of volleyball. They won, of course, and one of her friends just couldn’t stop rubbing it in. When he made some comment about sending us back to our rocking chairs, my friend and I took off after him. Just as I grabbed hold of his shirt tail, he jumped over a bush, pulling me with him. Arm extended, I landed on my shoulder, generating extreme pain. After the requisite trip to the emergency room, my arm wound up in a sling for about three months. End of gardening for the year.
With limited options and time on my hands, I decided to try my hand at freelance writing, which I had always wanted to do, so I bought a top-of-the-line personal computer: an IBM PS/1 486 with Windows 3.1, for those of you who can remember back to 1993. As my computer experience to that point had been on clunky mainframes at work, there was a pretty big learning curve. Who knew you had to save stuff? But I soon got comfortable, and with my dog-eared Writer’s Market, I sold my first piece in December: no byline, but a real check that cashed. Yeehah! In the meantime, I had also picked up a little desktop publishing job, so things were moving along.
After the holidays, I decided to play around and figure out this online thing. Connection options in my area at that time were limited to AOL and Compuserve, both a long-distance call, both on dial-up – with a 9K modem. Talk about slow! I decided on AOL, and proceeded to inflate my phone bill to an outrageous size. I spent a lot of time in the chat rooms, particularly Thirtysomething, and eventually met a guy from Florida. We chatted, we flirted, and after a few days moved into a private room for more serious discussions.
On February 27, 1994, he asked me if I believed in God. I gave him my stock response:
“Sure. I believe in a higher power, that makes acorns turn into oaks, and the snow melt in spring, and babies be born with all their toes and fingers.”
In what turned into a five-hour conversation, fingers racing over keyboards, phone lines connecting us over a 1200-mile span, he told me about his own experience with God. I cried. I told him about my sin, and that God couldn’t possibly forgive me. He cried. Using various Bible verses and stories that he knew by heart, he worked to convince me otherwise, and eventually I believed. God would forgive me! I could live again! That hole in my heart could be filled! Through my tears and his, I asked him what I needed to do, and he led me in this prayer:
Father God, I come to you as a sinner with pain in my heart, which I can’t contain. Forgive me, Father God, of my sins. Cleanse me of my unrighteousness. Make my soul as white as freshly fallen snow. Jesus, I do realize that you died and hung on the cross for MY sin, and if I was the only one on this earth, you still would have hung on the cross for me. I accept the fact Lord God that you are my Savior and, tonight, I invite you into my heart. Touch me in a way that is real to me.
As we prayed, I felt my body being covered with this incredible, gossamer-thin blanket of warmth. The Holy Spirit took up residence in my sinful, but forgiven heart, and I was born again.