Friday, July 13, 2012

Sixteen Words Eighteen Years Ago

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1:12-13.

It was Wednesday afternoon. The sun was out, the sky was clear, the air was warm. Fawn and I were sitting in the grass by the lake talking about life. She shared some personal struggles, asked me about my greatest fear. It was the fourth day of Teen Camp, two days after I felt connected to another person for the first time in my life. Now that person was sitting next to me asking “Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you’ll go to Heaven when you die?”

God used Fawn to break thru my autistic barriers, to help me realize for the first time what it meant and how it felt to be loved by Him. We weren’t best friends, didn’t talk on the phone all the time; she was six years older than me and lived in a neighboring state. In our eight years of friendship before she died, she wrote me one letter, and we had three phone conversations. And yet, as I look back on my walk with God, it’s obvious that she played a major part.

Her role didn’t begin that Wednesday – it actually began two years before – but on that day, Wednesday, July 13, 1994, I made the second most significant decision of my spiritual journey, because Fawn had the courage and love to ask me one question. Sixteen words led to just two letters that changed my life forever:  no.

I will never forget that conversation. I wanted to be honest and I knew the answer without having to think about it. I had grown up going to church every week, had heard the popular Bible stories, participated in studies of some of the more complex areas of the Christian life. At some point I even prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer” in some form, accepting and receiving the free gift of salvation. In “church speak” I was “saved.” But. I wasn't living like it. I hadn’t really let God into my life in a personal way, and somehow I knew, despite my autism and the ways it affected my perceptions, that I didn’t know for sure that I was God’s child.

Fawn opened her Bible and we talked about each verse of “Roman’s Road.” I had them all memorized. To be honest, I didn’t hear anything I hadn’t heard before. It wasn’t an intellectual exercise. What I needed was a personal relationship, to let God in and give Him the little things. Give Him all of me. So I did.

It wasn’t the first time I chose to join the Family of God, but it was the first time I meant it. And it’s the day I choose to celebrate every year. Today I am 18. I have come a long way, sometimes walking hundreds of miles from where God wants me, always turning around to find Him right there. I'll be sharing some of my “altar stones”, markers I’ve collected along the way. God commanded the Israelites to build an altar of stones from the Jordan River after they crossed it safely. Mine remind me of God’s promise “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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