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Saved! That’s right. The third part of this series is The Beauty and the Saved. This transformation story goes from schlub (view here) to scoffer (view here) to now SAVED! Praise God it got to this point, right? I mean who wants to be a schlub or a scoffer for their entire existence?
“Saved” was certainly the hardest one to get to, even though it’s a free gift. Being a schlub was quite easy in fact. The scoffer doesn’t need much training either. That came from my father raising me to be like him. The saved?!?! Where does an adult male learn that? When your earthly father doesn’t have a relationship with the Heavenly Father, who will teach this boy – now man – to love and respect Him? Ahh. What a great story.
Any good neighbor in the south will find themselves inviting folks to church. Our neighborhood was no different. I would have likely resisted if the husband wasn’t a car guy (hot rods in fact) and we got along great. Their son was a little younger than Shelby, but they got along as well. Of course the wife/mother was delightful and we all got a long exceptionally well. This friendship came before the invite… THIS IS KEY when dealing with a scoffer. Let me tell you. A strangers invite would have meant nothing. Their investment into our friendship deserved my acceptance to the invite.
So here we go to church. 9:30am on a Sunday service about 15 minutes from home. They liked to get there a little early, so we are off at 9am. For a guy that liked staying up late for no good reason, I was not a fan of the 7:30am alarm on that Sunday. Even still, I was intrigued. As we pull in we are greeted by smiling parkers happy to show us to a space. The building looked like a school – but it wasn’t. No cross or “Church” words on the building. Just a non-assuming brick building with a huge parking lot. We enter, passing some friendly greeters, to find fresh coffee awaiting the half-sleepy guy that I am.
Shelby goes back into the kids ministry for a fun-filled day and we enter the auditorium. I say auditorium because they did. Not a sanctuary. That word didn’t fit the room since it was multi-purpose the other 6 days a week. The seats weren’t fixed either, so it really was a low key space to enter a church for the first time in over 30 years. Oh yeah… 30 years. Didn’t I mention that?
My parents separated when I was in first grade. The divorce came a short time later. We attended the big Catholic church off the town green in our Colonial-styled town. My mother informed them that she was divorced and you could hear the door slam. Not all Catholic churches are like that – I know. At this time, in this place, we were asked to leave. A single mom with two children was not welcomed without a husband. I held on to that as my church “excuse” for 3 decades.
Entering this non-denominational service was surprisingly easy. Living in the Bible Belt I had heard enough contemporary Christian music to follow along during the worship portion. Out comes the pastor and he has jeans on. What? A plaid shirt (which I later find is the church uniform for the 2000’s). This is kind of fun. Little by little I am letting down my guard and paying attention.
Well the scoffer in me won’t let it all go it seems. I find an excuse to stop going, yet this child of ours won’t. Her friends from school that go to this church are happy to pick her up and bring her. I end up hiring a couple of guys that go to this church. Next thing you know, it’s all around me. Talk about God working on someone. I couldn’t get away from it. I decide I will at least try to live a little better, be a little nicer, cuss a little less.
I didn’t know exactly what it took to get into Heaven, but I figured I was doing something right trying to live right. Well boom: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) So yeah… that plan was out the window now too. I knew something was missing. It really felt like there was a hole and I had no idea what would fill it. The more I heard, the more I started to realize it was Jesus. I just didn’t want to surrender. I held out and that was that.
In the midst of God working on me, our daughter (age 10 at the time) makes her decision for Christ. What? Wow! I am excited for her but it puts even more light on my stubborn hold out. I still had some questions, some curiosities. Who would answer those?
Well God sends answers when you need them, not when you want them. 2 months later an Evangelical preacher smashed it and answered things that I wondered, and a lot more I hadn’t even thought of. I raised my hand (and started to cry as well). It was a powerful moment. That was Feb 22nd, 2008. A day I will never forget. In fact, I gladly woke up early the next day (a Saturday) to go buy a Bible as soon as the Barnes and Noble opened. My wife didn’t know at the time what had gotten into me.
It would be easy to tell you all these things I went on to do; how it changed me; how it changed our family… and they would all be true. My preference is that I live it out as an example rather than tell it. I decided that my transformation would be my testimony.
As I read the Bible more and more each day, I found that was a very Biblical way: I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:19-23)
We have entered several seasons since my decision in 2008. None are like the current one with Shelby’s leukemia battle. I can assure you that the Schlub and the Scoffer would be a hot mess right now. The Saved person writing this has a firm foundation in the Lord, with a support system that only He could provide. We find ourselves thankful every day despite the situation.