I was born in 1945, a month or so after WW2 ended in Europe and a couple of months before the atomic bomb was dropped in anger for the first time in history.
My maternal grandfather (he died before I was born) had been a Methodist minister in Southern Ontario until 1925, when his denomination became part of the United Church of Canada. My mother, then, was a loyal churchgoer and I grew up going to Fifty United Church in Winona Ontario, every Sunday until I was about 20. It really meant very little to me at the time, other than the fact that all my friends were there. So, when I left home, I also left the church.
For the next twenty-five years I focused on the usual young-adult pursuits. I got married (1968), had a couple of kids (girls) and worked to be successful in my career. By the time I was 45 I had most things that a man of my age could want. We had moved to Alberta and owned a successful business, a nice house, a couple of nice cars. There seemed to be nothing lacking in my life.
I can still remember the phone call. The woman on the other end of the line said they were opening a new church in our neighbourhood (St Albert, Alberta) and would I be interested in receiving some information? For some reason, without really thinking, I said, “OK.”
It turned out to be a church plant of Crestwood, a PCA church in Edmonton. We went as a family to their opening service, in a local elementary school lunchroom. It was not at all like what I remembered as church. Whereas church for me had always involved thundering organ music, this one had a guitarist and keyboard. Instead of all old hymns, these people mixed in more modern choruses as well. For some reason, even though it was all new and different to me, I had a strange sense of “coming home.” We began to attend every Sunday.
The pastor started a Bible study on the book of James, and I joined it. The worship leader, Andy, and his wife Michelle wanted to start another Bible Study and I volunteered our house, because they lived in Edmonton. Gradually, for one reason or another, attendance dwindled down to just them and me, but they kept on coming faithfully, every week. I look back now and consider them my spiritual mentors for their faithfulness.
It was on a business trip through British Columbia one weekend in the spring of 1991 when God basically just stepped in front of me. Over the course of three or four days, He revealed Himself to me in such a sequence of events that I had no choice but to acknowledge Him as Lord of my life.
I will not list every specific event here, because I have learned from hearing the testimonies of others and giving my own, that many of the details of someone’s conversion experience are often truly meaningful only to the individual involved. But here is an outline:
In Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, through a particular set of circumstances, God stepped in front of me in so literal a way that it was like walking into an invisible wall. At that point, I knew something had happened. It was almost as if a door had been closed behind me. I knew at that moment that God was real.
A couple of days later, in a motel in Kelowna, I decided that instead of going down to the bar for a drink, I would stay in my room and read the Bible. I read all the way through the book of Acts and started on Romans. Somewhere between chapters 3 and 5 of Romans my eyes were opened. I paused at Romans 3:21-22 and read them over and over again,
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…I remember thinking, “I’ve never heard this before – it’s all new.” Now, I’m sure I didn’t go to church for twenty years without it at least having been read in my hearing. But I was truly “hearing” it for the first time in my life.
The next day, in Salmon Arm, BC, God’s intervention continued and finally, alone in my motel room, I had no choice but to fall back onto the bed, tears flowing, raise my hands to Him and surrender my life to Him in gratitude for what He had done for me through Jesus Christ.
That was years ago. There are a few things I like to emphasize regarding my story. The first is that I was basically a pretty good guy. I was not saved out of a life of drugs or alcohol or promiscuity. I was the same as any number of people out there who probably think they are pretty good people as well. But I needed a saviour as much as anybody. God is perfect; we are not. No one measures up to His standards. So we need an advocate, a surrogate who does. That one is Jesus Christ. Only through faith in him, admitting we don't measure up to God's requirements and surrendering our lives to Him can we stand before Him and be 'covered,' so to speak, by his perfection and righteousness.
The next couple of points I mention for all Christian parents who are worried about their children falling away from the faith. They are these: first, keep taking them to church. Especially through their teen years. Even if they give you a hard time about it and even if they don't seem to be getting anything out of it. I am convinced that there is a process of "osmosis" that takes place, even if they don't seem to be paying any attention. The Bible tells us that God's word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55: 10,11), but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it.
Second, keep praying for them. My mother knelt by her bed every night and prayed for her children. For the whole twenty-five years between my church experiences she would ask me if I was going to church, practically every time she saw me. I know many Christian parents whose own children seem to have walked away, who are fearful and saddened by their children’s unbelief, and pray fervently that God would intervene in their lives and bring them to faith. Well, I was 45 before I came to a true faith in Jesus Christ. How faithful my mother was, how patient, and, I like to think, how trusting in her Heavenly Father, that His will would be done in my life.
And how much more patient was God Himself with me, all those years, waiting for the right time to reel me in.