It took me 14 years to become a Christian.
Like most Baptists, it seems, I accepted Jesus Christ at a young age (around 7). I knew that I was a sinner, and that I need the forgiveness of Christ, adn that I wanted to go to heaven. I was a good kid, never causing much trouble, and was very quiet and withdrawn, possibly due to some home problems. I liked school and was always eager to please my teachers, parents, and any other adults in my life.
In Junior HIgh, I recognized that though Christ was my Savior, there was more to being a Christian. So, I went forward again, not for salvation, but to recognize that Christ had a calling on my life, and I wanted to be available to it. In Junior High and High School, I was a model student, made good grades, had a lot of friends, and stayed out of trouble. To all those around me, I 'had it together' so to speak. Friends came to me for advice, and even my teachers would confide in me occassionally. I was a student leader, and was given a lot of trust by my teachers. I suppose many would consider me a "teacher's pet." People knew I was a Christian, though I did not know a lot about "witnessing" at the time, but I did try to walk a straight path.
With High School graduation, it was time to strike out on my own. God had blessed me with a full scholarship, so I was not going to have to bear a financial burder like many of my classmates. I was, however, going to a state university known for its "partying." I had made the decision years earlier to abstain from many of the things that my classmates participated in, and upon going to college, I renewed that vow. I remember clearly telling God, "I would rather walk alone on this campus, and have you at my side, than to walk with my friends and ignore You." I have never experienced such lonliness and homesickness as I did those first couple of weeks. I finally hooked up with some more Christians, and began enjoying the college life.
All went well for about a year and a half. I was active in the music program (I was a music major) and I had found a local church that I was able to become active in. Also, I was a member and leader in a interdenominational group that helped to lead Bible studies and evangelize the campus. During this time, though, I became more and more focused on succeeding. I decided that not only would I do everything I possibly could with the church and campus group, I was going to make straight A's, and become one of the best trumpet players around.
With this goal in mind, I entered into my junior year as a small group Bible study leader for the music department, member of the sanctuary choir and young singles choir at the church, active in Sunday School and Discipleship Training, and even joined the bowling team. I was also a member of the marching band, jazz band, trumpet ensemble, and a state officer for the North Carolina Collegiate Chapter of the Music Educators National Conference. If it was to be done, I was going to do it.
As the semester wore on, though, I began to fill more and more empty. So, I would add "stuff" or goals to fill the void. I also began to notice at the time that I couldn't sense God's guidance and leadership anymore. I literally felt as if He was withholding his Holy Spirit from me. On Halloween, 1991, we held a special Bible study at the music building, and then four of us went up in the woods just to pray. That night, for the first time in weeks, I felt God's presence again. The next morning, though, it seemed to be gone again, and now the void was greater than ever. To fill it, I organized an early morning prayer meeting on Friday mornings. I also began around this time to acknowledge that something was wrong.
No matter how much I did, it didn't seem enough to please God. One night, after arriving back at my apartment from a weekend at home, I called my mom adn simply told her something was wrong, and i didn't know what. She made the 2 hour drive that night to be by my side. Early the next morning, lying in my living room floor crying, I admitted that for weeks my prayer at night had been, "God, let me die tonight, cause tomorrow I am going to do it." I had even gone as far to plan where, how, and when I was going to kill myself. Life was simply unbearable to me. I had to recognize that I was in the full throes of depression, and without the Father, my life was spiralling to a devastating and violent end.
I state assuredly that I was a Christian at this time. That is, I had made Him my Savior 14 years earlier. At this point in my life, I learned that the Bible Studies and "stuff" were good, but what He really wanted from me was to be Lord of my life. He wanted to call the shots. He wanted to lay out the plan. In His infinite wisdom, He let me drive my life until I could come to the point where I recognized that I couldn't drive very well. Then, he took over. Over the next few weeks, I went through the "refiner's fire." I wish I could say I immediately recovered from the depression, but it took some time -- and during that time, I learned to let Jesus be my Lord.
It took the first 7 years of my life to recognize that I was a sinner in need of redemption. It took 14 more for me to realize that the Redeemer loved me enough to make the plan for me. Jesus is my Savior, but now, He is my Lord as well.