It was Monday, February 6, 2006. She had officially moved out of our apartment the day before and I had spent all day simply trying to hold it all together.
In trying times, I had heard it said that you “just have to take things one day at a time.” Unfortunately for me, each day was seeming like an eternity! I remember siting in the office of one of my clients that day, doing everything in my power to keep from breaking down into tears. I remember focusing in on my breathing and thinking to myself: “Forget one day at a time! You need to take this one breath at a time!” And I sat there, breathing in and breathing out, trying not to break down in the middle of the office.
Thankfully, I was able to keep myself together. Despite not getting any work done, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day. Not wanting to home to that empty apartment, I decided that I would take Heather up on some more of her advice and try out a Men’s Bible Study that she recommended. The meeting was called BSF (Bible Study Fellowship International) and it was held at the First United Methodist Church in downtown St. Petersburg.
I had just driven two hours from my clients’ office in Orlando and arrived at the way church early. I made my way into the sanctuary where the meeting would take place and I was the first one to arrive, so I took the opportunity pray and rest.
In my mind, I had imagined that this meeting was going to consist of six really old men sitting in a circle, talking about the bible and how the young “whipper-snappers” won’t stay off their lawns. So when the first old timer came hobbling into the sanctuary, I figured that we were about to get started. Then something very strange happened: Quite a few people started showing up! Sure, there were a number of white-haired snowbirds who spent their winters in Florida and their summers in the Northeast, but there were also a number of a younger businessmen and middle aged guys as well. What was most surprising was that the flood of men coming through the doors kept increasing. When I had first arrived, the church was silent. But now, the volume had increased to a mild roar full of hand shakes and back slaps. By the time the meeting began promptly at 7:00pm, there were over three hundred men siting in the pews.
Then it happened: As if they had been rehearsing for years, all three hundred men stood at attention and with their baritone voices sang the hymns “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Jesus Paid It All”. It was like nothing I had ever experienced, despite having gone to church every Sunday my entire life! To hear this group of men singing songs of praise to Jesus, not in soprano voices but like real men. With bass in their voices! If I hadn’t known the lyrics, these hymns could have easily been mistaken for drunken sailor tunes.
“Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow…”
It was amazing! These guys sounded great and there were even a couple guys who could actually hit some of the higher notes and they made it even better. I had no idea that church songs could be sung in a low key and without an organ. I was genuinely moved and my mind was blown.
After the songs, everyone split into their predefined small groups and any new folks attended orientation. During orientation, one of the leaders explained the history of BSF, what all of the policies were, and most importantly that everyone was both a volunteer and a layman. I found it very interesting that this whole production was put on by laymen as opposed to professional religious people.
After about twenty minutes, all of the men returned to the sanctuary for the message / sermon. As all of the volunteers were laymen, the guy giving the message was actually a dentist named Witt, not a pastor. Even so, that night he gave a message that changed my life.
He started by talking about how selfish and self-centered we as humans can be and then spoke about the gigantic mess we end up with when we try to control of our live as opposed to surrendering them to God. As he spoke, I felt as though he somehow knew everything that I had been going through and that he was speaking directly to me. He then continued on to ask a question:
“If you put on trial and you were being accused of being a follower of Jesus Christ, would you be found guilty without a reasonable doubt?”
The question stopped me dead in my tracks.
Was a I follower of Jesus Christ? “Of course I was” I thought to myself. “I’ve been going to church my whole life!” Then Witt continued:
“If I asked your co-workers or your neighbors if you were a follower of Christ, what would they say? What about your friends and your family? If they were on the jury, would they have the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, to convict you? Or would you be found not guilty?”
And that’s when it hit me: I would be found not guilty.
Despite having gone to church my entire life, despite having completed all the sacraments (baptism, confession, communion, confirmation, & marriage), I was not a follower of Jesus. I believed in Him, but I did not follow Him.
Then I heard Witt’s next question: “So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to keep doing things your own way or are you going to let Jesus be both your Savior and the Lord of your life?”
Though I had heard this question before, I never truly understood it’s implications until that very moment and this time, it was a no-brainer: I wanted Jesus to save my life. I was finally able to understand that it wasn’t possible for me to pay for my sins, for the pain I had caused and for the wrongs I had done. I need more than just help and not even Superman would do. I needed a Savior and according to Witt and the bible that he read from, all I had to do to be saved was accept the gift of Jesus’ death on the Cross and then follow him.
So I did. On February 6, 2006 at 7:52pm, I surrendered my life to Christ.
Best decision I’ve ever made.
On my drive home from the church that night, I called my sister Irma and told her about my decision. I was so overwhelmed. Yes, I was happy about the idea of Jesus paying the penalty for my sins, but I also felt completely undeserving as well. Irma explained to me that I should feel undeserving because I was undeserving, just like everyone else. That’s what makes Jesus’ sacrifice so amazing: He died for us even though we didn’t deserve it. He loves us, even though we aren’t worthy of His love.
This sentiment humbled me to the point of extreme tears.
I had so many questions.
For starters, why me?
After I finished talking to Irma, I called Heather tell her the “good news” as well. Tears ensued.
“Why did He choose me?” I asked. “I’m not worthy.”
Her answer was priceless: “I believe He has chosen all of us. It is just that you decided to answer His call.”
“But, what about everyone else?” I asked.
“Everyone answers in their own time and in their own way.” she said.