Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Lame Odyssey, Part 4

            Eventually Chronos blessed me with having that miserable school year end.  (Chronos is the Greek word for time.  Sometimes used in fantasy as an almost divine power.  However, the Greeks themselves had enough sense not to worship such a willy-nilly, arbitrary god.  Unlike us.) Summer was upon us, and a swimming pool was being dug in our backyard.  The excitement of my brothers and I was unbounded.  I have two younger brothers, and when I was thirteen, I would be running around with them and with other friends, wrestling and joking and playing.  Of course they would get hurt. Sometimes.  By me.  What could be done about that?  We were playing.

            A neighbor lady came by early that summer and asked our mom if we—my brothers and I— would be interested in going to something called “Vacation Bible School.”  Ha, I almost exclaimed.  Who would want to go to “school” in the summer?  There were too many things to do—tadpoles to find and to store in the bathtub, football to play, my brothers to abuse, bulldozers to get in front of.…   I was shocked when I found that my mother had volunteered us to go, on bended knee, tears in her eyes.  How could she?  This was our time, our freedom.  She had no right.

            By the next morning I found that she did have the right to be rid of us and could enforce that right, if necessary.  And, well, it was cool.  Hard to admit, but I learned something there.  Sure, it was fun, we played games, we ran around like wild banshees.  But more than this, I discovered that there was more to this Jesus thing than a half-baked prayer.  There was knowledge and lifestyle and commitment that I had never dreamed of!  There was grace and power through the Spirit!  I could pray and be heard!  I could read the Bible and have it be a part of my life!  I could enjoy church just because of learning about Jesus!  I fully committed myself to the Lord that week. 

At one point that week, I prayed to God and Jesus (I wasn’t sure which one I should pray to at that time).  I asked for His control over my life because I had certainly messed things up.  I asked for him to help me.  Then I waited for the Great Revelation.  Some Voice to speak.  Or lightning perhaps.  Something Impressive.  Nothing like that happened.  But one thing did change.  I was able to release myself to God.  Boredom, distraction or my own moral weaknesses were no issue.  For God had made me His, and it was His power that allowed me to focus on Him.  Until that time, I had no idea what God in my life could be like.  I had no idea.

            Evidently, neither did my mother.  We came back home daily during that week and a half, talking about everything we learned.  Her response?  Great, I’m glad you’re excited, now leave me to my oven-fried chicken.  After more than a week of this, though, some of our enthusiasm rubbed off.  And, strangely, there were changes she noticed.  My youngest brother was oddly happy, singing “Jesus loves me” of all things.  The middle brother, the pyro, was no longer lighting fires.  And I?  Well, she says that I spent my time evangelizing her.  I want you to know that I have no memory of this.  But it could be true.  I do clearly remember telling my parents that I was going to church every Sunday now and that they were driving me.  I also remember giving my mother a commentary on the book of Revelation (which caused me nightmares, but I never told her that). 

            Next thing you know, she also received the Lord, and we’re going to church together, along with my father and two brothers.  Years later, we all ended up doing ministry in the church one way or the other.  Jesus changes lives.  Whoda thunk?

            So I return to school the next year and I’m completely transformed.  I am not the nerdy Steve, now I am the religious fanatic Steve.  They called me “Jesus Freak” and I laughed.  I argued against evolution with my biology teacher in school. 

And, eventually, I saw Joe again. 

I ran up to him, saying, “Hey, I need to say something.” 

“Yeah?” he replied. “What are you going to do?  Pull a knife on me again?” 

“No, I just want to let you know that this last year I committed myself to Jesus.  I really apologize for that knife incident.  Also I wanted to know if you want to hear about Jesus.” 

There was silence for a moment. He looked at me with wide eyes, whispering “Whatever” as he backed away. 

He never spoke to me again.  The fear of a weapon is as nothing compared to fear of a religious fanatic.  

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