I warn you, this story will sound strange. But this is just the way it happened.
For many years, I was hesitant to share my testimony with people because it was so unusual, and because it was such a precious memory for me.
Then in 2011 I joined a week-long mission trip to Guatemala. One of my assignments during this journey was to share my testimony with several groups of elementary school children.
This forced me to condense the story of my first meeting with God into a four minute presentation that was simple enough for young children to understand.
So I invite you to pretend you are a Guatemalan third-grader, and join me on this G-rated stroll down memory lane to the Spring of 1980…
When I was growing up, I often wondered about God. How could anybody really KNOW if God was real? How could you KNOW if he heard your prayers? I could not imagine how it was possible to know such things.
I got married when I was 18 years old. My wife and I were too young and immature. We argued all the time.
We tried to get along, but it was not a happy marriage. After being married for seven years, we had our first baby. She was a cute little girl who we named Stephanie.
After Stephanie was born, my wife and I argued even more. When Stephanie was 7 months old, I finally decided to move out. I did not know what else to do. I did not want to spend my whole life arguing all the time.
I went to live with a friend of mine named Dennis. I was very upset. I felt so guilty about leaving my baby girl. I felt like my life was a failure.
On Good Friday on April 4, 1980, I was trying to go to sleep. I kept thinking about all the problems in my life. I was afraid that if there was a God, he would not forgive me for leaving my family.
I did not know if God was real, or if he even heard my prayers. But I cried out to him in my despair. I was tired of living. I asked God to please just kill me and get my life over with.
Suddenly I felt these huge fists pounding all over my chest and stomach. It felt like some big strong man was beating me up. I thought, “God really is going to kill me!” I was terrified. I did not understand this at all. I thought that maybe I was losing my mind and imagining things.
This beating lasted for about a minute. When it stopped, I was afraid to move. Finally I looked over at the clock by the bed. The time was midnight on Good Friday. I thought, “This is very strange.” Then I fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning I was in a daze. I wondered what had happened to me. Was it just a bad dream? I just felt dead inside my heart. I do not remember very much about that Saturday.
I went to bed Saturday night and quickly fell asleep. Then early on Easter Sunday morning, about 4:00 a.m., the telephone rang and woke me up. The telephone call was about my friend, Dennis, who was in big trouble. He needed my help right away.
I could hardly believe this was happening. I already had so many problems on my mind. Now I had to get up and go take care of my friend. I got dressed and went outside to leave.
As I sat down in the driver’s seat of my pick-up, I felt like the most miserable man on earth. I laid my head on the steering wheel and cried out in despair, “God, I just can’t take it anymore! I give up!”
I guess that is just what God was waiting to hear.
Suddenly, I felt that terrible weight of guilt being lifted off of my soul. A wonderful ecstatic joy filled my heart. I felt a warm, soothing sensation of peace flow through my whole body.
To my astonishment, the love of God just flooded over me! Instantly I knew that God was with me. I was shocked to suddenly realize that he was really there, and he really cared about ME!
All of my anxiety was gone! All of my fears disappeared! God instantly washed away all of my guilt and shame. My heart was at peace. My mind was clear. I had never felt so alive before.
It amazed me to suddenly feel how much he loved me. I heard his comforting voice speak deep down into my heart. He quietly said, “It’s all okay.”
After dreading God’s judgment for so long, it felt so wonderful to know that he was not mad at me. What a relief! I had actually met God, and he was being nice to me!
All of this was such a surprise to me. I probably was acting a little crazy. I did not really understand what had just happened, but I sure was happy!
The next morning I went to my job. I worked with a kind woman there who was a Christian. I told her about everything that had happened to me over the weekend.
She was very happy for me. She explained to me, from the Bible, that I had been saved. She told me that when I gave up to God, He came into my heart and I was born again.
She explained that being a Christian is more than just believing things ABOUT God. She said you must SURRENDER your heart to God so that you can be redeemed. The moment I told God “I give up,” he was merciful enough to accept that as my surrender.
It also surprised me that God has such a sense of humor. He beat me up on Good Friday and then saved me on Easter Sunday. I thought that was a pretty clever way to get my attention.
I have seen God do a lot of other funny things since then. For example, he got me a good job as a mechanic even though I am very clumsy. When I was younger, I did not like children. Now I help teach a Sunday school class for 2-year-old children and I love it. God is full of funny surprises.
Since that day back in 1980, God has been so good to me. He brought me back home to my wife. He healed our marriage and gave us a good life together. He blessed us with another baby, a little boy named Steve.
And now, years later, God has blessed me with an extended family. My children have given me grandchildren. I could never have imagined how much I would enjoy being a grandfather. I love my family very much.
Jesus has guided me and blessed me for forty years now. I have made many mistakes along the way. Many times God has had to discipline me to teach me a lesson.
But his love never fails. He always forgives me when I come to my senses and repent. I would never want to go back to the life I had before I knew the grace and mercy of God.
The day that you come to Jesus will be the happiest day of your life. He is kind. He is nice. He loves you.
In fact, He loves you so much that he died for you. He is waiting for you to give up your life to him.
(This post is excerpted from the book Jesus Is Trying To Get Your Attention.)