Sunday, April 20, 2014

Forty Years Ago Today

On top of Mountain Napf, photo by Dirk Beyer
I'm interrupting my Sunday series on our Life Group lessons on Ephesians, because today is a very important anniversary in my life. Actually, it wasn't April 20; it was Easter Sunday, 1974. I suppose I could look up the date; I believe it was in early April. But I've preferred to celebrate this particular anniversary on Easter rather than the exact date.

It was senior year in college, spring semester. I was a part-time student, needing only three credits to graduate but taking nine, working some, basically having a leisurely time heading toward graduation. I was engineering job hunting, and having some success. As Easter came, I had four job offers on the table: three in Boston and one in Kansas City. Boston was an easy drive up the road from my native Cranston, RI; Kansas City was another world. I didn't know what I would do.

That morning I took my grandmother to the Episcopal church in Wakefield, RI, and attended Easter high mass with her. My spiritual status was up in the air at that time. The previous summer I had made a profession of faith after watching a Billy Graham Crusade on television (with prior assists by other devout Christian friends and acquaintances), but it really hadn't stuck. Sin took hold, sin such as I hadn't experienced before, and I was not walking as I should. I wasn't hostile to God, and was feeling the weight of guilt of sin, but nothing was nudging me to get back where I should be.

After lunch—or perhaps it was before lunch—I was in my room at my grandparents house (7 miles from campus, I stayed with them the last year and a half I was at URI), looking over the four offers and wondering what to do. I ruled out one of the Boston ones, so I was really thinking of three. The one in Kansas City was actually the most lucrative, though it would take me half a continent away from family and friends. What to do, what to do? I decided I should pray about it. God would make the way clear for me.

I started to pray, but stopped almost immediately. I realized, "How can I pray to God? I have no standing with him, having not acknowledged him as Lord of my life, living the kind of life I wanted to live, not the life He wanted me to live. I had come to the crossroads: My way, or His way? I didn't struggle long with the question. I again bowed my head, and in Jesus' name asked God to forgive my sins, decided to turn from my sinful life and live as I should, walking in the light.

No ray of light came down from heaven; no fireworks accompanied this. I wasn't surrounded by trained altar workers, intense in prayer. It was just me and God, my grandparents being off somewhere else in the house. Yet the change was immediate. I knew it had happened, and that my life had changed forever. I continued in prayer about the job offers, but didn't feel comfortable asking God to show me which one to take. Rather, I felt led to ask God to direct my decision making process, and lead me to the right decision, whether I felt and recognized His guidance or not. Within a couple of days I was overcome with the idea I should take the one in Kansas City. A little over two months later, everything I owned packed into my 66 Plymouth Valient, I headed west on a three-day, one-way drive.

That day is the most important of my life. More important than my wedding day. More important than the day my mother died. More important than those days when my children were born.

I wish I could say that these forty years have resulted in my making all the right decisions, in my conduct never being sinful, in my walk always being one that others could point to as the way a Christian should walk. Alas, I know that all isn't true. But I consider my walk unbroken from that Easter Sunday, 1974. Life has taken me on paths I never would have expected. I can say this: The journey was a joy, and still is.