I was not raised in a Christian home. My parents were both raised Catholic, but neither practiced that religion once they became adults. In fact, they raised my brother and me without any religious influence whatsoever. They wanted us to choose for ourselves what religion, if any, we’d subscribe to.
As a military family, we moved around the world throughout my childhood. When I was 12, we moved to San Ramon, California. Less than a year later, my dad became a Fed Ex pilot, and my parents had to choose our next home: Anchorage, Alaska, or Memphis, Tennessee.
I fully believe God led them to choose Memphis, without their knowing it, because He had a plan for my salvation that incorporated many key people in the Memphis area.
We moved to a suburb of Memphis just in time for my eighth grade year. Again, my parents had to choose which school district they wanted me in – Houston or Collierville – and, again, the Lord was working behind the scenes. I wound up in the Collierville school system.
Because I attended 3 different middle schools in 3 years, I was quite ahead of the curve in math. I was an honor student in all subjects, but I was even more advanced in math. Decision time – do I skip eighth grade and begin high school, where they offer the math course I need, or do I attend eighth grade as scheduled and supplement my math class in an unorthodox way? Although none of us knew it at the time, this decision was crucial to my salvation. Most of the students who would later expose me to Jesus were in the eighth grade that year. So God made sure I was too.
With no education in the way of religion, the eighth grade me was confused by all the churches in Memphis. I had never lived anywhere else in the world where church attendance was such a central part of life. I could literally count on one hand the number of friends I had in my first thirteen years of life that attended church of any kind.
Couple this oddity with my jadedness from all the moving, and I just wanted to rebel against and reject people in Memphis before they had the chance to reject me. As a result, I decided I needed to reject their God, even though I knew nothing about Him.
I began to argue with kids at school about why Christianity was stupid, and how they had no basis for their beliefs, and how all beliefs are equally possible, which meant I wasn’t going to subscribe to one belief – the odds of me choosing the right one were minimal. I didn’t like those odds, so I chose not to choose, which, it turns out, is a choice in and of itself. I chose not to believe in anything.
When I was in ninth grade, I continued my quest against Christianity. But even though my heart was hard, God decided to show His power to me. One of the senior guys at school was in a rock band, and they were having a concert. I wanted to go because I thought he was cute.
My first clue that something Jesusy was going to happen should have been that the concert was at a church. But that didn’t register with me at all. This guy didn’t look like the Christians at my school – he had skater jeans and a blue mohawk. I guess I just figured they let people use the church like a community center, and the band somehow was allowed to have their concert there.
There were about 100 kids from school at this concert. Everything was going fine until halfway through the band’s set. They dimmed the stage lights and went from playing high energy rock to an acoustic worship set. I didn’t know what was going on, but the guy singing had his eyes closed the whole time, and the kids around me – kids I knew – were singing to God with arms raised. It was all very strange to me. And as I tried to process what was happening, I decided that God was happening. God was affecting people.
I left that concert that night thinking, “If God can affect this many people, He’s got to be real.” And that was a giant step in the right direction.
But I was still missing something.
To be continued…