(For Part I of my story, read Spiritual Legacy: I Once Was Lost.)
There I was, 14 years old and finally willing to believe that there was a God. But my everyday life didn’t change. I was still a disgruntled teenager with no hope for the future. I was bitter and cynical and depressed. I was still missing something.
Why wasn’t I feeling any differently? Why wasn’t my life changing for the better?
The night of the concert I left that church with a belief in God, but I left that church without Jesus.
Nobody had explained to me His essential role in heart change. To be quite honest, I didn’t really get His connection to Christianity. In all the talks I had had with people, they had all focused more on trying to get me to believe in “God” than “Jesus”. I came to believe that the essential difference between Christians and me were that they believed in God and I didn’t.
After I accepted God, I spent the next year and a half being exactly the same Kelly I was before I accepted God. I never went to church. I didn’t befriend any Christians. And I never read the Bible. I didn’t know to do any of these things. Instead, I hung out with the same crowd I’d always hung out with – the skaters, the druggies, the rebellious.
When I was 16, my boyfriend and I broke up. We had been together for two years. Our sophomore year was coming to an end, and so did our relationship. I backed out of our circle of friends, knowing it would be too uncomfortable for us to still hang out together.
While I believe that was a good decision, I was lonely. I was dreading a long, friendless summer. It “just so happened” that we lived within walking distance of the high school. And it “just so happened” that on the last day of school, my soccer coach invited me to come to the field whenever I wanted over the summer to participate in practices with whichever of his many teams happened to be practicing that day.
Did I mention that I almost didn’t try out for the high school soccer team my freshman year? I got cold feet the night before try outs. But God knew I needed to be on that team to meet that coach. So He used my dad to convince me to try out.
Anyway, I took my coach up on his offer and found myself out on the field most of those summer afternoons. I practiced mostly with a team of freshman and sophomore boys. That should tell you that we didn’t exactly bond. They weren’t chatty to begin with, but throw a junior girl into the mix and they were SILENT. They were too busy worrying about whether I would be impressed by them or totally embarrass them on the field. So playing with them didn’t do much for me in the way of companionship.
But my coach, on the other hand, had been my coach for 2 years. We were close. We had similar senses of humor, he had gained my trust by helping me talk through problems, and he always made practice fun. That summer, he really was my only friend.
He had his own problems, however. He wasn’t a Christian influence at all. Eventually, he found himself in some legal trouble, resulting in his abrupt resignation from his teaching/coaching position at my school at the end of that summer. Within one week’s time, my best/only friend was ripped out of my life and moved to Wisconsin. There were a lot of questions surrounding his departure, and my world was upside down.
That afternoon, late in July, 1999, I broke. I was home alone, and I remember being in the kitchen. The tears flowed as I tried to process the injustice of what was happening to my coach and to me. I remember being very angry, and saying out loud to God, nearly screaming, “If You want me to make it through this, You are going to have to do it. I can’t do this!”
It was the first time in my life I relied on God for something. It was the first time I admitted I needed Him.
And that was a giant step in the right direction.
But I was still missing something.
To be continued…