Not quite 18 years of age, I sat in my dorm room at the University of South Dakota and thought my life was over. I realized how emotionally disabled I had become. I felt deadened inside. I thought I could not love. I feared, seriously feared, I would never marry. As one author I read at that time put it, depression hung in me like a dead animal. I would have liked to have wept but hadn’t for years.
But God, who is rich in mercy, cared for me. By God’s providence, a guy across the hall against whom I had competed in high school sports was going through a spiritual journey, and he chose to include me. He would read a book or consider a question and then engage me in conversation. I began to think about spiritual things. Then one day a person knocked on my door and asked if I were interested in the gospel. I indicated I was. We met in a coffee shop on campus. He gave a simple four spiritual laws type of presentation, and I prayed to receive Christ.
I went to some Christian meetings after that but was not discipled much. I continued to attend the Catholic church. Spiritual progress was slow and sporadic. But in time change did come. In spite of my weak evangelization, training, and fellowship, I was changing, for God was at work in me.
I came to understand how my soul had become hard as I read Matthew 24:12, which says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” As a freshman in the dorm I had been confused by my miserable life for I had been playing the game according to my culture’s rules. I was a good student, musical, athletic, moderately popular, from a solid family, etc. But now I saw that I had been blindly, self-indulgently, and profligately transgressing God’s rules.
I saw I had terribly abused my most prized possession. I abused my eternal soul.
I repented and lifted my soul up to God and trusted in Him. My life greatly changed.
My life changed vocationally. I had planned to attend med school. God redirected my heart and, to my great surprise, I found myself earning two degrees in the field of English. As a graduate student I taught writing classes and regularly gave witness to Christ and saw students come to the Christ. The Lord continued to grow me as a teacher and leader as I labored two years at the University of New Orleans. I then received a grant to pursue a doctoral degree in religion and literature at the University of Virginia. But God again impressed upon me other plans as I knew it was time for full-time Christian service. I spent the next five years in relative isolation on a spiritual retreat. During that time I started lay preaching in neighboring churches. I then married, eventually went to seminary in Georgia, came back to South Dakota, and got involved in a church plant work where I have remained the past 27-plus years.
My life changed morally. I was a terrible sinner when I got saved. I own up to all of it and give no excuses. I still struggle with sin and shall as long as I am in the flesh. But I can testify of knowing the wonderful grace of God time and again and in innumerable ways as He has gutted the power of sin and infused in me the love of righteousness.
My life has changed spiritually. Whereas I once was oblivious to God’s holy calling and careless to His ways, I testify that He has given me a new love in my once stony heart and a new song in my once coarse mouth. I can feel, and I feel deeply.
I am a much different person than I was as an adolescent.