I know what it’s like to not believe in Jesus.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. While my mom was Christian, she wasn’t active in the church. And my dad…well, my dad grew up with a father who literally threw a pastor out of his house when the pastor wanted to speak to him about Jesus.
Although my dad was a kind and loving man who would never hurt anyone, if anyone tried to bring up Jesus around him, they were given an eye roll and a surly comment at most.
Despite my upbringing, I knew about Christianity. When I went to sleepovers at friend’s houses, I’d often dress up on Sunday morning and join my friend at their church. I would sit in the pews or attend their Sunday school and try to listen. The one thing I always took away from the various experinces with the church was that I didn’t belong.
Stand up. Kneel. Repeat words that I didn’t know. Do the sign of the cross (which I always did backwards.)
One time, I joined my friend at Sunday school. Because I was new, the teacher wanted to give me special treatment. She called on me first to answer a question. I had no idea what the answer was. She seemed surprised. It was obviously something I should have known.
I didn’t belong.
When I was young, I knew enough people who went to church that I also knew that I wanted to be a part of it. So, while I was at home, I would “play church.” I would read a Bible passage, sing from a hymn book I found in my mom’s stuff and cut up pieces of bread and have it with ginger ale for “communion.” I had no idea what any of it meant, but it’s what I knew about church.
By high school, I decided that I was an athiest. Nothing about Jesus made sense to me. My experiences had left me confused and skeptical. Things started to shift for me when I was in college. One day at lunch, my brother announced that he was speaking at his chuch, and we were invited to attend. None of us even knew he was a Christian. We found out later that his college roommate had taught him about Jesus. Through my brother’s roommate, my brother learned to trust Jesus. And through my brother, God helped me to understand Jesus in a way that was relatable and compassionate. Many late nights, long talks and my brother’s sermons helped me become closer and closer to Jesus.
Then, my brother’s church combined with another church, and he moved to Arizona. I didn’t know what to do next. I stopped going to church or thinking about my walk with God. My relationship with Jesus seemed to be at a standstill.
In 2008, we decided to try Crossroads.TV. We were welcomed right away, and we loved the service. What really sealed the deal was when our daughter said, “It was better than going to a hotel!” (And hotels have pools so…)
Through attending Crossroads, partipating in Outreach, being a part of a small group and volunteering, we felt like Crossroads truly became our family. Little by little, we became closer to God. But it wasn’t until this past November that my faith came full circle.
My dad continued to hold fast to his non- beliefs. Any time I tried to pray for him, he would cut me off, so eventually I gave up. Then suddenly, his convictions became very real to me.
He was sick, and he was only going to get worse. He held on for several years, while I prayed for him, but still I never spoke to him about Jesus. Whenever he’d take a turn for the worse, fear would overtake me. What would I do if he died, and I had to live my life feeling like he was separated from God? How could I accept that?
Whenever he got better, I thought it was another chance for me to help him know Jesus, but something something always held me back. I didn’t want the eye roll or the argument.
One day, I got the call. His girlfriend, in tears, told me that he didn’t have much time left. He’d been adamant that we didn’t do anything to prolong his life. I went to his house, called my siblings and waited while my dad struggled to breathe. I was scared. Once again I prayed, only to myself, and waited through the night.
The next morning, as the sun started to pierce through the blinds, something happened.
My dad woke up. We called the doctor, who told us to take him to the hospital just in case it was an infection. Just as my sister showed up, the ambulance pulled away. We met the rest of my siblings at the hospital and waited.
After assessing my dad and running some tests, they determined it wasn’t an infection. They transferred him to the hospice floor so we could say our goodbyes. He woke up one last time. He made a few jokes and asked us questions about our lives. We held his hand as he drifted back to sleep. Once most everyone left my dad’s hospital room, and only my brother, one of my sisters and I remained, we shared stories about my dad and thanked him for everything he’d done for us. Then we prayed..out loud and together. We prayed to Jesus that He would come meet my dad in person and that he needed to see Him to believe. We told my dad to relax and that he didn’t have to struggle. We told him that God was with him. Over and over, we prayed to Jesus to take him to Heaven. The next day he died. A sense of peace washed over me. I no longer feared what was waiting for him on the other side. I believe that my dad met Jesus that day, and that he chose to believe. Everything was different than it would have been. I thought about how I was with my dad at his house without my siblings, feeling sad and scared about his future. After I prayed, he woke up. We took him to the hospital, and he died surrounded by his family and his kids praying together for him before he passed. God allowed me, and more importantly him, a different experience. A peaceful death. An eternal life.
I think about the toddlers I teach in CCKids and about how one day one of them might be the one who teaches a non-believer to have faith. I think about raising my kids as Christians and about how they’re going to experience Jesus in a way that I never did. I think about Outreach at Crossroads.TV and about how the love that Crossroads has for those in our city who need it most, might lead them to Jesus. Just maybe that one their families will get to know their loved ones have passed from death to eternal life.
I feel privileged. I would never have been able to find Jesus on my own. Through God’s will and the love of others, I found Jesus, and I get to experience eternal life. Now I pray that God can use me to help others in the same way that He used others to help me, because I think that’s what God’s love is all about.