By Dave -
I was brought up in church. My mother taught me about Jesus from a very early age. As a child I learned right from wrong, and it bothered me if I knew I did something wrong. One night when I was around ten years old I asked her how to become a Christian. I prayed the "sinner's prayer", but I didn't feel a big change and soon that feeling went away.
When I was fourteen I got my first job. I had to work late on Saturday nights, so my mother let me start skipping church on Sunday mornings. By the time I was sixteen I rarely went to church. My conscience hardly ever bothered me anymore when I did things that I knew were wrong. When I was seventeen I threw a pack of cigarettes on the kitchen table and told my parents that I thought I was old enough to smoke. I was working in a restaurant and we catered a party one Saturday night. All the other guys had been given some beer by some people at the party. To "fit in" I took my first drink.
It wasn't long until I wasn't drinking to "fit in". I was drinking because I enjoyed the feeling that I got. I would even drink alone. I started fooling around with pot, and other things that I never dreamed I'd do. A girl that I had gone to school with even asked me one night at a club why I was taking those pills in my hand. At that point I realized it wasn't about peer pressure anymore.
At that same club I met a girl one night. I actually thought she was someone else, but after talking I found out that my cousin had married her cousin. To make a long story short, we started dating and married on Christmas Eve 1978. She had been brought up to go to church too, but neither of us attended then. In 1982 she had a miscarriage with our first baby. She started reading her Bible and going to church. She would ask me strange questions such as did I think that the baby went to heaven. I didn't think much of her questions at the time. I just told her that I believe it did.
Around that same time I was playing semi-pro football. She would go to church, but I only went once. That was really just for her sake. Meanwhile, a guy at work invited me to visit his church. Since she had been going already, and this guy invited me, I asked her why didn't we just go there together. We went there a time or two. It was getting close to the end of the football season. I was in the best shape of my life, and wanted to maintain that. I heard of a gym that only charged ten dollars a month to work out at. I started going there.
The guy that ran the gym was a Christian. He talked to me a lot when I'd go in. We had a lot in common. He was a little older than me, but had been brought up in church and got out just like me. He asked me about coming to visit his church. When he told me where it was, it turned out it was the same church my wife and I had been visiting!
I had a football game in Richmond, Virginia one Saturday. We live in South Carolina, so it was nearly dawn when we got in. My wife went on to church that morning. She filled out a card that she would like for the pastor to visit us. She got sick a couple of days later, and spent the day in bed. I went out to buy some basketball tickets, and later went to work out. When I got home she said she would like for me to go get her some soup. As I was leaving the phone rang. It was my cousin's husband saying that his wife and a Sunday School teacher had been by, but didn't get anyone to the door. I explained that my wife was sick, and I had been out of the house some. About that time a car pulled up. It was the pastor and his wife. God was on my trail ! If not for that call I would have been gone again.
It turned out that he knew me, but didn't recognize me at first. When I was about six (I was 24 then) my mother had worked to help get that church built by working in a thrift store. After the visit we started going to about every service. One night I even remember thinking that maybe that would be the night for me to get saved, but as the service ended I was in a hurry to leave. About the next Sunday when the pastor gave his invitation I wanted to go forward so bad, but just couldn't seem to. He said that there were men there that needed to step out to be an example to their wives. He slipped back and asked us if we'd like to come to the alter. We said no. I told him I didn't have the faith it took to be a Christian. He said he didn't want to embarrass us, and went back to the front. On the way out he shook my hand, and said "Just think what we talked about."
Well, I didn't have to do much thinking. I knew in my heart what I needed to do. I thought to myself.."I told him I don't have the faith to be a Christian. I don't have faith in ANYTHING, so what would it hurt to try?" I made up my mind that the next Sunday I would go forward (although I could have prayed at any time). He continued his message from the last Sunday on the rapture. As soon as he finished I was headed for the alter. I hadn't even discussed this with my wife, but I looked and she was kneeling beside me! That was December 19, 1982. I'm not going to say I've been perfect, but God has been with us, supplied all our needs, and brought us through many trials.