She just held me and let me cry until I was so exhausted and out of tears. She talked to me about a personal relationship with Jesus. She told me how much He loved me and how He could heal my wounded heart if I would let Him in my life. It all didn’t make sense at first. I went to Catholic school and read the Bibles stories for homework but I never once heard this message of hope. I just thought if my good deeds outweighed my bad deeds at the end of my life I would enter the pearly gates. God cared about my daily life? He wanted a relationship with me? It seemed so mind blowing but something in my heart screamed, “Yes I want that.” I told Pam, “You show me in my Bible what you just said and I will believe you.” So she flipped open my Catholic bible and showed me verses that backed up what she was saying.
She told me that we all had sinned and fell short of God’s standard of perfection (Romans 3:23). She didn’t need to convince me of that, I certainly knew I fell waaay short of perfection. In the Bible it talks about the penalty for our actions is death and separation from God (Romans 6:23). But that God sent his son Jesus to this earth to live a sinless life. He died on the cross as a penalty for my sin and made a way for me to experience eternal life in heaven and joy on this earth (Romans 5:8). There is no amount of good that I can do to earn my way into heaven. That it is a free gift because of who God is and His love for me (Ephesians 2:8-9). All I needed to do was invite Jesus into my life (Romans 10:9-10, John 3:16).
It seemed weird and overwhelming. Hearing about God’s love for me and how He could change me opened my eyes. I somehow understood how these ‘church people’ had this love that was unexplainable. What intrigued me about church people was really God working through these people to love me. Unbelievable.
So that night August 9, 1994 I prayed for the first time in my life with an open heart and an earnest plea. I asked Jesus to cleanse me of all the wrong things I did, to come into my life, and that I believed in Him. I walked away from that conversation a changed person. I felt the weight of the world off my shoulders and a joy unexplainable.
Needless to say I gave Pam more than 20 minutes We got back to the cabin late that night. I drifted to sleep with the most peaceful feeling I have ever felt in my life.
I woke up the next morning and our cabin was filled with balloons and streamers. Word had spread that “the tough girl everyone was praying for” asked Jesus into her life and everyone was so excited that they wanted to celebrate. They said that when someone becomes a Christian that the angels in heaven throw a party (Luke 15:10) and that it was my spiritual birthday and they wanted to celebrate. I started to cry and said, “No today is my real birthday.” Little did anyone know (except my cousin and Pedes) that August 10th was my 17th birthday. It was so tender to me that these people I didn’t even know cared enough to do that for me. The sweet part was that it was my birthday..but the bigger deal was that I had this new faith and they wanted to make sure I knew how special I was. Everyone signed a book for me congratulating me and they bought me a camp sweatshirt. I still have both of those things to this day.
Pedes came up to me and asked me what happened that night with Pam. She said, “Everyone is talking about you today, what happened last night?” I tried to explain it to her but I told her to go talk to Pam. Pam told her the same message that she told me the night before and Pedes asked Jesus to come into her life that day. It was a whirlwind of a week for both of us.
I know many of you reading this blog do not share my faith. (You can say all day long that there is no God but) No matter what your belief is about God you can’t deny the change that took place in my life that day. I know Jesus is real because He changed me. That day was a marked moment in my life. I was one person one day and a completely new creation the next day. That day at Silver Birch Ranch in White Lake, Wisconsin God became real to me and I have not been the same since.
I didn’t call Jake again that week. I didn’t really know what to say to him. It was all so new and overwhelming and I couldn’t talk about it without crying. This crying thing was something I was going to have to get used to. Whenever, I talked about God’s love I couldn’t help but tear up.
After not hearing from me for three days Jake was a little freaked. He called my mom to see if it was okay if he picked me up when I arrived back into town. She said that was okay. I got off the bus and immediately saw Jake…my heart skipped a beat…how was I going to explain the change that had taken place in my life that week? Would he think I was a freak? Would he still want to be with me now that my priorities had changed and our relationship would change?
I took a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other and walked towards Jake…