For me, the greatest challenge that kept me from Him was acknowledging that I needed Him in my life. I believed that there was a God, but which God, I never resolved. When I went to Sunday school for a year in the sixth grade, I heard an analogy that convinced me that there is a God in control of the universe. The teacher asked if we all knew how many parts there were to a watch. We all knew there were a lot of pieces (chances are, us kids had at least broken one to find out). Then she proposed two possibilities. One, she took all the parts and put them together into a watch. Or two, she put them all in a shoebox and shook them up into a watch. Which was more likely?
The watch analogy helped me formulate my ideas of what later became the concept of an “Intelligent Designer” (term taken from Lee Strobel’s Case for Faith). The world we live in, is not here by mere chance. It is intricately and specifically put together with inhuman accuracy and precision. In nature, the balance that exists is amazing. I have a difficult time believing that life is by chance. It is more likely to me, that it is by choice.
And my choice to accept Christ into my life is as typical and atypical as salvation stories go. I did what I scorned other guys for. I checked it out because of a girl. I shook my head at the very notion of changing for anyone else. Everyone was suppose to be of their own individual, be happy with who and what they were, and all the other self-edifying ideas I had. My problem was that I didn’t know who I was exactly.
After I graduated out of Oregon State University, I wasn’t able to find a job right away. I had studied computer science but I was convinced that programming wasn’t the line of work for me. As I went to interviews, it became more apparent that my gut feeling was right. So I began to wonder where I was going to go with my life, as most graduates do.
With no job, but luckily no debt out of school, I spent the year thinking a lot about what I wanted out of life. I spent a vast majority of time playing video games and dancing west coast swing. Along the way, I accepted a volunteer position to be the Portland Swing Dance Club webmaster. I enjoyed that opportunity very much because it helped me ease into my current job as a webmaster at Vernier Software & Technology.
As I danced throughout that year, I met some wonderful people. The Board of Directors of the Portland Swing Dance Club (PSDC) were a generous bunch who dedicated themselves in providing a growing environment for west coast swing in Portland. There were dancers from all walks of life, from doctors and business executives to college students and high schoolers. It was through dancing that one of my greatest hopes came true: I met a girl who I loved to dance with and liked her as a person as well.
Not only did I meet my soulmate, I got acquainted with two other girls that were her friends. What caught my eye was the kindness, compassionate, and good about them. I had met Tracy, Mary, and Jennilyn through social dancing in Portland and I had to the privilege to go on dancing road trips with them. As I spent more time with the mischievous trio, I began to learn of their source of happiness and strength. They each had difficulties in life that didn’t phase them. I admired how well they dealt with circumstances and loved people.
As I developed a deeper friendship with Jennilyn, it became very apparent how much God had a presence and influence in her life. I admired how virtuous she was in spirit and mind. It was not for show. It was geniune. Most of my previous encounters with the Christian faith had not separated them from non-Christians in their lifestyle. Sadly, I felt that their faith was an excuse for their behavior rather than an inspiration.
However, I was quite content of who I was, stubborn and all. I felt that I led a good life, living on qualities that my parents and school teachers had taught me over the years. So while I admired the girls’ faith, I didn’t feel that I needed it myself. That attitude would become a source of frustration for a few months as Jennilyn and I became interested in being more than just friends—or just social dance friends for that matter.
Driven to become a better dancer, I studied dance videos often to watch the professionals and “steal” their moves. One of my desires was to find a suitable partner to help me continue growing as a dancer. I really wanted Jennilyn to be my partner, for social dance competitions at first, then perhaps choreograph a routine together down the road. Jennilyn and I had spoken about our dance goals and dreams, and I distinctly remember raising an eyebrow at how defined she was as a person. A refreshing scent of confidence and knowing of herself. She had discovered from her experience that in order for her to partner with someone in dance, her partner must fit into two distinct categories: only a friend or someone she will marry.
I felt that was a pretty strong conviction so I shyed away from asking for a while. But I gave in eventually and asked because we danced very well together. I loved how she followed my lead yet emphasized the music throughout. She moved gracefully and sharply. I had hoped that she felt the same about how well we danced and changed her “rule” for me. Alas, that wasn’t the case. All I did was cause a frustration between us. For I had step out of the role of a friend in her heart, but could not be someone she could marry because of my spiritual direction.
Through this time, I pondered more about the Christian faith some more. Tracy was kind and gentle in inviting me to discuss about it in a non-threatening environment. Jennilyn offered me some books and my own bible to encourage me to learn more about it. For them, sharing their love of God was not an act of trying to convert me. There is a love in their life that brings them so much peace, happiness, and life that they would feel selfish not sharing it. I understood that. I loved dance very much and spoke about it any chance I could. I happily shared the joys of dancing to anyone who would listen. In social dancing in general, having more people come means there are more different people to dance with!
Jennilyn meant a lot to me, I was very hesitant to fall in love with her because I knew that it would end the friendship indefinitely since we could not be just friends afterwards. I gave up a few times, but was always led back to her. At one dance convention, I had already settled in my heart to just avoid her and enjoy myself. But when a dance professional paid a lot of attention to her and danced with her a lot, I felt my blood boil. And I got further annoyed that I had such deep aggression for someone I’m wasn’t dating!
I’ll give it a chance, I told myself. I couldn’t give up Jennilyn just because of our differences in faith. There were so many great qualities in her that to have my lack of knowledge of Christianity be our Achilles’ Heel would be a tragedy. With her encouragement, I started reading Lee Strobel’s “Case for Christ.” My first impression after the first chapter was an attitude of defensiveness. It wasn’t until I started taking mass transit to work every morning (an hour commute) that I began to see the whole concept of Christianity differently. I got to know Jesus. I learned about the significance of His life for everyone.
One of the things that helped me grasp how someone two thousand years ago helps me today was considering everything around me that I use in my life. The laptop I have was put together by a company of people who I’ll never meet yet reap the benefits of their hard labor. The same as the engineers who designed it, the programmers who wrote the operating system software I use, the workers at Costco where I bought the laptop from. I learned that I could be thankful for what Jesus did for me personally despite having never met Him or see Him help me.
The Cross is an image I had come to recognize as a symbol for Christianity. Nothing more. But after reading the book, the Cross took on a new meaning. It was the place where Jesus gave His life for everyone, to give us all the possibility to be reconciled with a Holy God when we are human—humans who have sinned. Believing that I led a good life and yet still remained unacceptable to God was difficult for me to understand. I found it hard to believe that loving God would forsake anyone who didn’t believe in His Son but led a virtuous life. It was equally hard to accept that His forgiveness was and is a free gift for all who would let Him be the Lord of their life.
I’m a person of logic and reason. For me to accept something that I could not see or sense in some physical form was a stretch of faith. Then I came to realization one day about faith. We all walk in faith every day. Where we put our faith in is what makes us different. As I contemplated marriage, I discovered that there is no assurances that my wife would never leave me. There was no guarantee. While normally that would scare me, I felt at peace. Marriage—love for that matter—is a step of faith. I can only know my side and must trust the other end to hold to their promises. I could walk through life with fear because I lack control of everything, or walk through life with faith and be happy in what I receive rather than the continuing drive to attain what I don’t have.
I also came to my understanding of what love is. The power of forgiveness demonstrated to me through Jennilyn floored me. The level of forgiveness and compassion she showed me was strange to me. To not retaliate or punish me for my wrongs but to let them go and accept me as who I am reached me in the last place I hid from the Lord.
By the end of the book, the author challenged me to make a choice about Jesus. From all that he had uncovered through careful and detailed investigation, Jesus was one of two things: The unique Son of God who became flesh so that He could serve and save us all—or a demonic entity. There was no place for Him to be just a man, just a teacher, just a story.
When I closed the book, all that Lee Strobel wrote rang true in my heart. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and change me forever. There was no lightning, no thunder, no voice from the heavens. I didn’t fall to my knees and cried as I’ve heard others do. I looked around and the world didn’t end. But I died and a life with Christ was born. It wouldn’t be until months later before I could see the treasures He seeded in my life.
One thing that bugged me about Christianity was the need to evangelize. It seemed rude to me to force my beliefs and views on others. After accepting Christ, I still believe that. It is rude. However, the attitude of evangelism changed for me. In being blessed by the Lord with hope, faith, and love, the urge to evangelize isn’t a assimilation mission, but a friendly invitation. I love dance. I’d always try to encourage others to pick up dancing as a hobby because it’s a great fun with people. And the more people out dancing, the more variety of partners to dance with. The same applies for my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Having Him in my life is too great of a joy to keep to myself. I want to share it with others.
In walking with the Lord, life hasn’t been any easier. In fact, it’s been tougher some times, but I have faith in Him, the Father in Heaven who loves me, to lead me to where I’m meant to go. I’ve been really blessed with the Lord and my hopes are that my story will inspire you to get to know Jesus. It is to be the most important relationship you make.