...Someone asked me, "How do you know you became a Christian?" One of several answers was simple: "It has changed my life." It is this transformation that assures me of the validity of my conversion...the change was not immediate, but it was real. In six to eighteen months, I knew that I had not gone of the deep end. My life WAS changed. At about that time I was in a debate with the head of the history department at a Midwestern university. I was telling him about my new life, and he interrupted me with, "McDowell, are you trying to tell me that God has really changed your life? Give me some specifics." After listening to me explain for forty-five minutes, he finally said, "Okay, okay, that's enough!"
One change I told him about was my relief from my restlessness. Before I accepted Christ, I always had to be occupied. I had to be over at my girlfriend's place, at a party, at the student union, or running around with friends. I'd walk across the campus with my mind in a whirlwind of conflicts. I was always bouncing of the walls. I'd sit down and try to study or cogitate but couldn't do it. But after I made the decision for Christ, a kind of mental peace settled over me. Don't misunderstand; I don't mean all conflicts ceased. What I found in this relationship with Jesus wasn't so much the absence of conflict as the ability to cope with it. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world...Jesus changed me in another way. I'm not proud of it, but I mention if because many people need the same change, and I want to show them the source of that change: a relationship with the resurrected, living Christ. The problem is hatred. I had a heavy load of hatred weighing me down. It didn't show outwardly, but it kept grinding away inwardly. I was ticked off with people, with things, with issues. I was insecure. Every time I met anyone different from me, that person became a threat, and I reacted with some level of hatred.
I hated one man more than anyone else in the world--my father. I hated his guts. I was mortified that he was the town alcoholic. If you're from a small town and one of your parents is an alcoholic, you know what I mean. Everybody knows. My high school would make jokes about my father's drinking. They didn't think it bothered me because I fell in with the joking and laughed with them. I was laughing on the outside, but let me tell you, I was crying on the inside. I would go to the barn and find my mother beaten so badly she couldn't get up, lying in the manure behind the cows. When we had friends over, I would take my father out to the barn, tie him up, and park his car behind the silo. We would tell our guests he'd had to go somewhere. I don't think anyone could hate a person more than I hated my father.
About five months after I made the decision for Christ, a love from God entered my life so powerfully that I took that hatred, turned it upside down, and emptied it out. I was able to look my father squarely in the eyes and say, "Dad, I love you." And I really meant it. After some of the things I'd done to him, that really shook him up.
After I transferred to a private university, a serious car accident put me in the hospital. When I was moved home to recover, my father came to visit me. Remarkably, he was sober that day. But he seemed uneasy, pacing about the room. Then he blurted out, "Son, how can you love a father like me?" I answered, "Dad, six months ago I despised you." Then I shared with him the story of my research and conclusion about Jesus Christ. I told him, "I have placed my trust in Christ, received God's forgiveness, invited Him into my life, and he has changed me. I can't explain it all, Dad, but God has taken away my hatred for you and replaced it with the capacity for love. I love you and accept you just the way you are."
We talked for almost an hour, and then I received one of the greatest thrills of my of my life. This man who knew me too well for me to pull the wool over his eyes looked at me and said, "Son, if God can do in my life what I've seen him do in yours, then I want to give him the opportunity. I want to trust him as my savior and Lord." I cannot imagine a greater miracle.
Usually after a person accepts Christ, the changes in his or her life occur over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years. In my own life the changed took about six to eighteen months. But the life of my father changed right before my eyes. It was as if God reached down and flipped on a light switch. Never before or since have I seen such a dramatic change. My father touched an alcoholic beverage only once after that day. He got it as far as his lips before thrusting it away. Forever. I can come to only one conclusion: a relationship with Jesus Christ changes lives.
There was another person in my life that I needed to forgive. His name was Wayne, a man who worked for my parents when I was growing up on the farm. When my mom had to run for an errand or was gone for a longer period of time, Wayne was put in charge of watching me. Mom would march me up to Wayne and say, "Now you obey Wayne and do everything he asks you to do. If you don't, you are going to get a thrashing when I get home." Trust me; you didn't want to get a thrashing from my mother.
But I would have gladly taken the thrashings if I had known what Wayne had in store for me. From the time I was six years old until I was thirteen, he sexually abused me regularly. When I told my mother, she refused to believe me. At thirteen, I threatened Wayne. "If you ever touch me again, I will kill you." Wayne knew I was serious and he stopped.
I wanted Wayne to burn in hell and I was willing to escort him there. The memories of the abuse scarred me. But after coming to Christ I knew I needed to forgive Wayne, just as I had forgiven my father. I confronted Wayne once again and said, "Wayne, what you did to me was evil. But I trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and have become a Christian. I've come to tell you that Jesus died as much for you as he did for me. I forgive you." It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. I could never have done it on my own. If you have a similar story, be assured that you don't have to face your demons alone either. Your past CAN be overcome with God's help.
You can laugh at Christianity, you can mock it and ridicule it. But it works. It changes lives. I should say JESUS CHRIST changes lives. Christianity is not a religion; it's not a system; it's not an ethical idea; it's not a psychological phenomenon. It's a person. If you trust Christ, star watching your attitudes and actions because Jesus Christ is in the business of changing lives.
from: More Than a Carpenter
by: Josh and Sean McDowell