Remember what some of you were when you were called . . . .
Aren’t you glad to know that God sees something worthwhile in you? That was one of the greatest discoveries of my early Christian life.
Like many people my self-image was virtually non-existent. I felt terrible about the person that God had created me to be. As a teenager, I typically looked for acceptance in the group of teens who were the most popular. That was a losing battle for me because there were self imposed limits that I adhered to. I would not drink or smoke – not because I was a part of a Christian home – simply because I had made a promise to my father. He did both but asked my brother and I, out of respect for his wishes to stay away from it until we were older and on our own. We both made and kept that promise.
I also was horrified by the sense of guilt that accompanied sexual sin. I remember the day that I discovered my father’s stash of pornography under the stairs. I sinned against my own conscience even as a non-Christian when I lustily familiarized myself with the material there. Whenever I was alone in the house, I was enticed to return there and I did. I felt ashamed at the lust that burned within me, as though that made me different than others. I was a pervert in my own estimation and to ashamed to talk to anyone about the way that I was feeling. That’s the nature of sin I guess – to isolate, to conceal, thinking that the truth would bring rejection and so I had my secret life as a teen – needlessly in bondage. My fear of sexual involvement with young ladies brought further rejection and I was alone and frustrated with my desire to be loved and accepted.
And then the realization that we were poor, seemed to drive another wedge. We had no indoor bathroom and so I was never able to invite friends over, for fear that they might have to use the facilities while they were there. I couldn’t imagine having to give directions: “Just go down the hill and turn right at the pine tree, the little green shed is what you are looking for.”
And then . . . Jesus! I had courted the Sunday School as a young child and heard the message of the gospel. In my heart I knew that I was lost and that Christ wanted me to give my heart to Him. There was a problem though. I also knew that I was to be a preacher. There was no choice. I could not obey partially. If I was to be a Christian, I had to be a preacher. It was fear that kept me from that, fear of people, lack of confidence in myself and in God and I wrestled unsuccessfully for a couple of years until I gave in unconditionally. Some young men visiting the island inspired me relative to Christian witness. These guys were “cool”! They played guitars and talked openly about their faith. If I was to be a Christian I knew that this was what I was supposed to be like.
The strangest thing happened . . . . I discovered that the more open I became about my faith, the more accepted I became. This encouraged me further and others began to do the same. Revival came to the small community and I was initiated to the ministry as a teenage youth pastor (before we ever heard of one) leading a group of upwards to 100 teens from many different churches. It was a “God-thing”.
I did not have a clue what I was doing that was successful and as a matter of fact, I never even asked the question. In many ways, these were among my most memorable years in ministry. I had never heard a motivational speaker. I don’t think that I had ever used the words “time” and “management” next to each other. No one had ever spoken to me about leadership qualities or habits or characteristics or anything else. God was enough back then. I suspect that this has not changed although we act as though it might have at times.