Why am I a Christian?
Because God loves me unconditionally, far more than I thought possible, and regardless of all my shortcomings and wrong choices.
In 1959, I was an unwanted child. My biological mother and father were in the process of getting a divorce when I was born, and they really didn’t want another kid. My mom didn’t even want my half-brother and half-sister she’d already had from her previous marriage. From what I’m told, my half-bother Dennis bears a scar on his face from the hot iron my mother had disciplined him with for talking back to her.
When I was fifteen days old, my grandmother and aunt took me away when they found my skin blistered and bleeding from an infected rash after wearing the same unchanged diaper for several days. I take it that she just wasn’t the motherly type. I really don’t know, since my only memory was a framed 8×10 picture of her standing in front of my dad that was on my dresser as I grew up. I could see the resemblance between us, but I never saw her again after being taken away.
I grew up hearing the stories of how my dad was planning to take me to the mountains and leave me there, but my grandmother wouldn’t let him. I wasn’t a very good fit for his life so he wanted me out of it, and abandoning me to die in the wilderness was for him apparently the best solution. Looking at my childhood pictures, I can see a lot of sadness in my eyes. It was the sadness of a very small, rejected person that couldn’t begin to understand what he had done so wrong to cause hatred by the big people around him that he just wanted to count on and be loved by.
It wasn’t until I started school that I began to realize that I was different from most of the other kids. I didn’t understand at first that “normal” kids had a mommy and daddy they lived with. All I knew were grandparents, aunts, and an uncle; although for several years my dad was my next door neighbor where he lived with his third wife and new step-brother and younger half-brother.
I never really felt like I fit in anyplace, and I always felt rather unwanted because I wasn’t good enough. I had a few friends, but I was always suspicious of people and always afraid they would leave me, so I never really got close to anyone except my grandmother. And if someone said something I didn’t like, I would lash out in a vicious attack, either verbal or physical – usually both. It felt good to hurt people the way I was hurting, and it was easy to see the tender spots that would inflict the most pain. I seemed to have a gift for finding other people’s vulnerabilities.
My aunt had always taken me to church, so I learned about God. And I knew He loved me. At least, that was what they told me. But I didn’t really understand the love thing too well. I knew He was my Heavenly Father, so my picture of Him was this huge all-powerful being that would turn away from me and punish me when I did wrong – and then banish me to Hell forever when it was all done. I gave my heart to God only in empty words out of fear of going to Hell. I thought this life on earth was Hell enough and – if I behaved myself – maybe God would accept me and not hurt me.
But after my grandmother died, I openly hated God. How could a loving God be so cold-hearted and cruel to take way the only good thing I’d ever had? I cried for ten years and did terrible things in my agony and anger.
But I didn’t sink so far or wander such a distance that God was not there. So many times I did senseless things that should have gotten me killed. But every time, God was close by, protecting me, loving me, and waiting for me with wide open arms and forgiveness for the mistakes I had made. He wasn’t even mad at me, and He didn’t want to punish me; He wanted to save me from eternal punishment and give me good things to make me happy in this life. I came to realize that He didn’t take my grandmother away to hurt me, but instead He took her to a better place to relieve and comfort her from the agonizing pain she was in during her last years of life as her body was shutting down and gangrene began rotting away her toes and feet. He was not a God of anger and retribution. He was a God of love and mercy.
God taught me a lesson about unconditional love when my daughter Amy was born in 1991. As I held that small newborn life in my hands, wondering how could I be a good father for this sweet child, something broke inside me.
The love I had never felt came flooding into me. Amy didn’t do anything to earn or deserve my love. I just loved her because she was my flesh made alive. She was a part of me, just like I am a part of my Heavenly Father. He loves me because I am His creation, and His breath is what gives me life. He loves me because I’m me – a part of Him – no matter what I’ve done.
How could my parents not love me? I was an innocent child, just as this little baby in my arms was innocent. I had done nothing wrong. Instead, there was something terrible and wicked deep inside of them, and their actions had planted a darkness inside me that wasn’t my fault. But even though my father and mother had broken me at birth, my Heavenly Father now mended me during my re-birth and made me into a real person instead of just an empty shell. He took what was dark and filled it with light.
When I asked Jesus to come into my life after I had lived the wrong way for so long, He rescued me from the dark thoughts and hatred that filled my mind. I finally felt the love I was missing, and He took away my pain, heartaches, and self-pity. He gave me more love and comfort than I could ever have possibly imagined. I felt like I was finally complete and at peace. I love God so much. And because He loved me first, I can also finally love those surrounding me.
This love that God has for us is something far too wonderful and marvelous not to share with others. If you are living in darkness or pain, there is healing for you that is only one prayer away. Does it happen instantly? Part of it does. But the rest of it is a journey. I hope you’ll join hands with me as we walk this path to a better place together.