I’ve been in a variety of group settings where we were tasked to talk about three things: 3 people that impacted our lives, 3 places of supreme importance and 3 events which changed our trajectory. It is a wonderful exercise in reflection. I encourage you to do it. It may surprise you to hear some of the answers of those closest to you. It is an amazing way to determine how God has been a perpetual force in my life by providing providential relationships and pivotal circumstances within the backdrop of a special place. So very powerful.
In many of my writings, I have given thanks to some of those important people and told of some of those events. Recently, however, I discovered that I have a new person that has built a bridge into the past to one of my pivotal circumstances. That person being Andy Stanley. He is a Rockstar to me. I say it all the time. I know that I am only one of the many lives touched by this man’s ability to communicate. However, I feel compelled to lay my bricks along that path.
I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, thanks to my wonderful Grandparents for taking me and encouraging me. I have a very early memory of them letting me walk to church by myself. Of course, they were following from a safe distance behind, allowing me to think that I was on my own. My grandmother would put a few Ritz crackers in my tiny little purse, just in case I got hungry. Those were two very big motivators for my Sunday experience. There was never a time that I don’t remember going to church and feeling as if I were a Christian. I was baptized as a baby, attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible Schools, was confirmed as a young teen and was an attender each and every Sunday. Attender, which translates to: I was present. However, it was just a ritual for me. I knew the words of prayers. I knew when to stand and sit throughout the service. I knew what was coming next. I was an insider to the ways of our denomination, but I was really an outsider to what mattered most. I listened politely to the sermons on Sunday and as I walked out through the Church door, so too did the message from my head. I simply could not apply it to my life.
That all changed for me in my junior year of high school. I started going to Young Life meetings. I loved the music. I loved studying the scripture. I loved the leaders who were so passionate about Jesus. I finally found applicability to my life. I found the Bible, not to be a dusty old book after all, but rather one that had relevance, even to a naive teenager. It was life changing. I begged my parents to let me go on the Young Life western tour. It was a month long trip across the country on a bus with other teens and young Young Life leaders. They immersed themselves in our angst and gave us life lines to a better way of thinking. Seeds were scattered on ground that was becoming fertile. On a mountain top in Colorado, I gave my life to Christ, for real this time. It has always remained among my top 3. I came home and lived it my senior year. However, I could never reconcile my Young Life experience with what I felt when I went to church and I could never understand why, but I had them both so I was okay. Then I went off to college and Young Life became a thing of my past. In retrospect, I realized that I merely stood at the doorway of a new found belief in Jesus, but that is where I stopped short. So, I put my faith on the shelf for a while only to dust it off when I got married, and began the ritual again….I was an attender again, who thought myself to be a Christian, and knew the drill. It was almost as if the Young Life experience was a mirage.
Then along came Andy, many years later…and he built a bridge. He is a providential person in my life that very clearly connected my mountain top experience of long ago to my present life and gave relevance to scripture again, enabling me to revive my story. It was an electrifying deja’ vu moment! Those seeds that had lain dormant on my teenage soil, began to sprout. Andy’s consistent encouragement to read my Bible and trust God with every aspect of my life had real implication, as well as real application. I realized that it wasn’t too late to start maturing as a Christian. I wish that I had found Andy sooner, but maybe I wouldn’t have been ready. I would imagine that he was finding his way as well during those years that I was drifting along with my generic faith. Thank goodness God had a plan for both of us. I can’t begin to thank Andy enough for being the architect of that bridge and sharing his Gift with me. He has earned a cherished place as one of my three. But even more so, I can begin to thank God for not giving up on me.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7-11