I lusted after that magnifying glass. Today I can still feel the smooth glass, see that beautiful orb encased by a gold band and the way it slid softly into the round leather case that it was attached to. It was owned by my neighbor. I stole it from him. At seven years old I was fully acquainted with my own evil and the shame that sin produces.
My father was in prison and my mom was in and out of the hospital. Dad was a plumber for Los Angeles County, fixing all the county buildings including the jails. Mom worked as a nurse at Valley Presbyterian Hospital.
I first heard Jesus’ words in a Mormon living-room*. On the days that mom worked the Mormon family down the street took care of my sister and I. I remember hearing Jesus talk about loving your neighbor. Statements about ‘removing the log from your own eye before removing the speck from the eye of your brother’ struck me as true. This man did not teach as normal men his message was deeper, different.
I attended the Junior High Youth Group to meet girls but stuck around for the sermons. It became clear to me that Christ was God incarnate. Understanding enough doctrine to know that I wanted Christ to lead my life, I made a public profession and was baptized at the age of sixteen.
One college afternoon found me walking across the campus lawn thinking, “Is this all there is?” That same season we had a new pastor at the church. Lanny was the first pastor that I’d heard preach from the bible and exegete the text. During this time I enrolled in an evangelism program. As I trained for the course I came to fully understand that I was a sinner and could not earn my salvation. I grew increasingly hungry to read the bible and spend time in study with other Christians.
Growing in grace began to free me from the extensive guilt which had ruled my life. The process would be lifelong, but understanding that God chose me before time began and loves me unconditionally radically changed my outlook on life. Guilts’ little brother anxiety had followed me around for a long time as well. He began to leave me alone after I realized that I could “cast all my anxiety upon Him, because He cares for me.”
In the years since God has been gracious and compassionate, though that sometimes meant using a two-by-four to get my attention. Christ is ever sweeter, joy is ever greater and mercy is poured out abundantly on this sinner saved by grace.
* God shielded me from the counterfeit while calling me to the true.