And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
It was forty-five years ago today. My life has always been steeped in church, God, and stuff. I think my older brother had something to do with that. Dad tended to be a CEO attender—you know—Christmas and Easter only. But even with that said there were other ways that he clearly showed that he and God were on good speaking terms. Two of my favorite memories are of him praying. One time he was down on his knees leading us as a family in prayer. He never stood taller. The other happened when I came home late from a date and found him talking to our Dearest Father, hands clasped and head bowed.
Now, mama was more faithful at church except when she hit a bump or two. She liked to attend and she would take us with her. No questions asked. She sang, she led one of the girl’s classes, and she too was on good terms with Jesus. But there were a couple of times when her heart got hurt and she would sit out for a little while. It was then my oldest brother would take over the taxiing job and make sure I got to church. To this day I am grateful that he did that. Because of him habitually taking me, there has never been a time when I didn’t go to church. That was good but what happened forty-five years ago was far better.
Right out of high school I joined the Air Force and ended up stationed in Valdosta, Georgia at Moody Air Force Base. Since church was such a regular part of my calendar I made it a point to go—a lot. One Wednesday night I decided to go to one of the local churches. So I got there, opened the side door and right across the room was Judy Allen. She was beautiful and right there and then I decided I liked that church—a lot.
I started attending regularly for two reasons. It was what I was used to doing and Judy was there. We started dating right away and before too long we were engaged. She was probably too young and I was probably too old but, hey, that is sometimes the way of love. Well, in June of 1975 she met someone else—another guy. Fortunately for me it was Jesus. She, like me, was raised in church but she discovered that going to church and knowing Jesus were two entirely different things. Jesus waltzed into her life and she was like a new person—an even better person—better than I deserved for sure.
Well, a few months went by and at church one morning, October 26 to be exact, I bumped into the same Man she had met. Unexpectedly the pastor told a story about a man who had gone to church all his life and then realized he had never met Jesus. You might say he was religious, but not a Jesus follower. When I heard about him, I realized that was me—I was the same way—way too religious and way short on knowing Jesus as my best friend. That morning in Valdosta, Georgia at about 10:45 in the morning I met Jesus and my life changed forever. Jesus didn’t make me perfect that day but He sure made me forgiven. He put me on a new road and well, it has been amazing.
So, for forty-five years I have walked with Jesus and here I sit today, a pastor for thirty-eight of those years and writing stories. And Judy, well, in June of 1976, we decided to walk together and we just never stopped. Me, Judy, and Jesus—it has been quite the journey. For the past forty-five years, every year, I have celebrated two birthdays. The first is January 6, the day I was physically born. But I also celebrate October 26, the day I met Jesus and was spiritually born.
Every time I write a story I love to put a big truth in it about God. Well this story is a bit different—this time the story is Jesus and what He did for me and wants to do for you. Remember, don’t make the mistake I did—confusing religion and church with Jesus. They are not the same—He is a lot better. He said that we could know the truth and the truth would set us free. Well, the truth is He loves you, no matter what, more than you can imagine. The truth is, He wants you to trust Him, to rest in Him. The truth is He’s got this. Trust me, I know.