In my last blog, I shared a little about my childhood and the void I felt for something, or rather “Someone,” that would answer my deep-felt questions about life. (If you missed it, please click here.) Well, here’s “the rest of the story.”
Despite the fact that I grew up in a warm, loving home, I discovered by junior high school that the world offered a lot of mischief for an adventurous girl like me. Without the Bible to guide me, I proceeded to stretch my little wings as far and wide as they would carry me. Though I was short for my age and rather babyfaced, I somehow landed in the cool crowd and played the part well with long hair, hippie clothes, and heavy makeup to “grow me up.” Any lingering questions I had from childhood about the meaning and purpose of life were drowned out by the noise of the 1970s party scene. If I were perfectly honest, the noise made me feel “big” and I liked that.
A day came however, when I heard something, or rather Someone, speak above the loudness of the party. The voice was unexpected. It was uninvited. But it was irresistible! Here’s the setting: in the fall of my senior year in high school, Brenda Brooks, a high school friend, invited me to attend a church retreat with Willow Meadows Baptist Church. My only interest in the retreat was that students were promised a side trip to Baylor University (located near the retreat.) Baylor was on my list of colleges to apply to, but I hadn’t yet made a campus visit. It only made sense to say yes to this opportunity and my well-meaning friend.
So, there I was on a 15-passenger white church van with a hilariously funny youth pastor named Steve Seelig and a large group of “goody two-shoes” as I called them. I didn’t know why these “good kids” were different from the rowdies I hung out with, but they were. I figured I could roll with them for a few days, sing their camp songs, and slip away at the end of the weekend with no strings attached. It’s not that I was one of those high school “mean girls.” I wasn’t the cruel type. But neither was I a “nice girl” by common definition. I was a tiny, perky, (sometimes annoying) high school cheerleader with popular friends and lots to do on Friday nights. I felt I had a reputation to keep, which was anything but churchy.
In retrospect, I wonder if that boisterous youth leader and that van full of church kids were praying for me on that 4-hour drive to Latham Springs Camp, a rustic campground near Waco, TX. I suspect they were because on Friday, October 13, 1978 (the first night of the retreat), I somehow landed on the very front row of an outside tabernacle that held several hundred high school students. Out of politeness, I sang the songs as I had planned, clapped my hands, and began to listen.
What I didn’t expect to hear that crisp fall night – was the Gospel. Pure, plain, simple, and convicting, an evangelist named Dickie Dunn shared that apart from Jesus Christ, there was no forgiveness for sin, and that according to Romans 6:23, “. . . the wages of sin is death.” Death? At 17, I wasn’t thinking much about life, death, heaven, or hell! But I considered it that night and shuddered at the desperate state of my soul, which wasn’t “cool” at all from God’s perspective.
Sitting on the edge of my seat, I listened closely to the rest of the sermon based on Romans 6:23, which says, “ . . . but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Then suddenly, without warning, without protest, and without blinders, this miraculous truth pierced through my silly teenaged heart! I needed this gift. I wanted this gift. And this gift was found in Christ, who was “Someone” rather than something. I could not, I would not, and I dared not refuse Him! Every part of my being wanted this life in Christ. And every part of my being desired forgiveness for anything and everything that would otherwise cost me death!
Now, remember the setting of this crisp fall night? I was on the front row of an outside tabernacle. So, I had only a few bold steps to take when invited forward “to pray and receive Christ into my life.” I did – and I’ve never been the same. His presence in my life changed everything (including my view of those church kids who were a lot of fun and who welcomed me into their world without judgement.) I experienced exactly what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 17:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
I can’t fully explain how the redeeming love of Christ changes lives. I just know that it does because it happened to me. (It happened to my family members, too, who one by one came to know Christ!) Would my spiritual experience from 37 years ago continue to shape my life? Yes, entirely! Though my path has been rocky at times, and muddy in “several” places, my faith has given me clear meaning, which is to know Him; it’s given me clear purpose, which is to make Him known; and it’s given me a clear identity, which is that I belong to Him, forgiven and redeemed. That last part still makes me well up with tears, because Jesus Christ answered my deep-felt questions about life and He became my “Redeemer,” the One I heard about as a child in that Christmas song by Rosemary Clooney.
As may be obvious, my Christian faith also led me to write The Mystery of History for my children, your children, and generations to come – that they may attain “knowledge of the mystery of God” long before I did! (See Col. 2:2-3) But that’s another story for another time. Thank you for listening to my salvation story. (And thank you Brenda, Steve, and Dickie, for being faithful witnesses of the Gospel!)
For the Sake of the Mystery,
Linda Lacour Hobar