It was in the BSU that I first experienced theological opposition to my Pentecostal belief system. Several of us would sit around and discuss any number of topics. But the ‘pet topic’ was, of course, the nature of salvation. Most of my Baptist friends believed in ‘Once Saved Always Saved,’ and the BSU chaplain was a staunch Calvinist. Many a time I would walk away from these conversations with my faith deeply rocked. I began to spend more and more time studying my faith. However, at the same time, I began to slide ever closer to giving into certain sins that I had been battling. This combination led to some very sincere questions about my faith. I began to go to the computer lab and get on the internet, reading articles from points of view that I had never encountered. It was like I was stepping onto a new planet.
I began reading polemic works against Christianity. Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason proved to be the key to unlocking all kinds of truly unoriginal thoughts, but ones that were new to me. All this time I was still living at home, still dating the same girl, still chaffing under the pressue of a faith I was once again struggling with. It came to a head one night at church. I was in serious conflict. My pastor’s wife could ‘sense’ it, I suppose. She came and urged me to come to the front for prayer. I did not want to disappoint, so I went. Prayers went up to heaven for me, and yet I felt nothing. I didn’t want to feel anything.
I walked away that night, convinced that all that I had experienced in my life concerning religion was false. It wasn’t long afterward that my girlfriend and I broke up over these issues. I moved out of my parents’ home and began to forge a life of my own. For awhile everything was a new discovery. For the last years of college, I declared myself an atheist and rejected the whole idea of religion. I was pretty vocal about it, and found myself speaking in front of Intro to Religion classes – as an example of ‘an atheist’. I thought this new ‘freedom’ was . . . well, liberating. Yet, soon I began to dabble in drugs and alcohol, and I began battling episodes of depression. It wasn’t long before I realized that life away from God was not very satisfying. I was too proud, however, to make my way back.
After graduating college, I planned to attend lawschool. I had a dorm lined up, loans ready to go, and I was working for a local lawyer – getting my feet wet in the world of ‘law’. I had moved back home with my parents for the summer, before heading off to law school. It was during this time that I began to be around some of my former friends from Church. The peace in their lives was very convincing. My former youth pastor (and a very close friend) told me that the youth camp I had attended while younger was happening in a couple of weeks. He invited me down. I shrugged it off and went about my way. However, I was flipping channels one day and came upon TBN, and saw Deion Sanders giving his testimony. Now, I’ve never been a fan of TBN, but his testimony struck m for some reason. I began weeping. It was Thursday afternoon, and I just ‘knew’ that I had to get to Youth Camp. That the depression, the pain, the emptiness would go away if I could just get there.
I hopped in my truck. With no air conditioning, a pack of cigarettes, and emotions running high, I drove the two hours to the Camp. I’ll never forget walking into the tabernacle that night. Everyone seemed to remember me. Everyone wanted to welcome me. The love I felt was amazing. I remember seeing my former girlfriend there. She was perfect. Everything was perfect. This would be it. The end of my doubts, my confusion. I would make a committment here. Now. I sat among some old friends and the night service began. The choir sang a song titled, “Salt Pillar,” about the wife of Job, about the consequences of turning away from God, and the rewards awaiting those who kept on the journey. I ran to the altar. I only remember pouring my heart out to God, and truly feeling that He had poured His out to me.