On April 15, 1966, 6:30 PM, 4 months shy of my 21st birthday, my dumpster was transformed. Well, at least the transformation process began. I accepted the gift of Christ, the truth of His sacrifice for me and for all others. I knew it was the right choice to make, the right step to take, so I did it. No emotions attached. It was a “contract” between God and me. Spiritually speaking, I know the garbage was thoroughly eliminated, the dumpster cleaned with every possible spiritual cleansing solution, the most important and thorough being the blood of Jesus. [See April 15 post re: my Re-birthday for more details/insight.]
In actuality, it didn’t seem quite that way for a while. I was still prone to my habits of life – the BAD ones. I tried to break the patterns, but it took time and effort and energy, and repentance and over-the-top conviction as I repeated the sins I had “repented”, and on and on. Alcohol-based mis-behavior, sexual mentality [dirty jokes, foul mouth, porn, promiscuity], and, my forever personalized identity description: angry... really, really angry.
Scripture basically says that I had become a Vessel. And I believe that. I’m not so sure what the vessel looked like in those days, but don’t think there was a lot of silver and gold ... maybe something like the feet of the statue in Nebuchadnezzer’s dream that God used Daniel to interpret, the one with the feet mixed with iron and clay. Maybe I was starting there, and moving up ... bronze, silver, gold. But, at least the first two or three years, it was a gradual change. In my heart, the change was real; in my everydayness of life, the change hardly seemed real to my family or most of those who worked with me. I was still known as one tough cookie.
A few of the stories always stick out in my head, even after all these years:
I was saved while attending a small Baptist church. I was in the choir, and in November, just about half a year after my salvation, we sang “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul”. I just loved that song! After the service a teenage gal came up to me and said that she liked the song and knew I liked it because “you smiled today.” I gruffly responded, “I smile a lot!” She said, “Yes, but today you really smiled.”
The choir director, Lorna, and I became good friends. Some time later she said that when I had begun coming to church she didn’t know what would happen because I was the hardest looking person she had ever seen. That was shocking enough to hear at the time. However, years later, I had to laugh. I recalled that the church was across the street from a housing project, with both tough civilians and a number of military families, most connected to Fort Lewis, at the time of the Vietnam war. And I looked harder than any of them? Wow!
Often, Lorna’s husband, Bill, would come up to me and tell me I needed to wear less makeup, longer skirts, and on and on. The blessing, because of my independent, rebellious personality, was that everyone else came up and said, “You just be yourself. Don’t pay any attention to Bill.” If they had been legalistic and always in my face, I would have left the church, and maybe even fallen away from the Lord.
I DO recall that Pastor Mark, in his mid-20s, thought I could give him some advice on how to go into bars and share the gospel, because he had never been in one and he knew I was familiar with that lifestyle – even though I was hardly at the legal age. He wanted to use my “skills” to help him bring more people to Christ. I loved that man’s heart!
Over time, the addictions faded away, the radical behaviors slowly diminished, opportunities to serve landed on my plate, the depression and anger were less intense.