Train up a child in the way to go, and it will not depart from them.
When I entered college straight out of high school, I remember how out of place I felt moving from a small town to a men's dorm on campus 200 miles away. It didn't matter if I was moving 200 miles away from home, or 2,000, the feeling of leaving home for the first time was a real and frightening experience.
I felt like a fish out of water for the first few weeks and vulnerable to the unknown around me.
"Train up a child in the way he will go and it will not depart from him," was probably the most important hidden lesson my parents and I would learn from this point on.
As a freshman in the men's dorm, I was appointed a roommate who was a sophomore who had lived in the dorm his freshman year. He had learned all the dorm ropes and his job was to teach them to me.
We had our differences, though.
He played baseball, I played football. He liked pizza, I liked big hamburgers. I was a Christian from a small town, he a Jew from the city.
My first lesson was to quickly accept him and his differences so we could become friends, and so it was. We became close friends.
As I began to relax and enjoy campus life, I met interesting people from all over the world. People of different cultures and religious beliefs were learning together in the same classes. It was popular to interact with foreign students as much as possible, so I did.
As I became acquainted with the international people, I was invited to join in some their religious practices. The first I remember was a Buddhist prayer gathering. This was different from my own Christian experience, but in some ways alike. I also was invited to a Moslem dinner and later a Hindu celebration that involved a huge banquet dinner unlike my own cultural traditions.
I sensed sincere spiritual faith from all these international people, which inspired me to take more interest in my own personal beliefs and faith. In fact, my interests shifted from what seemed my most important, an education to further my career, to seeking the truth about who my creator was and what life after death had in store for me in eternity.
Shortly after my freshman year, I had a personal experience with Christ that would change my life forever. I nearly drowned in a surfing accident in Southern California and saw my whole life pass in front of me. I heard a voice speak to me, encouraging me to accept his help. I asked him who he was and he said, "Jesus."
I asked him why he wanted to help me, and he said, "I have a purpose for you and you have not fulfilled it." I asked him what my purposes was, and he said, "To get to know me." I then asked him, "How do I get to know you?" Jesus said, "Get to know my word."
There was more to our conversation, but the conversion was real for me. I needed a personal experience in my life with God to fulfill the purpose Jesus had for me to glorify him.
Later, my faith began to grow in God and his power to change lives. I believe I needed a personal experience with Christ to buff up for the trials life had in store for me. I found that without my wholehearted belief in God, I would not have the strength to press on, as I should.
John 17:3 states, "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
Wow! What a change in my life, to know that God is drawing me to himself without my help. Proverbs teaches us that unless God does the labor, he who labors, labors in vain. Isn't it good to know there is a God who is big enough and powerful enough to draw all people to himself without our help?
Finally, the other day, a friend shared with me a thought. He said, "Everywhere you go, you see signs, bumper stickers and posters that say, 'God bless America.' He has. Now it's time for us to bless God."
Let us all seek to know him with a sincere heart and pray for "One nation under the One true God," that we might know him and the power of his might.
Mark Conway is a Catholic evangelist from Soldotna, who has ministered in youth ministry and music worship in Washington State, Homer, Kenai and Soldotna. He now attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Soldotna.
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