[Word count: 901. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
I had a very close relationship with my grandfather. Raised primarily by my paternal grandparents so my mother could work full time and keep the family off of welfare, when my grandmother died in 1989, it was just Papa and I for years, thick as thieves. All he ever talked about me doing was going to college and getting an education. He came through the Great Depression, poverty, and decades of racism having raised a family of 4 on an 8th grade education. He wanted more than that for me.
My mother and I, similar as we were, were constantly at odds. When I turned 18, all I wanted to do was get away from her household and my small-minded hometown. College was my underground railroad to freedom. I thought I was running away from home, but really I was fleeing directly into a place God had set up for me.
I made friends who introduced me to their friends who introduced me to more friends who were Christian. I was Christian too, but not like they were. They were super passionate, very learned, and yet still fun. Their influence funneled me into a place where I could encounter the voice of God for myself.
Personally, I was not God-crazy at all. I read my bible like I was supposed to because I was told I should. I went to church every Sunday because I thought it was the right thing to do. But it was mostly perfunctory. God was an item on a to-do list, among other things that I may have had equal or higher regard for.
One thing I had the highest regard for was my music collection. eBay was only a few years old then, but I used it to the fullest amassing rare CDs, records, promotional singles, posters, performances, hard-to-find music videos, and memorabilia from my favorite artists. They were all meticulously sorted alphabetically and even cataloged in printed and bound folders so that I could take roll if I thought something was missing. That was my love.
But some of my passionate Christian friends felt ambivalent about with my attachment to secular music and took me task about it. They always approached me from a place of loving concern even if I responded with antipathy. One day after weeks of pointing out how my collecting had become idolatry, my friend asked, “Why don’t you just give it up?”
I don’t know what came over me. I said, “Okay.”
His eyes bugged. “Are you serious?!”
“Yes, but you better help me get this stuff out of here now before I change my mind.”
That night, we carried racks of video and audio cassettes to the dumpster. The next morning, I sold the common items at a local record store and put the rare items back up for auction on eBay. The change was radical and swift and I could not understand why I was so acquiescent about it. That was God’s hand.
After the sacrifice of my beloved secular music collection, there was an intense period of fervently studying the bible, fasting, and reveling in the newly discovered sensation of God’s presence. I discovered a radical, raw, young, strong church where my passion grew like that of the friends I met in college. I was becoming fortified. That was also God’s hand.
What I did not know was that my grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer. Having beat it once already 15 years prior, he decided he would not seek treatment. He called and told me this himself. There was nothing I feared more than this. I hung up the phone and did all of my mourning right then. He was given 2 months to live. He was gone in 2 weeks.
I never envisioned myself surviving Papa’s death. I thought I might just let go of the wheel one day on the 5 freeway and allow the car to careen me into my afterlife. But a strength came up from that place that God’s hand began preparing months prior to what I was clueless to. He saw danger ahead and shepherded me into a real relationship with him just in time. It was as if he said “You are about to face the most difficult passage of your life so far. It’s more than you can handle. But I’m going to make sure you get through it. Papa needs to leave, but I’m not going to abandon you.”
I had heard of God through other people before, but this is when he introduced himself to me. This is how I know him. This is my testimony. No studies or arguments can prove or disprove this. No apologetics can validate or invalidate it. I experienced it. I know it. This is why I believe in God.
When you know someone well, your image of them is shaped by your experiences together. If there’s ever a controversy as to who they are and what their character is, you go back to what you know. And this is what I know about God. He is a protector and a lifeguard. He is patient and willing to take things step-by-step with you. When I get lost as to how to apply my faith, I go back to this. I bring up the track record and remind myself who God is to me and how my relationship with him started.