16 years ago today, I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. What follows is the story I used to tell people:
“After I graduated from high school, my life felt meaningless. I had no direction, no purpose, no hope. The only thing that got me through the day was the chance to get high again, but that always left me feeling dull and empty by the time I fell asleep. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I didn’t care. What was the point, anyway? I knew we were all nothing more than bacteria living on a speck of dust in the middle of a cold, dark universe. So why not live it up while I had the chance? But doing drugs only brought relief for a few hours at a time. Every time I came down, a cloud of fear and sadness enveloped me.
“Each day bled into the next, and one morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I fell to my knees and prayed, “God, if you’re there, please help me. Please tell me what to do.” Immediately something in me changed. The emptiness was gone, and I felt the warm presence of the Holy Spirit. In my mind I heard the words, “I am with you,” and I wept. On that morning–August 31st, 1998–I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. I made it my mission to love him and serve him until the day he took me home. After that my life had meaning again, and that cloud of fear and sadness dissipated and never returned.”
Yup, the Southern Skeptic himself used to spout this nonsense. The details varied from one telling to the next, but the gist remained the same. From the ages of 18 to 21, I was on fire for Christ, a bonafide Jesus Freak and proud of it. And I kept a detailed journal the entire time. In the subsequent series of posts I am going to share excerpts from my journal and respond to them. I expect this to be an interesting experience for me considering how much I’ve changed over the past 16 years.
Let me set the stage: I had just graduated from high school, but I wasn’t enrolled in college. I was a cashier at Kmart, I only had a few friends, and I lived with my parents. So as I said in my testimonial, my life had no direction, and because of that I was often very depressed. Giving my life to Jesus was a convenient solution. I already believed in god, my parents were dedicated Southern Baptists, and their church was right around the corner. That’s not to say I wasn’t being genuine, but when people feel lost in their own lives, they tend to latch onto anything that will give them that sense of direction they need to move forward. It’s a survival mechanism embedded deep in human nature.
A few months after my transformation, my parents and I–along with my older brother and his family–moved to a 60-acre piece of land in the middle of nowhere so we would be safe when the Y2K bug brought about the end of the world (I’ll save that story for another time). When I say middle of nowhere, I’m not exaggerating. The closest town had one traffic light, and the next closest town was 30 miles away. While living there, I spent most of my spare time reading the Bible, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, praying, and going to church. I have many fond memories of time spent with my family, but other than that I didn’t have any social life. Because of that, most of my journal entries have to do with what was going on in my life internally: my relationship with Jesus, my struggle against sin, and my naive thoughts on the meaning of life.
The first post in this series will be published on September 10th, exactly 16 years after my first journal entry. I’m going to try to keep responding to journal entries 16 years to the day since they were first written, which means this series could last up to 3 years. I’m not going to share every journal entry since some of them are too private, and I’m usually not going to share entire entries, either. What I want to do is respond to the bits that have to do with my fundamentalist Christian beliefs. I don’t know for sure, but I believe I’ll be adding a new post to this series at least once a week. I hope you enjoy it.