- Recently I went back to my hometown and visited that cemetery. I stood by my father’s grave. I knelt before the statue of Christ. It was raining. I got back in my truck and my boys were arguing. They saw the look on my face and grew silent. Then someone started to surpress laughter and someone else said “Be quiet! Dad’s having a moment!” And then we were all laughing, with tears still in my eyes. Epiphany 2015.
Christians were hypocrites. My friends and I used to laugh at church people and their odd behavior. I suppose we thought we were smarter or more sophisticated than good ol’, Midwestern Christian folk.
I went off to college and lived as you might expect. I joined a fraternity and kept a busy social life at my state university.
But then something happened. My girlfriend ditched me for a guy with a red Mustang Boss 302. I can’t say that I blame her. My Ford Pinto was a rolling embarrassment. I suppose I got depressed. Which is pathetic, really, that the affections of one person could have such control over my self-image.
My method for dealing with my despair was all I knew to do: run. The summer after my freshman year in college I would come home from my job spreading 300-degree asphalt, put on my tennis shoes and run.
My standard 5-mile route took me into the wheat fields of Northern Oklahoma. The heat, dust and strain of exercise was my coping mechanism. Frankly, it wasn’t very effective.
But my route took me by an interesting landmark. A cemetery. But this cemetery caught my attention as I went by. At the entrance was a statue of Christ, arms extended, with the words engraved beneath: “Come unto me ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” I knew that those words were about death, but they spoke to me. Each day as I ran by I pondered Christ’s invitation.
Until one day I stopped running. I stood in front of that cemetery, looking at that statue through watery eyes. I walked toward it, dropped to my knees as my entire frame shook with weeping. And then I said the first real prayer of my entire life: “Jesus, I don’t know much about you, but I know I need you.”
No altar call. No tracts. No threats of hell. No high-pressure service at youth camp or packed stadium. Just me, broken, and Jesus, arms extended. I got up and kept running.
A few days later, as I sat on the hood of my friend’s Chevy Nova, I tried to explain to him what had happened to me. Because something had changed. I had begun a new life – a new relationship with God – and I did not even have the vocabulary to describe my renewal.
If you are looking for a new start this year, I hope my story is helpful to you. Since that moment my life has changed dramatically. But not just becoming a churchy person, but, I pray, becoming more like Christ. And all it took was a broken person crying out in a simple, honest way to Jesus. “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden…”