I hear it often uttered in the circle of friends that I keep that most people will never forget the day of their conversion to Christianity. Or there are those that feel that Christianity has always been such an spiritual investment in their lives that they can’t remember a time without it. Either side of the coin intrigues me and moves something within me. I think it is a lovely testament to the truth that God would help these moments carry within us throughout our days.
For me, it was a typical day of battling myself in college. I had spent many years warring against two sides of me. One side of me had no desire to live another moment, and the other side didn’t want the tragedy I had seen in my life to be marked as vanity. I didn’t want to get better, but I didn’t want to stay the same. And at this time I identified with my victim status much more comfortably than should have ever been the case.
If I let my past and pain have a grander meaning, then I no longer got to claim it as an excuse. It could no longer hinder me from being able to strive for different, good things in my life. I couldn’t say, “Well, I’m only getting what I deserve,” when bad things came to pass. I couldn’t internalize my hurt and make everything about me.
I ended up at a private Christian college. My mother wasn’t a Christian, but it was per her suggestion. I wasn’t either. I was reckless. I was afraid of what lay just beyond the application process. It seemed effortless until the moment that my parents drove away, leaving me a sobbing, terrified mess in my bedroom.
I hated my roommate. I resented that she was so invested in her life back in Ohio. I hated the way that the dorms smelled. I hated using public restrooms. I hated the cafeteria food. I hated the classes about the Bible–this book I had never read. I hated so much that I didn’t know that love was a possibility.
Beyond any real reasoning, I attended Bible studies with the other people in my class. I did it because I had no idea what else I would do to bond with these crazy Christians. One Bible study met off campus at a family’s house in my home city. They were lovely people whose hearts were bent on extending the reach of Jesus Christ through their hospitality.
This particular night we were told to go off and read several Scripture on the sacrifice of Jesus. Armed with cut out papers that aimed us to the appropriate directions in our Bibles, I opened up mine and read the story of the Prodigal son.
My heart was captivated. Here was a story about someone who went out on a life of reckless extravagance. This son who didn’t deserve what he was given, went and blew it all without hesitation. He partied with people that weren’t really his friends. He slept with pigs. He longed to eat the food off of their ‘table’. He didn’t deserve even to be a slave to his father, but he went home.
I had been given a loving family. I had people aching to break through my walls and become my friend. I had a support system of Christians praying for me even when they didn’t know what to pray. I had this life that was so undeserved. And I chose to go and sleep with pigs. I chose to try and eat the food from their tables. My stomach was grumbling with the desire to be loved, to be filled, to have my needs met. And for too long I toiled at my own expense, trying to fill this empty space that I didn’t know could only be filled by God.
But when I realized that’s what was my brokenness. That the redemption of the son in the story, could echo my redemption? I was undone.
I remember mouth the words, Everything is going to be alright to my roommate. It wasn’t any big production. But my heart had been changed. My soul had been shaken.
I don’t think I will ever forget the way that it made me feel. I won’t forget the moment that my eyes were opened and I could exclaim, “now I can see!”.