Jason L.

Jason L.

from KS
Story #517
I grew up in a Christian home, both of my parents and all four of my grandparents were Christians, and had aunts and uncles that were Christians as well. Around the age of 8 or 9 I went forward at church – mainly because it seemed like the right thing to do, not necessarily because I truly understood what it meant to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (at least that’s how I remember it 35+ years later). We went to church fairly regularly, but I never remember really enjoying the experience – it was something we had to get up for on Sundays, probably how most grade school boys think about church. I’d say I was probably on auto-pilot at that point – school during the week, plus sports, church on Sunday. Not a bad life at all, but certainly I wasn’t a practicing Christian at the time (and probably not really a Christian at all).
Skip forward to middle of 8th grade, my dad’s job got us transferred from Blue Springs, MO, to Crystal Lake, IL, part of the NW suburbs of Chicago.
The move certainly wasn’t easy, especially being in 8th grade which is awkward enough. I’d always been decent in school, but 7th and 8th grade in MO were a challenge, as I went from a small elementary school to a junior high that had almost 800 kids in my class – easy to get lost in that. The move to IL just made my already declining grades get worse with the move, so my mom got me some tutoring help, which really turned out to be a turning point at least in my academic career. Looking back, at least academically the move to IL was the best thing that could have happened. My class size in IL was <300 kids, made some great friends, and my grades got way better. Keep in mind this entire time I was still not saved. I had great friends, none were saved; some went to church, some didn’t. I’d say my view of religion at that time was that it was something you practice if you want; if you don’t want to, don’t do it.
I definitely excelled at math and science in high school (at least compared to other classes), so rolling into college, engineering seemed like a good fit, math + science + money when you graduate. We looked at several colleges, and settled on the University of Missouri-Columbia; part because I loved the campus; part because my dad’s time with his company was concluded, so they were moving back home to the Kansas City area – which got me in-state tuition.
So I rolled into Mizzou in the fall of 1992, still not saved, still not caring about religion. Religion to me was more of a personal choice; because I was good at math and science, my worldview was that we were here because of evolution (because why wouldn’t a science-y person not believe in that). Ironically, I didn’t dis-believe in God, and certainly was not an atheist – frankly, I didn’t care enough to think about it. I grew up at least believing God exists, and math and science explained the rest. I didn’t need a label on it.

Looking back on college, I honestly had a good college experience overall, with many really stupid decisions littered throughout. Freshman year was me coming to terms with ending a relationship from high school, and frankly I was not prepared on how to deal with girls (I was super shy in HS, so any attention I got was great). Sophomore year was breaking out of my shell and basically trying to talk to as many girls as possible – basically swinging the opposite direction from HS, yet I still had no idea how to have a relationship with a girl – which in hindsight makes total sense b/c I had no relationship with Jesus. Junior year was more of the same, but this brought even more bad decisions ending up in more relational issues (both with male and female friends). About this time was when I was starting to experience some real depression – something I would have previously considered mental not physical. Little did I know that it certainly has physical impacts just as bad as mental impacts. On top of this – something I had carried at least from HS – was a terrible temper. My temper was visible through self-harm (punching things that shouldn’t be punched) and – putting it lightly – a potty mouth. In HS it could be chalked up to “competitiveness”, but frankly I just couldn’t control my temper. A few times throughout college someone would mention something to me about it, especially my terrible language, but by and large I just lived with it, didn’t really understand the impact it had on me or others.

My senior year, right before fall semester started, I got offered a co-op with an engineering firm in Kansas City, so I took a semester off to work. The anger/depression took an already terrible work ethic, and made it non-existent – I think I lasted 4 weeks before I quit. And at least at that time, getting a co-op or internship was really the only way you got a real job coming out of college – but I didn’t care. I moved back to Columbia for the rest of the semester, and then got back in the queue winter semester, finishing out in the next 3 semesters. As I was getting towards my last semester in college, I started to feel that maybe I should get back into church – not thinking about a relationship with Jesus, just that going to church would surely have some type of positive impact on me – I was at the “I’ll try anything” point in my life to fix my problems.

I actually landed an engineering job in KC about 2 months before graduation. My dad’s job had taken them back out of state a few years before, so I was living at my grandparent’s. I got back to KC in late May of 1997, actually glad to be done with college. One of the first things I did was call this girl I had met 3 years prior the summer after my sophomore year (my mom set us up). I had heard from a buddy of mine who went to the same HS as her that she was married…..so I called her (which looking back makes absolutely no sense; in God’s timing it makes perfect sense – he was watching me even when I wasn’t relying on Him). Long story short, not only was she not married, she was not engaged nor was she dating anyone…..so I asked her out (she actually remembered me, which was a shocker). I distinctly remember one of the first things we discussed – 1) she asked if I knew Jesus; 2) she quickly clarified that she wouldn’t date anyone who didn’t know Jesus – no room for misinterpretation on that one! This was probably right around Memorial Day 1997. As I mentioned before, I had already planned on trying to “church-up” myself, so when she invited me to go to church with her, seemed like I should man-up and go. Her home church at the time was Kansas City Baptist Temple. I went with her the 1st Sunday, and for the first time in my life I think I actually heard God’s word. Not that the churches I had gone to previously didn’t teach God’s word – it’s that I wasn’t listening. The next Sunday I went, and distinctly remember when the pastor extended the invitation to come forward, I literally felt like someone was pulling me out of the pew – I had to fight getting up and walking forward; there is no other way to explain it. My “self” was ensuring that I stayed squarely in my seat, but it literally felt like I was being physically pulled forward, I have no other way to describe it. Shortly thereafter I heard of a Monday night Bible study at the church, so I went – it happened to be on the same day I started my engineering job. June 9, 1997 – the conviction I felt at that Bible study, the reality of my sin, the reality of God’s plan of eternal life if you believe in His Son Jesus Christ as clearly identified in the Bible – it was over-whelming. To say I was simply crying is an understatement – the Bible uses the word “woe” – which I think is much more fitting of what I felt. The dictionary defines “woe” as expressing grief, regret or distress – that’s what I felt (even writing this I’m getting choked up – and I absolutely HATE crying). But the other side of that woe, the “Jesus has saved me” side was joy – no other way to describe that. And peace – the peace that passes understanding. God’s peace literally defies understanding, to me, and to others who ever glimpse God’s peace in me.

For me, my salvation had an almost over-night impact. I was 23, so I was very aware of what was happening (as compared to when I went forward as a kid). Any anger I had, almost completely evaporated; same with depression. Not to say that I’m 100% in control of my emotions to this day, but the change was drastic – only way for me to even understand it is to say it was supernatural, because nothing in this world would have that affect. Depression was never a thing after, and I would say that completely disappeared. And to anyone reading this, it probably defies logic to say that something like that would disappear, but that was the experience I had. But even more was the experience of knowing that God saved me to spend eternity with Him in heaven – there’s purpose in this life, and that’s to serve and worship Him, which also leads to serving others.

Flash forward – that girl I called up in 1997 has been my wife for over 20 years now. God’s provision and direction have made it possible for her to stay with me these many decades…..and God continues to bless us. We have one son who is almost 18, about to graduate HS himself – and he feels called to the ministry. He is a stronger Christian now than I probably ever was, and God is going to use him in a big way. Both my wife and son continue to be great examples of not only how a Christian should live, but how God impacts people’s lives. I even got a wild hair at about the age of 32 to start taking music lessons (drums), for which I had no natural talent. 6 years after that I was fortunate enough to be asked to support one of the worship teams at church, and have been playing there for 6 years – I can’t even begin to describe what an incredible blessing that has been that honestly would never have happened without God providing the direction and influence on my life. And trust me – it would have been way easier just to never get out of my comfort zone and just not get up on that stage, because it was terrifying the first time. But God opened the door and I walked through.

I could write pages and pages of the many intertwining stories that go with each paragraph above, but wanted to at least share that God is real, He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, He was resurrected and defeated death so that we can be with Him. Over the past almost 21 years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve read many stories about archaeology that support the Biblical account; I’ve heard accounts from people who have accepted Jesus Christ and how their lives have been radically changed because of it, as is captured in Biblical accounts; being an engineer and having seen great things built from scratch using only the human mind, I can see how the Biblical account of God creating the heavens and the earth and people, how that makes total sense to me in light of what I know it takes as an engineer to design and build complex machines and structures; in short, because of what I know to be true in the Biblical account, and the experiences in my life, I have absolute confidence in God and His ability to change lives and save us for an eternity with Him.

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