I have a confession to make. I hope you won’t think less of me for it. Gather round because I don’t want too many people to hear.
I don’t remember when I “got saved.”
I mean, I remember that I started going to church on a weekly basis when I was in middle school after a friend invited me to his youth group’s all-you’can-eat pizza night. I remember sticking around because I liked the music, I liked seeing my friends on a week night, and, yeah, I liked the way that all this God talk made me feel. But I don’t remember saying the prayer or raising my hand. I don’t remember every-eye-closed or every-head-bowed. I just know that I began to love this Jesus that I heard preached about every week, that I began to read about in this incredibly interesting, mysterious and even scandalous book they gave me (do you know they talk about sex in there?).
I went on into high school and college trying to get people to “make a decision,” but it always kind of bothered me that I couldn’t remember when I made my decision. All I know is that I once lived for myself, but now I live for Christ. I once was blind, but now I see. I’ve come to see it as much more of a process of becoming more like Christ and placing myself more and more under His Lordship. Which is why I want to share with you a story about a Chinese boy who I’ll call Andy. (I could make up a Chinese name, but, honestly, you’ll remember Andy way more easily.)
Andy first started coming around XA with another Chinese student. Unlike many international students, Andy came to the US and our culture fit him like a glove. He’d studied here for a year in high school and even taught English back in China. His accent is nearly flawless. It’s not just the way he talks, though. Andy is also a bit of a, for lack of a better term, “playa.” He wears hip-hop-style clothes with his baseball cap, flat-billed, cocked to the side. He’s a DJ at a few local clubs. So I’m sure you can imagine the dilemma when he showed up at a XA House party and started hitting on any girl who would talk to him. At XA, we try very hard to make sure everyone, but especially the girls, feels comfortable.
They did not feel comfortable. One of the XA staff members gave him a brief, stern talking-to.
So, unfortunately, Andy developed a bit of a reputation. I was tasked with talking to him so he didn’t unintentionally run off all of the females in our ministry. When I ran into him at the DMV as I was helping another Chinese student get his license, Andy begged me to help him practice before his exam, since this was his third and final try before he’d have to pay for driving lessons. I did. (He failed.) Before I left, I talked to him gently about what had happened at the party, and he seemed to take it well.
But I didn’t see him again at any XA events the rest of the semester.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I receive a text message from Andy, this guy I’ve talked to three, four times at best. He asks me if he can come to church with me that Sunday. Unfortunately, I’m out of town, so I set up a coffee meeting. “What is going on?” I wonder. “Why the sudden change?”
When we meet, he tells me about how in the weeks since the semester ended, some things in his life fell apart. He was involved in a promising internship program on the east coast, only to have Mizzou tell him he’d have to quit since it didn’t correspond well enough with his major. While there, he stayed with a Christian host family, who prayed with him (especially as he learned he’d have to leave) and took him to church every Sunday. The crisis also reminded him of an American Chinese guy named Dave who had been one of Andy’s English teachers in China. Dave had shared the Gospel with Andy and had read some of the Bible with him. All of these things spiraled together to the point where Andy wanted to begin reading the Scriptures with me. So we did.
Over the next two weeks, we read through the book of Mark together. He went on to the book of Luke, but not before deciding to move out to the west coast for the summer to live and work with his uncle. It was hard for me to say goodbye since I felt like he had such a great opportunity to meet with me in Columbia. But I didn’t try to dissuade him. I knew that if God had gotten him this far, He’d continue working in his heart.
Then, this past Saturday evening, I received a text message from Andy. It gave me the name of a church in California and said that he had decided to become a Christian there. Hallelujah!
Andy had his “moment of decision.” Most stories like this would just give the “decision” part of the story and leave it at that. But I’m coming more and more to realize that God’s story of redemption is so much bigger than the-guitar-playing-softly and the-lights-dimmed. If Dave had never taught English in China, or Andy’d never come to that party, or I hadn’t been at the DMV that day and spoken kindly, or if that Christian family hadn’t volunteered to host him, or the University hadn’t called him back to Columbia, or or or…
God is doing something wonderful in the world. He’s using me. He’s using you. And not just for the end of the story, but for every part in between. The question is, do we have eyes to see it? Do we have ears to hear it? Or are we too busy focusing on the end of the story that we miss the beauty of it all?