Committed to Christ
Believing in a Loving God
My mother became a Christian when I was about four years old. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother putting me to bed and playing me tapes of the Gospel of John. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t believe in God. It seemed natural, intuitive, and perfectly sensible that there was a loving God who was watching over us and keeping us from harm.
Growing up, I was a child of divorce. While that might not be too uncommon now in Chicago, it was fairly uncommon in the small suburbs of Houston, Texas in the mid-80s. I lived with my father and stepmother, but still spent a great deal of time with my mother and stepfather. My father was a well-known and respected investigator and author in Houston; my stepfather was a salesman who was struggling to get by with his ever-increasing family (he and my mom had six more children in addition to the two she already had). Eventually, at the age of nine, I left my dad’s house and went to live with my mother and stepfather. I knew that this would mean a harder life (strict rules, less money), but I also knew that this would mean more attention and ultimately a happier life. When I was 13, my family moved to Colorado. Our church situation there was glorious: I had close friends, the youth group went on outings in the mountains, and I became very close with an older brother who led the group. He was an old-school Long Islander with a great accent, and he could tell stories like no one else. His tales of growing up during the WWII era and having to defend his family’s name with his fists (his father was a German immigrant) were enthralling. But there was one story that didn’t sit too well with me. Several times, he told the youth group the story of how he gave his life to the Lord – when he was only 13 years old.
The Draw of the World
I certainly believed in God and loved my church family, but I did not particularly relish the idea of giving my life to Him so young. I had a strong taste for the world from living with my father. He had several nice cars and a huge house, and he went on expensive hunting trips and liked to go sailing in the Caribbean. He also had been married four times. I figured that my late twenties would be a good time to give my life to the Lord; that way I’d have plenty of time to get all the “fun” out of my system before I had to give it all up (the nonsensical reasoning of a young mind). Hearing the story of this older brother surrendering his life to God so young was both inspiring and unsettling to me. But God used that situation to get the gears in my spirit and heart turning.
A Tragedy Leads to Full Consecration
Roughly a year later, when I was 14, my seven-year-old brother Stuart was burned in a horrible accident. An electric skillet full of boiling oil spilled on him. I ran into the kitchen to see what had happened and saw my brother lying motionless on the floor with large portions of his skin off his body. I could see exposed muscle on most of his chest. I had the strong sense that I was looking at someone who was on the threshold of death, someone who was about to be with the Lord. My knees buckled and I nearly fainted. We took Stuart to the hospital and he ultimately made what was nothing short of a miraculous recovery. But that night, as I was lying in bed, I couldn’t shake the feeling of death I had experienced. I realized how empty and vapid my lusts for wealth, fame, and fun were. God became so real to me in that moment. Even though something horrible had happened, I experienced a love for God that I never had before. What I was experiencing was well worth giving my life to. I told the Lord that my life now belonged to Him. For the rest of my life, whatever I wanted would be put aside for whatever He wanted – and I was so happy about it!
Shepherding the Young People
Years later, I wrote a song that expresses my sentiment in that situation. Now, I frequently serve with the young people in the church in Chicago, and this song has really struck a chord with the junior high students:
Oh Lord, I give my life to you
Though I am still a young person
I just want to end this pointless struggle
Though Satan tries to capture me
By promising the world
I know his lies are only to destroy me
And though I very often feel
So far away from Your high standard
I want You to spread throughout my soul
Lord, make Your home in all my heart
More and more each day
Conform me to Your image
That I might only You display