In My Former Book
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
You can still see the spots of dried drool on the pages. Yes, I was raised a good Lutheran boy and have my gold covered Good News Bible to prove it; you know the Bible with the little stickmen drawings inside. It was presented to me in Third Grade and was still in near perfect condition when I packed it up to go off to Bethel College in the fall of 1998.
It’s unblemished condition was due largely to two factors: first, my mom has carefully preserved nearly everything from my childhood, and, second, I very rarely took it off the shelf and cracked it open all those years.
I wasn’t a reader. My entire childhood I recall reading only series of fiction books called Hoops in middle school and subscription to Basketball Digest magazine in high school. I was a gym rat who would have scoffed at book worms. So, if you couldn’t get me to read a good age-appropriate work of fiction, you were hardly gong to find me nose deep in the Bible.
Sunday school and Confirmation had given me the Spark’s Notes version of Christianity as I knew all the essential episodes of Scripture: Adam and Eve, Father Abraham and his many sons, the life of Moses, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, and, of course, the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I was a sincere believer early on. I had many good, faith-enriching experiences at church growing up — most of them taking place on summer mission trips. I didn’t question the existence of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. I accepted both with gratitude and went on with my life. I suppose you would call this a “fire insurance” faith that would certainly come in handy when I died — but that seems a long way off for a college kid.
This kind of faith was hardly sufficient for providing a young college kid direction and purpose when faced with the wide-open future ahead. It provided “an ever present help in times of trouble”, a God I could pray to when dealing with great loss or tragedy, the assurance of pie-in-the-sky-in-the-great-by-and-by and a moral compass for ethical living. But I was looking for meaning and purpose in life. I was looking for something more than the American Dream had to offer. I was empty, scared, confused and a bit desperate.
Around this time Joe and Peter, two of my college roommates, must have seen me trying to read my dusty old Good News Bible, and since the pages were stuck together from ten year old puddles of dried up drool, they concluded I needed an upgrade. The way that they tell the story was that they were having coffee at Starbuck’s when they both “felt led by God” to buy me a new study Bible. (I know, probably a scene that gets played out only at a Christian college!)
They purchased me a NIV Student Bible packed full of study notes and inspiring commentary by Philip Yancey. Like most 20 year olds when they receive a brand new Bible from their college buddies I was absolutely…umm…curious? offended? indifferent? What message were they trying to send me? Well, I didn’t read into it too much. To be completely honest, I think I was pretty excited but too cool to admit it.
I think its an unwritten rule of common decency to show one’s appreciation for a gift by putting it to use at least once. Anyone who has worn an ugly Christmas sweater grandma gave them to Thanksgiving the following year knows exactly what I’m talking about. So, in a similar vein, I decided I owed it to my friends to get some mileage out of my new Bible, or at least test drive it once.
I placed it in my backpack and headed to the dining center alone, determined, expectant, and yet ready for another disappointment and more drool puddles on the pages. It was the evening of March 14, 2000. I was moments away from the collision that would forever change my life.
Read full series here.