This Thanksgiving I returned to my alma mater where I was surrounded by students from all over the world, many of whom were celebrating the holiday for the first time. As part of the international student family on campus, they were invited to spend the day with a family that works at the college and lives in a neighboring town. I was one of close to sixty in the mix of foreign accents, tossed salad, turkey breast, and sweet potato casserole. While joining in on a conversation about faith, God and spiritual beliefs I was reminded of how I first came to know Christ while a sophomore at the school.
When asked what and why I believe I answered by explaining that He is the only God I know who stoops down to make others great. The only God who is so committed to my experience of Him and His goodness that he made sure my sin would not wreck the chance of up our relationship. This God is the one I know one who lives to make intercession for us and sacrificed on behalf of those whom He invites into relationship.
Here’s my story of how I came to accept this invitation: I was back home over Christmas break during my sophomore year. A friend from high school invited me to a revival service on a Friday evening at her church. I had previously visited her church a handful of times and often felt out of place. It was a peculiar world where congregants regularly spoke in what I thought was gibberish and where I was greeted at every turn by, “Praise the Lord.” I often watched in amazement as congregants leaped, shouted, and ran laps in response to something they called the “Holy Ghost.” Scary stuff, I thought. Despite all about that world strange to me, I was certain something and maybe even someone, far greater than my understanding, was very real, very present and familiar, somehow.
Following the guest pastor’s sermon that night there was an altar call. Based on my previous experience that was the time when sinners would (with that Holy Ghost’s “help”) admit publicly that they sinned and needed God to fix them. In response to that helpful Holy Ghost, I had remembered seeing a number of congregants pass out while God was fixing them or weep as they were led to the baptismal pool - the place where sinners were cleaned and became like new, somehow. I had no plans of ever partaking in any of that. I preferred to be a spectator. And that was the plan for that night.
During the call, I felt an odd but undoubtedly apparent nudge to go to the front of the church, get fixed and be made new, somehow. But I had no interest in letting that Holy Ghost make me into a spectacle, so I did not budge. The service ended. Thank God. The congregants began to leave the pews, musicians began to leave the stage, and the guest pastor started to leave the pulpit. I thought I had outsmarted that Holy Ghost. Schweet! But before I could complete the internal victory dance, that pastor went back to the pulpit and said God told him there was “one more.” One more person was supposed to get baptized but had not come forward in response to the first call. Seriously?!!!! That helpful Holy Ghost had just totally pooped my victory party. That second call was for me. Praise the Lord.
The pastor waited and I waited (ever tried to play a game of chicken with that Holy Ghost?). Needless to say, I didn’t win that night. I went forward, timidly, was soaked in baptismal water, and was made new, somehow. Thank God.
This was the start of my journey with the Lord. Reflecting on the experience now, I realize that my early college experience was the exact recipe I needed to begin my walk with the Lord. God purposed it so that all of my closest friends in college at that point were Christians who had strong families, celebrated life, loved learning, cherished friendship and expressed joy. The influence of these friends’ lives and the persistent friend from high school drew me to want to discover their God. Drew me to want to discover what kept their families intact and what caused them to hope against hope. Today, though, I only know in part on this side of heaven, there is one thing I know for sure – without his grace, I would still be lost. I didn’t win that night but now I win forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Praise the Lord.
Whether you are in school, a graduate or thinking of returning to school I pray that you too will win forever. To do so, you must take one simple step – to declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). You will win forever. It will be the best choice you will ever make and I’d love to hear your story.
Amelia E. Thompson loves to see God create possibility out of what appears to be impossible. She became a Christian during her sophomore year in college. She and friends developed We Write Life into a platform for building community around issues of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness. Thanks to God’s guidance and kindness, she completed studies at Vassar College and St. John’s University and is completing a certificate in Youth and Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.