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Born Again

By on February 24, 2014 in Memory Lane with No Comments

PrayingI was a born again Christian for almost two weeks. This happened during my formative years when I was around 19. Of course, there was a woman to blame. What else could have driven me to such an extreme?

She was a waitress at a Lyon’s restaurant. They were a restaurant chain, much like Denny’s, that were basically glorified coffee shops. My buds and I used to hang out there late nights for some coffee and berry pie a la mode with the vain hope that we would “pick up some chicks”. We were at that weird in-between age where we had the freedom to go out at night but we weren’t old enough to go to a bar or night club, so we settled for Lyon’s.

Her name was Becky. She was in her mid-twenties. She wasn’t what you’d call a real looker, but she had a mid-west kind of conservative way about her that was appealing to me. Of course, at 19, being female was just about the sum total of requirements needed for me to consider a woman appealing. I always tried to engage her in conversation in the hopes of rallying my courage to ask her out but I was hampered by the nagging thought that she may be a bit out of my league, being SO much older. Still, she knew that I liked her.

One night, while I was chowing down another slice of boysenberry pie, she asked me if I’d like to go out with her to attend a bible meeting. Hell yes, I thought as I replied, “Yea, that would be cool.” Now I’ve never been a religious person. I was christened a Protestant, but to this day I couldn’t tell you what a Protestant believes in. As a child we only went to church on a very rare occasion. Other than that, the full sum of my spiritual practice consisted of saying my prayers at night before going to bed.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the lord my soul to take.””God bless mommy and daddy, and then I’d mention each of the family pets by name followed by, “and the rest of my relatives, Amen”. I excluded mentioning my sister by name because she was so mean to me, so I included her by association in the “rest of my relatives” catch-all. I never really thought much of what I was praying about. The whole dying before I wake part was a bit too creepy. Anyway, the point is that I had zero exposure to any formal religion so I had no idea what I was in store for by going to a bible meeting.

I met Becky at the home of one of her bible buddies. There were about a dozen people strewn around the living room so I strategically sat next to Becky on the couch. Everybody took turns reading a favorite passage from the bible and then they all discussed why it was their favorite passage. Needless to say, I was just an observer. I did like sitting next to Becky, though it quickly became painfully obvious how inappropriate it would be for me to try to slip my arm around her on the couch in the middle of discussing John 3:16. But I was being patient. I did listen intently while each person earnestly described their personal relationship with Jesus and how it had changed their life. Finally, everybody had said their piece, and then we all joined hands and prayed. I really tried to pray but it felt very awkward. It was like I wasn’t really a member of their club and I felt that Jesus would know that.

After the group prayer, Becky turned to me and asked me if I’d like to go in the other room for a private prayer. “Now that’s more like it.” I thought. So she took me by the hand and led me to an adjoining room where the leader of the prayer group, I’ll call him Luke, was kneeling on both knees, on the carpeted floor. He beckoned me over to him.

Luke then asked me, “Are you ready to accept the Lord Jesus into your life?” Whoa. I felt a bit ambushed but I knew that if I didn’t comply than my chances with Becky would greatly diminish.

“Absolutely”, I said. Becky then knelt on the floor and then led me down to kneel between them. They both held my hands and Luke told me to close my eyes.

Then Luke asked me, “Do you accept the Lord Jesus as your savior?”

“Yes I do.” I replied with confidence.

“Then please repeat after me … Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God.”

“Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God.” I knew that in my short, yet sordid past, I probably had committed a variety of sins, particularly with some of my girlfriends. Still, I didn’t think that they were serious enough to send me to hell, but Jesus and God may be a bit stricter than I was on myself.

“By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins.” Luke continued.

“By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins.” I solemnly repeated. I had no idea what that meant.

“Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father.”

“Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father.” By this time I was starting to get caught up in the scene and squeezed Becky’s hand a bit harder.

“Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally.”

“Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally.” Hmm. That unconditional part was reassuring in regards to the whole sinning thing. I felt that maybe it was the like a Get out of Hell free card.

“Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

“Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.” They continued holding my hands. I was really trying to take it all in to feel the presence of my new spiritual passenger.

“Now you shall channel the words of the Lord by speaking in tongues.” WTF? Now this was an unexpected twist to the whole ceremony. This was bordering on bizarre, but as long as Becky was willing to hold my hand, then I was game for just about anything. “Just relax and let your mouth say what is in your heart.” Now I couldn’t really say what was in my heart at that moment because I knew for sure that it would be completely inappropriate for the present situation, so I just started to babble.

“Blah …. blah …. dab … de …. da … fa … matta.” I blathered on like this as they continued to pray beside me and cheer me on.

“That’s it! Those are the words of the Lord! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”

It didn’t sound like anything profound to me. After speaking my gibberish in tongues for a few more minutes, they congratulated me and then explained to me how I was now a born again Christian and how I essentially had a free pass into the big club in the sky. They told me that I should say “Praise the Lord” at any opportunity. Wow. I was now officially a “born again Christian”. I felt my new found love of Jesus and God, and Becky welling up within my heart. “Praise the Lord!”

Over the following week I dove head-first into being a first-rate Born Again Christian (BAC). I went to the Goodwill store, (naturally), and bought myself not one, not two, but three bibles. Praise the Lord. I tried to read them on my own but found that it was more difficult than reading Shakespeare. I kept nodding off after just a few lines. In retrospect, I do blame that on my ADD tendencies. I did look at every picture in all three of the bibles, diligently reading each and every caption, I might add. Praise the Lord.

My parents were mildly amused with my new-found religion and never gave me a hard time for the occasional “Praise the Lord” which I blurted out now and then when the notion struck me. I didn’t do ANY of the spiritual theatrics in front of my buds. Not one single “praise the Lord”. I knew that it would place a huge target on my chest inviting endless ridicule.

Over the next week I attended several more bible group meetings with Becky, my new bible buddy. The problem was that I only saw Becky at the bible meetings and at Lyon’s, so making any kind of physical advance with her was pretty much out of the question. But I persevered. Praise the Lord.

During this same time, my friends and I were planning a long road trip to Wyoming with Yellowstone Park as our final destination. Along the way we were planning on backpacking in The Grand Tetons National Park, which translates from French to “The Enormous Tits National Park”, I kid you not. Who wouldn’t want to backpack there? Well, I had read that there were a lot of grizzly bears in the Grand Tetons and I was a bit concerned. I had read the park pamphlet regarding the precautions you should take when hiking in grizzly bear country. You see, grizzly bears can run and swim faster than any human. They are the largest North American mammal, so their Achilles heel, of sorts, is that they cannot climb trees as well as other bears. This is because of their huge size and immense claws.

The pamphlet goes on to say that grizzlies don’t have good vision so they won’t always see you coming until you are right upon them, face to face. Not good. They also have an excellent sense of smell, but still, you may be inadvertently approaching a grizzly bear downwind of them where they can’t smell you coming. Also, not good. So, according to the pamphlet, you should ALWAYS wear a spoon clanging against a sierra cup, (a small metal cup often used by backpackers), so as to alert the grizzly bear that you are approaching before you are too close. They are extremely dangerous if surprised. It also says that, while hiking, you should always be scanning the woods for a tree to climb in case you do surprise a bear. As I alluded to earlier, grizzlies can’t climb trees very well. Jeez, doesn’t that sound like the perfect scenario for a nice, relaxing hike in the woods?

The pamphlet then goes on to say that because they can’t climb well,  they might shake the tree that you just climbed in an attempt to make you fall out of it. Definitely not good. And … if that should happen then you should lie down on the ground and play dead. If you are playing dead AND the bear sees through your ruse, than you should stay very still, despite  the bear  chewing on your arm. If that happens, than resist your urge to scream because that will only infuriate it more. Well, visualizing that scenario did not give me a warm fuzzy in regards to hiking in grizzly country.

During my last bible group meeting, I was talking to Luke, and I brought up the fact that I was a bit concerned with the possibility of having such an encounter with a grizzly bear on my upcoming road trip. I asked him if he had any spiritual advice to comfort me. Luke said that he knew exactly what to do to protect me, in the event of such a situation. He told me, “If you should come into close contact with a grizzly bear and you feel like you are in a life-threatening situation, all you need to do is stand as tall as possible, face the bear, looking directly into its eyes and repeat the following words; ‘I rebuke you in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.’ The grizzly bear shall be compelled to retreat by the will of God.”

That moment marked the end of my personal relationship with Luke, Becky, and Jesus.

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