Some people “come” to Christ in a spectacular moment of revelation. For me, that’s not how it was. I grew up in a Christian household. I attended church from birth. One of my earliest memories recounts a time in Sunday School in which I scribbled my thoughts on a scrap of paper: “I hate myself.” Naturally, the Sunday school teacher’s face showed her shock. I’m sure I confounded her (and maybe even myself).
It seems the enemy had a grip on me even then—but where was God? He was a concept. I knew all about God, of course—through my years in the pew, in Sunday School, and, later, as confirmand in the Lutheran church—yet I somehow missed knowing… Him. Or maybe I knew Him as well as an infant knows anyone.
Whatever the case, I lacked the living, breathing faith that presses into God daily. I tried devotions for a while, of course…in my own strength. But the fervor didn’t last. How could it for a concept?
In high school, I started caving, which led to an interest in geology. After earning my BS at my hometown university, I never wavered in my intent to attend graduate school; I wanted a PhD like my dad. Furthermore, I knew which field most piqued my interest: Volcanology. I was so sure of this decision, my mom and I visited several west coast colleges. (Where else would one go in the US to study volcanoes?)
But—after spending all that time and money… after freaking out from my mom’s crazy driving in San Francisco before giggling our way twice down Lombard Street in a much needed release—I woke up one morning back at home with a very different certainty: Rather than studying volcanoes, I wanted to understand metamorphic reactions.
At this point I should note that, as a Geology undergrad, I learned almost nothing on this particular subject, since the professor who taught hard rock petrology—which is the collective study of igneous and metamorphic rocks—was, in fact, a volcanologist who focused mainly on what he knew. As such, roughly 75% of class time was spent on Igneous rock processes and identification with the last 25% glossing over the metamorphic equivalent. Suffice it to say, the logic in my sudden change of mind—to pursue a field I didn’t know enough about to really know why I should pursue it—was minimal.
It wasn’t a logical decision but, rather, a deep inner knowing.
And from that knowing, the landscape of my future suddenly changed from a steep-sided volcano—the source of rocks born in a violent reincarnation of molten material—to a graveyard of mountains, sheared by erosion to expose old rocks transformed from a slower subjection of heat and pressure. And in so doing, I would undergo my own slow metamorphosis… in upstate New York instead of California.
So there I was, my first real time away from home. I met my future husband almost immediately and connected with others through the outing club. I traded caving for whitewater kayaking and indulged my scientific curiosity. My graduate studies began with a vibrant enthusiastic hope and ended in disillusioned depression.
During my first years at RPI, I didn’t attend church. There was no platform for God in my life besides the former knowledge of my upbringing. My would-be husband was agnostic, saying, “I believe in God, but I’m not sure about Jesus.” To which I replied, “But it’s all about Jesus!” My upbringing spoke, yet God was still silent.
During this time, my would-be husband began reading The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Sometime later, we discovered the first few movies in the discount bin at Walmart. I never read the books, but I did watch the movies and found my soul gripped with emotions I can hardly put to words.
It wasn’t the theology that won me (whether the theology in that book is flawed or not). Or the production quality or acting (which some have claimed is not up to Hollywood standards). Instead, it was the fervor of the persecuted church. It was the thought that Jesus could be so real His followers would risk anything to remain true to Him… Like Stephen the martyr looking to God instead of the stones hurtling toward his head. The idea of a peace that truly passes understanding. Of beauty and truth and a love beyond what any of us can fathom in this life except in a brush with our risen Savior.
That’s what captured my imagination and whispered to my heart, “This is how it could be.”
God used those books and movies—used fiction—to inspire me (and my husband) to start going back to church, but—in retrospect—His tender luring began long before that. You see, my home church was good, but God knew I needed something different. He knew I needed to leave my father and mother and be joined to His Son, no longer relying on the faith of my parents but—with His help—coming into my own. He knew I needed to hear the whispers of His Spirit… to be exposed—for the first time—to tongues and prophecies and the Spirit of God Himself.
I wanted to study volcanoes, but God had a different plan.