One Eighties

I am fascinated by stories of people whose lives were taking them in one direction, who then somehow reversed course and started traveling in the exact opposite direction. One eighties.

Because for most people, you can look at the circumstances surrounding their lives today and get a pretty good idea of what kind of person they’re going to be tomorrow. I never expect people to change a whole lot because, usually, they don’t.

But sometimes, something miraculous gets into the mix and people are transformed. And I don’t mean all those stories you used to see on VH1’s “Behind the Music” series. There’s nothing exceptional about deciding to turn your life around after you’ve hit absolute rock bottom. When you pass out at a party in Nashville and wake up next to a dead body in the cargo hold of a plane on the way to Bogota, Colombia, that’s not a sign from God, that’s a flaming bag of dog poop on your doorstep from God. Pretty much anybody could see the message there.

I’m more interested by stories of people who turn their lives around when the don’t have any apparent cause to.

When a girl is raised by parents who are drug-addicted welfare cheats, the most likely thing is that she will grow up to be a drug-addicted welfare cheat. It doesn’t have anything to do with what’s “good” or “right”; it has to do with momentum. People stick with what they know, they make it work as well as they can, and they convince themselves that they are doing alright. When instead that girl grows up to be a hard-working small business owner and devoted mom, something miraculous happened in between.

Growing up in the church, I heard a lot of people give their testimonies about how they came to know Jesus. The ones that people wanted to hear were always the most dramatic, rock-bottom revelation ones. If there were lots of sex and drugs, and maybe a ride in an ambulance and the phrase “doctors pronounced me dead,” it was guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

I always thought my own testimony was lacking because it didn’t have any woke-up-in-the-cargo-hold-of-a-plane-to-Bogota moments. So I became a lot more interested in quieter testimonies like my own. Stories from people who weren’t driven to God by some kind of trauma, but whom He just reached out and grabbed. One that really caught me was this one from Stephen Baldwin:

God doesn’t need big explosions every time he moves. He’s still that still, small voice that just needs a receptive heart.

Our blogging friend Jennifer Fulwiler is getting ready to release a book about her conversion story, titled Something Other Than God. I can’t wait to read it because it’s exactly the kind of story that intrigues me: a thoughtful journey by someone who was curious enough to turn and look when God tapped her on the shoulder. A salvation story that has nothing to do with heroin, or drive-by shootings, or lengthy imprisonments for embezzlement or mail fraud. A one eighty that didn’t have to happen but, for some reason, did anyway.

There’s nothing in the Bible that says the only way to find God is to have no other option. And I am continually amazed by the way God can take lives that don’t look like they can be changed, or don’t look like they need to be changed, and turn them a hundred and eighty degrees.

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