After having been married for just a few months, Iona and I moved to the city of Saskatoon. I had a new job and a company car, and I was learning a lot. On October 16, 1972, our first child, Jeff, was born at St. Paul’s Hospital. He was born just two days before my 26th birthday. What a fantastic gift he was to us. Early in 1973 my life took a dramatic turn.
It started when my brother Vern came to live with us for a couple months. He was a university student, and when his housing didn’t work out, he needed a place to live to finish his semester. It was winter and he and I would go for long walks in the frigid air. One day he told me that he had become a Christian. My first thought – he could have done worse. My second thought – he’s going to miss out on a lot of fun. My picture of a Christian was someone who had been born in crab-apple season and weaned on pickle juice. To me, Christians were dour and were able to remove the fun and enjoyment from every experience of life.
Despite my low view of the Christian life, I was fascinated by what it meant to be a Christian. On top of that I wanted to know what the truth was. I wasn’t particularly dissatisfied with my life to that point, but I felt I hadn’t yet truly discovered what the truth was. The more Vern and I spoke, the more convinced I was that he was speaking the truth to me. Finally, I was convinced that I was indeed hearing the truth. I believed that once you have heard the truth you had to do something with it. You couldn’t argue with the truth, it just is. I may not like the truth of the law of gravity, but should I jump off a tall building, that law would take over no matter what I thought of it. I had been given the truth about Jesus, about myself and about life – what was I going to do with it? I really had only two options – accept it and live by it or reject it and accept the consequences of that decision.
But I then had a major hurdle to overcome. That hurdle had to do with grace. Adolph Eichmann had been one of the architects of the holocaust that killed so many Jews in WWII. He initially escaped to Argentina where he was captured by Israeli agents and transported back to Israel for trial. He was tried and convicted and at midnight on May 31, 1962, he was hanged. Here was, what felt like an insurmountable problem. I asked Vern if Eichmann had repented and turned to Jesus the second before the executioner pulled the lever that dropped him to his death, would he go to the same heaven that was the destination of the 85-year-old granny that had followed Jesus her entire life? Vern said that he would. That sounded terribly unfair to me. So did this whole concept of grace. It is ridiculous to believe that heaven was yours for the asking. How did you participate in this transaction? Surely you had to do something to earn it. This was a bone that stuck in my craw, and I just couldn’t get rid of it.
Finally, I realized that I had to do something. I became a reluctant convert. I felt backed into a corner by this rather unpalatable truth. I had been working for an insurance company and spent some of that time as an underwriter assessing applications that had been submitted to purchase insurance. That mentality coloured my thinking about my relationship with Jesus. I felt that I had submitted an application to God, and He was assessing it to determine whether or not I qualified. I would have described myself as becoming a Christian. I was no longer a non-Christian, yet neither was I a Christian – I was in a kind of limbo. Finally on May 30, 1975, I felt I no longer was becoming, but that I was now a Christian. It was also the day of my father’s death. I had lost my earthly father, but I had been adopted by a heavenly Father.
I was raised to believe that you had to earn what you received – there is no such thing a free lunch. Grace made me rethink almost everything I believed about life. Ephesians 2:8,9 has become a passage that helped steer my life. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.”
In light of God’s amazing grace remember to Keep the Son in Your Eyes.
Hi Len. Thanks for sharing. Sounds a bit like CS Lewis’s experience of being ‘the most reluctant convert in England’ ! Keep writing, friend. Doug
That was beautiful Len. I never got to hear your conversion story. Looking forward to more.