Salvation Road Part 3

Posted: November 21, 2019 in Meditations
winding road photography

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

“No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being: the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.”  2 Corinthians 5:16,18

Salvation is a mystery. I marvel at my own experience as a lonely confused seventeen year old. The Great God condescends to the little world of a boy, a nameless individual to the world at large. Yet God calls me by name. “I have called you by name – you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. For I am the Lord your God.”  Isaiah 43:1-3  The premise for my existence stands on one simple statement, Phil is created by and for God. I am created in the image of God. In other words, I am designed to communicate with God, to have relationship with God. Unfortunately I’m broken, a problem called sin – a problem I cannot fix on my own. I need God.

In my essay, Salvation Road, I left my story in a bedroom alone with my sorrow, a confused heap with nowhere to turn. Pastor Windle’s funeral was a blur. The church was packed and I memorized the grave site. I visited that grave a number of times, always alone. Each visit reinforced an odd conviction, God does not exist, something Pastor would never accept. Rebellion is often much more about hurt than it is about facts and reason. Pain ruled. I pushed aside my angst, I moved on.

January came and went. February gave no hope for Spring in Wisconsin. I looked forward to a big winter retreat at a church camp. Enclaves of youth descended from around the state. Sports, shenanigans, and girls were the only thing on my mind when I hit the bunk house. Mandatory church services were a fair trade for everything outside the chapel. I had no idea I would be a completely different person in 36 hours.

A blizzard followed by plunging temperatures cancelled outdoor events on Saturday. Instead we filed into chapel for services. I thought, God has a wicked sense of humor. I was not happy. The year was 1972. Unbeknownst to me, the Hippie Movement was being swept with revival. Folks called it the Jesus Movement. Long haired bearded college boys took control of the meeting. Stripped to the bone honesty poured from their lips, stuff I never heard before. One by one they spoke of deliverance, miracles, transformation. “God is not dead. God is alive.” Kids like me responded to their message. They stood up, many sobbing. They wanted what these men had. They wanted Jesus. I watched, stunned, just trying to make sense of it all. I knew all about revivals. I watched Billy Graham, sat in David Wilkerson crusades. Was this one of those events now happening on the fly? The camp meeting stretched to midnight. I said nothing, did nothing. I just marveled at what was happening.

Not much was said back in the cabin. No joking, no high jinks, the mood was somber. A prayer then lights out. I couldn’t sleep. I looked at my watch, the time read 3 AM. The words, “God is alive” kept ringing in my mind. If only that was true. Everyone else slept, I stared at the ceiling from my top bunk. “God, if you’re real, please be real in my life.” spilled off my tongue in a whisper. A peace flooded my being. Don’t ask me how I knew. All I can tell you is this, I sensed the presence of God in me for the first time in my life. I rolled over and fell asleep. I woke up a new man.






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