It was the autumn of my seventh year of school, my first experience of the wider world of middle school with its changing classrooms and multiple teachers. It was a time of blessed transition from the strictures of grade school. The world was a place of broadened opportunities.
commercial came on, and the voice sang “You’ve got a lot to live, and Pepsi’s got
a lot to give…because Pepsi helps them come alive.” I heard that ditty many times, but for the
first time I knew what they were singing about; I understood. In that moment a
door opened for me. The world had become
a place of endless opportunities. You see, I was in love—as much in love as a 7th
grade boy can be. Her name was Theresa, and she had long hair and was on the
My infatuation faded as I realized Theresa was
just leading me on for her own gratification. After a month, I found a new
girlfriend; Shannon was her name. She
was truer of heart. But it was not the
same, Shannon was not my first love.
In my infatuation I was ready to embrace a new
piece of the person I was becoming. The Pepsi commercial spoke to a new
capacity in me. It was the right message
at the right time.
Seven years later I was a freshman in college, and
life was opening up around me again. I
had left behind the provincialism and tedium of High School. My professors were opening up to me new vistas
of knowledge and giving to me the freedom to think my own thoughts. I found I was a standout accounting student and
already could see a comfortable career as a CPA, a job where I could make a
good living and not get dirty or risk debilitating injury. I could see myself to having everything I
could ever want, yet I sensed there had to be more to life.
I was not attending church anymore. I come to believe in a God who only instilled guilt
and fear, both of which were designed to make us behave. It seemed to me that all this talk of God’s
love for us only served as a pretext for God’s judgment of us when we rejected
that love. Nonetheless, I did believe in
God and thought that God had created me.
So I began to read the Bible, thinking I might find something there to
make sense of life.
My parents were away on fishing trip, and I was
alone in the house; it was a Tuesday night.
I read the story of Nicodemus in my red-letter edition King James Bible
that I had received in the fourth grade for memorizing the books of the Bible
in order. The story recorded there
stunned me. The beauty of the Gospel
washed over me. For the first time I got
it. The words in red took on
transforming power. I handed myself over to the grace of God without
I had heard countless sermons, attended endless
Vacation Bible Schools, and sat through years of Sunday School. Yet I had never really gotten the message. In that brief exchange between Jesus and a Pharisee,
it all broke open to me. It was like
waking up from a coma to a sunlit room on a fresh morning.
I was ready in that moment to embrace a new piece
of the person I was becoming. That story spoke to a newly-birthed capacity in
me. It was the right message at the
God is always birthing new things in our lives,
pushing us to grow, to risk, to rely. I
think this should make us patient, patient with ourselves and with those around
us. We all are on the way to becoming
someone we have not yet been. And, yes,
we each are at different places on that journey. The important thing is to walk through the
next door when it opens.
Executive Minster-American Baptist Churches of New