[This is part two of my story of Christ entering my life. To come up to speed, you can read part one here.]
Louise and Cathy told me that the place was run in an open bunk style and I could drop my things on of the other three beds. Apparently, new people got whatever room had an empty bed in it while the bath was down the hall. Suited me fine, so I stayed.
Cathy and Louise were college roommates in America but were studying abroad that year and had just come into London from Germany (Louise ) and Spain (Cathy). They didn’t know London at all, so I offered to show them around a bit. We ended up traveling together for two weeks.
These two young women, as you might have guessed, were Christians. They talked a ton about their faith and how everyone needed Jesus. I talked a ton about my atheism and how God didn’t exist. I did wear a small cross around my neck, though, and Cathy asked about it the first night. A gift from an old friend, I explained, nothing more significant than that. (Cathy later admitted that there were times during our travels that she wanted to reach up and rip the cross from my neck. She refrained because, like I said, she’s a Christian.)
At another point, Louise asked me whether I thought I’d get into heaven if it turned out there really was such a place. I told her sure, and she asked why.
“Because I’m a nice guy.”
She looked me dead in the eye. “A lot of nice guys are going to hell, Tim.”
I wanted to explain that I was a really nice guy, but knew that wouldn’t make a difference to her thinking. Besides, I also knew I wasn’t all that nice a guy.
So we traveled around, and at one point Louise bought me a copy of The Screwtape Letters, thinking I’d enjoy Screwtape’s correspondence with his nephew Wormwood. She was right. She and Cathy also were soon leaving to return to school on the continent.
I saw them off on their ferry to Calais and the next morning took a train back to Sussex.
The Sanctification of a Railway Car
The train ride from London to Brighton takes about an hour, unless you’re on the run that makes a stop at every local station along the way. That’s the one I was on. These trains used the older style cars, the type where you can’t move from one to the other through connecting doors. You have to wait to get to a station, get out of one car and walk the platform to get on the next one down.
I was alone in my car and picked up the book Louise bought me to read along the way. The train stopped at a couple stations, and I was just settling in to read some more when I found I could not concentrate very well. I kept reading the same paragraph over and over. I had a feeling like you get sometimes in a library or other quiet place that someone must have walked in when you weren’t looking. I figured someone must have gotten on at the last station without me noticing. So I stood up and looked around. No one in the railway car but me.
I sat back down and opened the book again. Now I found myself reading not the same paragraph but the same sentence over and over again. The feeling that someone was there with me was overwhelming, not allowing me to concentrate at all, so I started to get up to look again. Then I told myself, We haven’t stopped at a station since the last time you looked, Tim. There’s no one here. I sat back down and completely unbidden came a question I would never have imagined coming from my lips. Out loud. In an otherwise empty railway car.
“OK God, what do you want?”
What are you doing Tim, I thought. You don’t believe in God. Then I answered myself Yeah, but someone’s here with me. Then a feeling of sufficiency (if that’s the right word) came over me, that I could go back to my reading now. So I did, and read through to my final stop.
Once I got back to my room at school I thought hard about what happened, and I finally decided that I should ask God about this. I told him I wanted to know who he was, but also assured him that even though I’d been hanging around with Christians it was completely all right if he was not the God that Christ revealed.
Through the course of that evening and the next day, I became convinced that was exactly who he is. So I had more thinking to do. I had to consider what this meant, and what I should do about it. Here’s what I came up with from my old Sunday school knowledge about Jesus: God loves me and wants the best for me, God made me so he knows what’s best for me, God is all-powerful so he has the ability to actually do what’s best for me too.
I thought What a deal! and said out loud, “OK God, I’m in.”
That was it, my prayer of salvation: What-a-deal-OK-God-I’m-in.