Last week I happened to find my daily diary from 1981. I was 14-15 years old at the time and wrote a few lines every day about what happened in my little life. Never did I think then that 30 years later I’d be reading that diary to my two little daughters while lying on their bed in Grand Rapids, MI. Not sure if Grand Rapids even existed then.
Every night as I read a few entries to my fascinated girls, the memories come flooding back, and it really does feel like yesterday. Observations from the first six months of 1981:
1. I had incredible freedom that few children enjoy today. I was traveling alone on buses into the big city of Glasgow to shop, on trains with my friends to go bird-watching (yes, real bird-watching!), and on bikes up and down busy highways. And not a parent in sight! (And my wonderful parents were stricter than most.) True, I had some scrapes and stitches along the way, but I can hardly believe the parental paranoia that we are all consumed with today.
2. I hated piano lessons as much as I thought I did. I hated trombone lessons even more. And if possible, I hated school even more. And, yes, I do mean “hate.” A number of times I write/confess, “I dogged 1st and 2nd period today…I dogged the afternoon and went to the park…” (Dogged = Scottish for skipped class. Don’t ask me to explain it). School was an utterly miserable experience for me – bored, bullying, and being bullied – but that’s another story
3. My school soccer team lost even more than I remember. I still bear the physical scars, but the diary re-opened some deep emotional wounds – like the day I played centre-back against the local Catholic school and we lost 10-2. Despite all that, I lived for soccer and played and watched it almost every day. (Did not help my school report card!) One of the chirpiest entries says that I was standing beside two Scottish International footballers in a Fish & Chip shop one night! (Alan Rough and Danny McGrain for Scottish middle-aged readers). Might explain why the Scottish team’s results were so awful though.
4. I had no interest in the Gospel whatsoever. Every Sunday records the preacher’s name, but nothing else. Not one word on one page about God! My parents were faithful in bringing me to church and trying to involve me in church youth groups. But I was spiritually dead.
5. I “went forward” at the Luis Palau evangelistic crusade. Yes, that’s right, I had no interest in the Gospel and yet on June 7 1981, I “went forward” at the Luis Palau crusade! I was one of about 12 young people from our church (a staunchly Presbyterian and Calvinistic Church) who went to the front to “commit our lives to the Lord.” Interestingly I write nothing about what I believed or understood. I simply say, “I got Luis Palau’s autograph!” Of the 12 of us who “went forward” that night I doubt any of us were truly converted (I certainly wasn’t), and I believe that only 2 or 3 of us are still going to Church. Within a few months of the crusade, nothing had changed in any of our lives. In fact, I fear that it did more damage than good. It would be eight more long and sinful years until God “went forward” into my life.
6. God has loved me with an everlasting love. Above all, as I read all my childish writing again, I feel myself enveloped and suffused in the engulfing love of God. I look back on my life and see His goodness and mercy have pursued me all my days, even all my utterly selfish and godless days. O yes, I see the remarkable, the astonishing patient love of my parents toward me, but above all I’m just overwhelmingly dwarfed by the patient love of a sovereign and gracious God.
Not only that He should save me from my sin, and not only save me from where my sin was most certainly leading me in this life and for eternity, and not only save me to know Him through Jesus Christ, but to actually save me to serve Him as one of His ambassadors. What can I do but join Paul on the ground and say, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
Saved by grace alone. And sent by grace alone.
He certainly picks the nothings so that He can be everything.