My life wasn’t always meaningful. In fact, it was once, in a word, vanity. Allow me to share my past life with you.
I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1944. My parents separated from one another almost before I can remember. My mother raised my sister, my brother, and myself until she had to be hospitalized for a long period of time. I was then eleven years old. The authorities placed us children in an orphanage run by a group of elderly Italian nuns. With about 100 other children we were herded to mass every day and were instructed in the basic doctrines of the catholic religion. Although I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, little did I dream how real He was, and how much He could be to me.
Anyway, at that time my inclinations were more toward trouble and mischief than toward God. I didn’t like the orphanage and repeatedly ran away, once making it as far as Washington, D.C., forty miles away. There, my younger brother and I were apprehended by the police. Exhausted, we had fallen asleep on the lawn of the capitol building.
Eventually, the nuns decided that I needed sterner measures and the authorities sent me to a reformatory for boys in Pennsylvania, where I spent the next seventeen months.
I was released and, at the age of fifteen, went back to live with my mother, now out of the hospital and living in Baltimore. We lived in an inner-city neighborhood, largely inhabited by transients, the elderly, and the poor. There were few positive influences, and I grew up admiring and desiring to be like the guys who played cards or shot pool for their living. I was contemptuous of work and family ties. I considered these to be a “square” way of life. So I lived in this kind of environment, occasionally obtaining my spending money by less than legal means, and also becoming involved with drugs and alcohol.
At eighteen, I rather impulsively decided to join the army and was sent to Germany for almost three years. Essentially, I remained the same type of person. It seemed that the older I got, the more empty and frustrated I felt.
Eventually, in 1969, I went through a long period in which I was unable to find a job. This period of unemployment was, I believe, God’s sovereign arrangement for me. It left me with a lot of time to myself, and I began to think, considering all that my life had been, and all that it hadn’t been. It sadly dawned on me that my life, up to the age of twenty-five, had been mostly wasted time. Twenty-five wasted years.
I began to get interested in “religious” things and started going to a Catholic church. During this time there were often young people preaching the gospel on the streets of Hollywood, where I lived. Sometimes I would see what I knew was God reflected in their eyes and faces. I wanted to get “saved,” but didn’t know how.
One evening, I was invited to go to a Christian meeting in downtown Los Angeles. When I walked into that meeting hall, I sensed something extraordinary about that place. Everyone’s face seemed to be shining and there was a kind of brightness there that seemed to light up the whole room. The atmosphere was one of love and pleasantness.
People began to share what Christ meant to them and what He had done in them. As I listened, I began to be terribly convicted of the shame of all that my life had been. There was a tug-of-war going on inside of me, with one side saying that God was real and the other telling me to get up and get out of there! I struggled within myself. After a while, I realized that this wasÂ Godspeaking to me! HeÂ was real and He wantedÂ me! I found myself opening to Him. As I called upon His name, “Lord Jesus,” something wonderful happened. At that moment it seemed as if He were in me and all around me. Every weight, care and feeling of guilt was lifted off of me. I felt so new and clean inside. I sensed the presence of someone so loving, so gentle, so warm, and so good. God had come into me! Then someone requested a hymn, and I stood with my new-found family and joined them in singing, “Christ liveth in me”.
That was March 27, 1971, when the Lord Jesus came into me. Since my initial experience, He has become increasingly real and precious to me. When I first began to consider accepting Christ, one of my biggest fears was that this new life would not last. I have been a Christian for these many years now, and am still experiencing this living One! He is peace and He is rest and contentment. Christ is the meaning of my life.
– P. C.