Photo by Samuel Lopes on Unsplash
This was written as part of a writing challenge I participated in to stretch my writing: Five Minute Friday’s 31 DAYS OF FIVE MINUTE FREE WRITES. This is spontaneous writing in only 5 minutes, though for this one, I did not limit myself to 5 minutes, because this is my story. The word for the day was “Memory.”
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:1-2
The memory is just as clear as if it happened yesterday. I had just finished reading yet another Christian novel. I had only selected the book in the first place because I had accompanied my mother to a Christian bookstore, and she had generously offered to purchase any two books I wanted.
She was a new believer in Jesus, and being a voracious reader herself, was overjoyed to find bookstores filled with books from authors who shared the same belief. I would have considered myself a believer as well. I believed in God, after all.
The first time we entered the store, I gravitated toward the fiction section, surprised to find an extensive selection. It became a routine, visiting this bookstore every few weeks, always with her offer to purchase any two books that I desired.
I was immediately both skeptical and intrigued. I believed in God, in Jesus even, but books about Him? In a fictional setting? What kind of craziness was this? Was God okay with it? Even more astonishing, the characters who called themselves Christians prayed, and it was as if they were actually talking to God, face to face. Who had ever heard of talking to Him like that, like He was a real person, almost like He was near and could hear us? And who had ever heard of talking to Jesus as if He was their best friend?
I loved reading, especially if there was a little romance thrown in, so I continued reading. On this particular day, I put the book away, perplexed. What would make anyone so audacious as to believe they could actually talk to God, and believe that He would answer, as if He really cared? Ah, that must be the answer then. It was just fiction. Still, were there people who really prayed like that, I wondered?
I looked around my small apartment, where I lived alone, and my eyes landed on the television that my father had given me. It seldom worked when his boss gave it to him, worked even less when I received it, and it barely worked now. It hadn’t even turned on in months. Nevertheless, I pushed the power button on this old television, and to my surprised delight, the screen lit up and figures appeared before my eyes.
It was Easter week, and the station was broadcasting a movie about the life of Jesus, Yeshua. Actors brought the story from the Bible to life. It was difficult to understand the words Jesus spoke as He taught the people who followed Him. I was intrigued by how He challenged the Jewish leaders who tried to trap Him and turn the people against Him. I was awed and amazed at the miracles Jesus performed everywhere He went. He seemed like a man, a human, like us. The man in the books I had been reading was there in front of me, and I was captivated.
I watched as they falsely accused Him, and then beaten. It wasn’t real, though, I told myself. It was like the novels I had been reading, fictional stories about Jesus. I believed He had died for people’s sin, sure, and I supposed He had gone to heaven afterwards, but I had never really thought about it, nor had I ever heard about Him suffering. No, it wasn’t real, I declared.
My eyes were drawn back to the television. The man on the screen was being nailed to a cross made of rough wood. Huge spikes were being pounded through His hands. I watched Him cry out in excruciating pain, as the hammer blows continued. This man, who was innocent and had helped so many people, was suffering agonizing pain. And then, He turned His head and looked at me, and time froze.
As I stared back, I was undone, because I knew. I knew it was true, every bit of it. I knew He had suffered willingly, painfully taking the punishment that my sin deserved.
I fell to the floor in a heap, weeping uncontrollably. The weight of this knowledge was more than I could bear. I had caused Him to suffer. Me. I, who had believed that I could do anything I wanted because God just wanted me to be happy. I had caused this. The burden of my sin would not allow me to do other than lay on the floor, prostrate, as I wept in grief and remorse. I could not undo the wrongs I had committed, knowingly or unknowingly. Through tears, I begged for forgiveness, over and over. I thanked Him for taking my place, for taking the punishment that I now knew I deserved. I lay there, a sobbing mess, until there were no more tears to cry. Gradually, my regret gave way to gratitude for what He had endured for me, and I knew I had been forgiven. Grief gave way to peace, and I got up from the floor a changed person.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
I was different after that day, and those books that had started it all became a kind of example for me as I learned how to talk to Him and walk with Him. The books may have been fiction, but they were based on truth, and that truth set me free.
That television never turned on again.
“And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10