I grew up in a churched home. Every Sunday we went to church as a family. It was taught that it was the right thing to do. And when I was in high school, I became very involved in the youth activities that my church offered. I even became a leader in my youth group.
I did not know it then, but I had a twisted view of how I was going to get to heaven. I thought that when I died, if all the good things I did outweighed all the bad things I did, I would deserve a place in heaven. So I did a lot of good things to “offset” all the not so good things I wanted to do. But, ultimately, I wanted to end up in heaven.
After high school I went to college. I made a choice to turn my back on church and God as I knew Him. I wanted to party, I wanted to experience life. And in my second semester of college I failed every class I was in. At that time I realized how messed up my life was. I had forgotten about doing any of the good things and I was convinced that if I died at that moment I did not stand a chance of getting into heaven.
It was then that the priest who was in charge of a statewide youth retreat called me and asked if I would be willing to lead an upcoming retreat. The person who was supposed to lead it had just canceled on him, and he needed to find someone who could step in and run with it since the retreat was in two weeks. He called me because I had led several of these retreats when I was in high school, and I knew the routine. They were some of those good things I did.
My immediate thought was, “I need to earn some good credits, and this would be a really good way to do that.” So I agreed to lead the retreat.
As soon as I hung up the phone, I realized what I had just committed to do. I was supposed to lead over 50 high-school students closer to God, and I was in no place to do that.
That scared me. I could not afford to mess this up. So I prayed and told God that if this retreat was going to be a success, He was going to have to do it. And, as part of my prayer, I confessed to God all the wrong things I had done and asked Him to forgive me, and to help me to be closer to Him.
The weekend came and the retreat was a huge success. But something happened to me in the early hours of that Sunday morning. I was sitting in the chapel of the retreat grounds thanking God for the weekend, and all of a sudden, I felt a peace and calm that I had never felt before. Jesus Christ had answered my prayer to draw me closer to Him and I knew He was who He says He is. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty I owed for all those bad things I had done. And because of that; because He has paid the price, I will spend eternity in heaven with Him!
That weekend was the turning point in my life. My whole attitude toward life changed for the better. And even though I still mess up from time to time, I know that my God loves me and always wants to spend more time with me.