Part 2 of a 3-Part Series (Read Part I Here)
As 1st Faith grows, it’s important that as we ask for your stories, you know ours.
Mine? In short, I’m probably the wrong guy to launch this site. Want proof? As you can read in Part I of this 3-part series, when I was 15 I even told God—out loud, no less—“I don’t want You in my life.”
No, not the guy to be talking about faith. But two years after deciding to dump any thought of God, I lost a bet with God. It was a game-changer.
You read that right. I made a bet with . . . God. The Big Guy. The Man Upstairs. As in, Almighty. Somehow, I’m still alive. Here’s what happened.
Two years after telling God to get out of my life, I was in my senior year of high school and life just wasn’t working. On the outside I’m sure I looked fine. No worries. On the inside, I was churning.
For one, my dream was to play professional golf. But with just months till high school graduation, zero college coaches were beating down my door with scholarships. I was supposed to be a golf phenom by now and wasn’t even the best player on my high school team.
As if this wasn’t enough of a problem, I wanted to be popular. I was close enough to the “in” crowd to be barely on the outside. To get closer, I found myself trying to be someone I wasn’t. Soon, I realized I didn’t like the guy in the mirror. I needed to change and knew it.
No Jesus for me. Still . . .
But how? Though my sister talked to me about faith often, the idea of Jesus didn’t connect. To me, Jesus was for those who needed a crutch, the awkward people, those who couldn’t tackle real life on their own. I wasn’t against those people, but I saw nothing that made me want to be those people.
Still, I wanted a different me. One afternoon, I mustered up a quick prayer: “God, if you’re there, you need to change me.” That was it. I moved on.
A few weeks after my brief conversation with God, my sister and her boyfriend (now her husband) invited me to a spring beach retreat with their college Christian fellowship at Auburn. Was God trying to get my attention? Was this the answer?
Naaaah, couldn’t be.
Because on that same weekend—May 17 & 18, 1980—I was scheduled to play in a local golf tournament to get some competition before my summer tournament schedule began. I would walk-on as a golfer at Auburn University in the fall. I needed to start preparing. Soon.
I imagined what a beach trip—with Christians, no less—would be like. Singing Kum-Ba-Yah for hours. Carrying Bibles down the beach, asking everyone, “Do you know Jesus!?” No offense, but no thanks.
“Okay, God . . . Let’s make a bet.”
I decided though, to give God a fair shot. If He really wanted me to go hear about Jesus, here was His chance. But I wasn’t going to make it easy for Him. Because of my golf background, I figured the best way to bargain with God was with a bet. So, that’s what I did.
If God won the bet, I’d give the beach trip a whirl. But if not, the God thing could wait—perhaps indefinitely.
In my second “prayer” in two months, I told God, “Okay, God. If You make the beach trip cost the same or less than the golf tournament, I’ll go to the beach.” The golf tournament’s entry fee was $15, extremely low even for 1980. Just fifteen bucks.
Good luck with that, God. Two nights on the beach had to cost more than $15.
I smiled. This was the perfect bet. The beach trip would be thirty or forty bucks and I could just say, “Too bad, too much.” Then I could play in the golf tournament with a clear conscience, knowing I gave God a fighting chance. He couldn’t send me to hell after losing a fair bet, could He? A total win-win.
When my sister asked, I would tell her I was thinking about going. Did I tell her about the bet? Not just no, but Hell No. Nothing was going to mess this up. Whenever she told me the cost, it would just be too much. Too bad. I’m playing golf, sis. Enjoy the beach. Pack your Bible.
The next week, my sister invited me—for the hundredth time–to the college fellowship’s Sunday evening gathering. No problem, I decided. It was only an hour or so. I could go once, proving I was open to the whole Jesus thing.
The worship leader sang some songs I didn’t know. I feigned interest. Everyone seemed happy enough, but this wasn’t my tribe.
Then, the words I was waiting for. “We’ve got the costs in on the May beach retreat,” he said.
“What the . . . ?”
I waited, arms folded. Finally, I could put the nagging beach trip thing behind me. And, feel good about doing so.
“We’ll be there Friday and Saturday nights,” he said.
Suddenly, I felt a pang in my stomach, that feeling that says, “You’re caught.” Kind of like running through a stop sign and seeing blue lights flashing. I wasn’t comfortable. Something was wrong, very wrong.
I took a breath. In a second, it would be over. All I needed was $15.01 or more, and I was safe. Another deep breath. It would be okay. It had to be.
The guy with the guitar spoke again. “It’s going to be $7.50 each night, or $15.”
What the . . .?
I’m not sure whether I cursed under my breath or just sat there, dumbfounded. The rest of the service or whatever it was called was a blur. All I knew was, I lost.
And if there was one thing I knew from seeing a lot of dollars changing hands on the golf course, one never reneged on a bet. Never.
I had to go. Damn. Or, because I was headed to the beach with a bunch of Christians, “Dang.”
Next Week, Part III.
Like this story? Part III is now posted, Sun, Sand and . . . Salvation?
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