My salvation came in the fall of 1971. A classmate was the son of a Baptist minister and told me how to go about being saved -- really saved.
At that time, there was a popular series of comics called "Chick tracts," that told stories of salvation and redemption (and sometimes damnation) in comic-book form. With my classmate's words buzzing in my head, I picked up several at an information booth at the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport and read them when I got home. At the end of each booklet was a prayer asking Jesus to come into your life and become your Lord and Savior. I read that little prayer, and while I never had a "religious experience," as many people somehow think is necessary, I felt immeasurably better -- cleansed, even.
Over the years I grew comfortable in my belief in God (which I had always believed in but which was now strengthened). And encounters with agnostics and atheists only strengthened my belief more (especially after an appearance by renowned author Harlan Ellison, who makes no bones about his unbelief).
But it took a personal blow a few years ago to shake me out of my complacency and to make me reaffirm my resolve to turn to Jesus not only in times of trouble but daily. Without going into details, my family suffered a serious financial setback. We had to cash in our IRA's, sell our house and the kids' college funds, and eventually declare bankruptcy. Losing my job a few months later didn't help matters.
Through it all, however, we were blessed -- my members of my children's school, by fellow church members, even by the congregation of another church of a different denomination. I felt humbled. I put my trust in the Lord again and again since then. I even thanked him for the troubles that befell me and my family during that terrible time, for it opened my eyes to what is truly important in this life -- faith and trust in the Lord.
I have learned that we Christians aren't perfect. Troubles assail us constantly, no matter what our beliefs or how strong they are. All we can do is rejoice that our sins are forgiven, even when we stumble (accidentally or deliberately). If it takes a financial loss to open our eyes, so be it. In the last few years, I have come to be content with whatever I have, whether it's a lot or a little.
My hope and my prayer is that anyone who reads this e-mail or others will not be deceived into thinking that everything will be perfect once one is saved. If that were the case, everyone would welcome the Lord. What we come away with is comfort and peace and a desire to be better. I pray that others will consider Christ's sacrifice and the fact that it costs nothing to obtain -- just a simple little prayer asking for His forgiveness and His salvation. That's it.