To start at the beginning, Paynesville, Minnesota, a city of 2,300 people, is where I grew up.
I can sum up my school years in one word: SPORTS. I had great success in all sports I played. I wrestled all of my life until I was a freshman, but quit, because of the pressure to cut weight and the treatment I received by other team members when I couldn't make weight, losing us the chance to go to State. I was devastated by how they treated me.
On top of everything that was happening with wrestling, my parents got a divorce. Even though I appeared strong on the outside I felt so vulnerable. My dad and I really didn't have much of a relationship. When my two brothers, my sister, and I did good we were applauded, but if we messed up we were treated very poorly, usually through verbal put downs. Fights would begin, but no apologies were ever said. It's true that we were poor helpers around the house, but my dad did not know how to handle that in a kind or gentle way and would get really upset with us. It did not help that he would drink a lot, too. Over time we had many hurts from the ways in which he responded to us.
Despite the family troubles, my success in sports continued as I started varsity in baseball my freshman year. Baseball became my sport, and I had a lot to show for it in the awards, championships and the two years in a row that I tried out for the Minnesota Twins as a catcher. I was a great baseball player. Injuries slowed me down, though and I switched from baseball, football, and wrestling to only baseball.
Things started to change for me a little when I began working for a tree trimming service that year. On the first day of the job my boss, Mike, prayed before we worked. Praying was incredibly awkward, but over time I began to see how he cared about us in so many ways. Mike became such a good friend to me. He loved me and became the "father figure" I so desperately needed. He didn't talk about God, at least directly, but looking back, he helped to nurture and grow me, unbeknownst to me.
After being confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a sophomore my interest in religious things perked. I started to read my Bible. I went to Promise Keepers once, a Father/Son conference that my soon-to-be step-dad, James, took me to. I was involved in church, but still my heart was essentially the same. For example, I had a girlfriend for a couple of years, in which infatuation drove the relationship. She looked down on my religious interests and essentially, our relationship came down to fooling around and hanging out with each other. We fought, broke up and proceeded to do that several different times until we were finally through my junior year of high school, not without many feelings and hurts still hanging on into my college career.
Going back to sports, now that I was a one-sport athlete, I worked out in the fall and winter to prepare for baseball. I would lift weights a lot to increase strength for baseball. One day in the weight room, I was wearing a Jesus shirt that I bought at Promise Keepers and, due to the tight fit, wore only in the weight room. That day a man in his forties, who I had seen a lot in the weight room, approached me. "You're a warrior for wearing that shirt in here," he exclaimed. He began to share about how he came to know Jesus in high school. I was interested in Jesus, the Bible, God, and all of that stuff. He asked me to come to a Bible Study, gave me a free Bible and treated me to dinner.
He was a pastor, an unusual one at that in my thinking, considering he lifted weights and was ripped. Little did I know he would be the one that would share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me. He shared from the Bible about seeing my sin through the Ten Commandments, my deserved punishment, God's love and grace in sending his Son for me, and how I could know Him personally on earth and spend an eternity with Him in heaven. The only thing, is that the gift of eternal life had to be received through repentance of sin and dependence on Christ for salvation. I could never perform well enough to earn God's favor. Little did I know I was not as spiritual as I thought. I had been missing Jesus. At that point I started my walk with Christ.
Jesus really has made me a new person. Thanks for looking into my past with me and how I came to hear and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.