At age fifteen in February 1973, I prayed a very simple prayer asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to come live in my heart. I thought I was asking Him to come with me, but I didn’t realize He was asking me to come with Him on a great adventure called the Christian Life. My life changed immediately. I felt such love and acceptance from God. I quit doing a lot of bad stuff because I wanted to please my new friend Jesus. My new identity was in my relationship with Jesus. I wanted to be like Him and follow wherever He would lead.
It truly has been a great adventure with Jesus these past forty-one years. He helped me to be a better husband and father than I would have ever had the ability to be. Now he is helping me to be a grandfather and maybe even a great grandfather someday. He has given me some amazing opportunities to sing and speak to people across the United States, Canada and even Guatemala. Life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries, but Jesus kept His promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:6b). Even while having a heart attack a few years ago I felt His love and presence with me. I’ve experienced my share of heartbreak and disappointments, but nothing has ever separated me from His unconditional love (see Romans 8:38 & 39). His love for me is not dependent upon my circumstances or how I feel.
I can relate to the psalmist who said, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11 NIV). Jesus, my good shepherd, has been faithfully leading me on “paths of righteousness” for over forty years. Biblically “paths of righteousness” are also referred to as “straight paths.” You may be surprised to know that there is nothing straight about a shepherd’s path for his sheep. Paths are narrow and often difficult to walk on. It’s easy to stray off the “narrow path.” The big rocks (major life events) along the pathway can slow you down, but it’s the small stones (small offenses at people or even God) that can really trip you up! My shepherd has gently guided me though some rough terrain. Proverb 3:5-6 ESV says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” I’ve wondered about that passage because my paths have been anything but straight. I’ve come to see this verse as the “rearview mirror” of life. When I look back over my life I can see how God miraculously smoothed my crooked pathway into a straight road.
I love the words to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Long Way Home. “I set out on a great adventure the day my Father started leading me home. Said there’s gonna be mountains to climb and valleys were gonna go through. But I had no way of knowing just how hard this journey could be. Cause the mountains are steeper and the valleys are deeper than I ever would had dreamed.” He continues, “I got some rocks on my shoes, fears I wish I could lose, that make the mountains so hard to climb, and my heart gets so heavy with the weight of the world sometimes. There’s a bag of regrets, ‘should’ve beens’ and ‘not yets’ that keep on dragging around, and I can hardly wait till the day I get to lay them all down. Here’s the good news found in the chorus, “But I know were gonna make it, and I know we’re gonna get there soon. And I know sometimes it seems like, were going the wrong way, but it’s just the long way home.”
I’m still on a great adventure with Jesus. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future. He said, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9 NKJV). Even in death He will be there. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Ps 23:4 NKJV). Proverbs 4:18 promises, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” My future with Jesus is looking so bright; I’m going to need sunglasses!