A year ago, LIFE Worship Arts determined that it was important for our teammates to know each other’s Christian testimonies. So for several months now, a member of LIFE Worship has been sharing their story each Sunday morning with their teammates. In order to share a story, team members are encouraged to write out their story the week prior, and send their story to the worship pastor. Come Sunday morning, the team member shares their story during the worship service review meeting in the sanctuary of LIFE Fellowship.
In an effort to strengthen our community of relationships on and off the ministry platform at LIFE, we look forward to featuring some of these salvific stories here on this blog. Our story this week comes from our worship pastor, Jason Lanier.
Down a long road made of and named Mud, I was raised in a two parent home next door to my mother’s parents. My father was a Baptist preacher’s son and my mother was the granddaughter of a Pentecostal preacher. My mother was a tomboy; spending the better of her days outdoors, riding horses, playing sports, and hunting. My father was a popular basketball player, a good student, a respected member of our small community and, according to his sisters, an all-American sweetheart at Bolivia High School.
I don’t know how my parents met. I don’t know how long they dated. I do know that their relationship was primarily instinctive and their affections were not exclusive to each other. During her senior year, my mom became pregnant. The plan was that she finish high school and that my parents marry. As you should expect, both of my parents’ lives changed dramatically. No longer hopeful for the lives that they had once aspired to live, they settled into their new normal and began their lives together as husband/wife and father/mother.
As a result of many factors, I was born into a hurting family. I choose to not share the details because I desire to honor my parents. For today’s purpose, it’s important to note that from birth through high school, my life revolved around persistent fear, anxiety, resentment, and anger. These ever present feelings were baked into my mind and into my spirit. Overtime, they naturally became the foundation of my heart and personality. I remember enduring a tense conversation on a long drive home with my dad from a Boy Scout camp. I did not know it, but prior to departing the camp, my Scout Leader, Mr. Nance, had pulled my dad to the side and expressed his concern that I was too cynical and critical for a child my age. He shared this observation with my dad because he wanted to know if and how he could help. I don’t remember the details of our conversation during the ride home that day. I am sure that my dad attempted to speak wisdom to me. We had many many talks with one another over the years that I lived at home with my parents. Many of them tedious, fearful, riddled with paranoia, and manipulative due to inner fears and strife. But despite the troubles of my family’s home that nurtured me into the melancholic, anxious, emotionally needy, and pessimistic child that my Scout Leader had observed that weekend, I do not doubt that the aching desire to be a good father resided in my dad’s heart. He was broken, too. He was in need, too.
Looking back over my life from what I can recall of my childhood to now, I know that the Spirit of God was involved in guiding my life. I believe without doubt that His Spirit led me along a specific path comprised of experiences good and bad, nurturing and tragic, of people and circumstances, and of believers and unbelievers. I also do not believe it to be a random thing in my life that the Creator placed churches, church people, and church programs in my way as a place of retreat and refuge from my family’s home. I remember very well spending as much time as I could in weekly church services and activities so that I would not have to spend time at my parents’ home. These were a ready and consistent escape from my normal life and my parents never withheld the opportunities from me.
Involved in youth group, church choir, Vacation Bible School, cookouts, fish fries, and revivals, I recall countless calls to “give my life to Christ”. In my mother’s family’s Pentecostal churches, I was encouraged to seek “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”. In my father’s family’s Baptist churches, I was encouraged to pray the “sinner’s prayer” and to walk the aisle. In both styles and types of churches, I tried to be what I was supposed to be and I “gave my life to Christ” a few different times.
In 1993, I graduated from South Brunswick High School and left home for Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Due to having been awarded a full academic scholarship, I felt free to leave home and to rarely return to it. I only spent one summer back home and it was such a bad summer, that I never left Boone again accept for a couple of holidays.
During my time at school, I would occasionally seek to attend church events. It was what I knew. It was familiar to me and, as I had to fill my new found independence with something, church was an easy option. But in the absence of the need to escape from home, I did not feel as compelled to go as I once did and I had never truly held any real desire for the LORD. He did not fill my thoughts. I rarely thought of Him at all. In fact, my day-to-day life was not lived to please Him. I just lived it. Sunrise. Sunset. I got up, did what I wanted and just enough of what I needed in order to please others and then I’d go back to bed and start it all again. I did not love Christ or anyone else. I loved me, I suppose. Not in a happy, content, or stable way. But if I had to choose between what someone wanted for me or what I wanted for me…I chose what I wanted for me. So that’s love of a sort, right? I loved me. Not God. Not people. I felt nothing for anyone besides indifference, anger, frustration, covetousness, judgement, and occasional sympathy.
One morning, while attending a church service with my Great Aunt Faye and Uncle Ken, my fully bitter, obsessively critical and hardened spirit was suddenly and miraculously turned towards the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t know how the moment was “triggered” or why He chose me on that day. New birth is supernatural. I can’t explain it with the natural. All I know is what I know. And I know that in that moment, my spirit felt a sudden conviction for my sin and a desperate realization that I was going to die and be forever separated from God. In that moment, I felt the crushing weight of my lostness. I felt responsibility for my sin. I felt the need for forgiveness. Never having responded emotionally to the Lord in any way, but always sitting in quiet seething judgment of those who appeared to enjoy Him (especially anytime that I was attending my grandparents’ and aunt’s Pentecostal church services), I suddenly found myself standing upright with my hands lifted heavenward as if heavy chains were released from them. With tears streaming down my face, I sang loudly from the congregation with the church choir, “I wanna be washed by the blood of the Lamb! I need a cleansing from the fountain.” I was baptized that morning. I returned to college with a desire to live what was described as a “holy life”. I returned to college with an actual love and thankfulness for the Lord. I returned to college with a desire to know Him and to understand His truths for my life.
Since that time, the Spirit of God, through the Word, through ministry service, and through people, has been regenerating my spirit, my mind, and my heart. My desire to love Him and to genuinely love other people is consistently increasing as it convicts me with His love and His counsel. I have a relationship with Him and He is changing me. I still struggle with the impact upon my life that occurred during my formative childhood. But God is faithfully teaching me through it. Because of who I am and because I must own who I am, I have found Him to be Who He says that He is and I regularly renewed because of Him.