Almost 41 years ago to the day, I was sitting in the back row of a calculus class at USC, the typical place where us baseball players would sit and chew tobacco and smoke cigarettes, when up the stairs runs a young lady who wants to hand us a flier. Seems there was a really dynamic speaker on campus that day that she wanted to let us know about. I gladly accepted that flier … pretty much because I was at the end of my rope. I had spent the last few months searching for meaning, purpose and direction, looking at every philosophy and worldview imaginable, trying to figure out how to get me out of my self­imposed prison. It also had to do with drugs and alcohol, but it wasn’t just that, it was the painful sense of purposelessness. No one knew it, but I was trapped. I had 6 major areas of my life that I had tried every avenue of escape, but in all 6, I was utterly out of control.

I had just spent the last 3 nights desperately crying out to Who I thought was the last resort. Then spending the night before with agonized pleading … only to hit a dead-end. A blank wall. A seemingly deaf ear.

Then somehow that monologue turned into a dialogue. I had encountered the God of the Universe. As crazy as it seems, He communicated His Presence in a way that I was more sure of than even my own life. This confidence led me the next morning to wake up enthusiastically and expectantly. I now knew that God was the general answer and all I needed now was the specifics. I was so confident I would get those that day that I ran to that class with a blank piece of paper knowing it would be filled by days’ end. After thanking the girl for the flier, I found out that the speaker would start right after my class ended. It ran late so I had to sprint across campus as fast as I could. I arrived and could only find a spot under a big oak tree near Student Union. Within seconds, the speaker began talking about one of those areas of my life where I was trapped …. then 2, then 3 and eventually all 6 were addressed. Tears flowed down my cheeks.

I felt like the little guy Zacchaeus in the Scriptures, the most unworthy of tax collectors in Luke 19, who was picked out of tree by Jesus, and was told as he walked by the tree, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today … for today, salvation has come to this house. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
More tears ran down my face. Tears of utter joy. I ran past my baseball field even though practice was already starting, and for the rest of the day, all I could hear myself saying was “I’m sorry … and I’m thankful. I’m sorry for who I’ve been and what I’ve done. But I’m thankful for Who You are and what You’ve done.” By the end of the day, my sheet was full.
And since then, my life has been full. Not full of good deeds or a righteous life. FAR from it. But full of freedom and purpose and joy. And deep thankfulness. So, this Christmas, well heck any Christmas, is a poignant reminder to me that no matter how desperate life gets, how out of whack or idiotic our decisions, Christ can intervene. My favorite song right now is called “Reckless Love” by Corey Asbury and it beautifully describes how God pursued me. He “leaves the 99 to go after the one … (See the video on You Tube)

This Christmas I’m thankful that I wasn’t left alone under that tree, but was told “come down, I’ve got something for you.”

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