If you're looking for a story from a well seasoned and veteran Christian, I think you may be in for a disappointment. If you were hoping to read Christian insights from a Biblical scholar who is well equipped with incredible answers, you may want to hit that 'Back' button now.
The reason is because those statements certainly do not describe me well at all. To be honest, I feel I am still in the nascent stages of my Christian faith and, as such, I do not feel all that qualified to impart spectacular words of Christian wisdom. But one thing I can say with the strongest confidence is that I do believe God has been present in my life in many ways and that He has directed me to be exactly where I am in my life right now.
To provide a little background, I am a Southern California native and graduated from CSU Northridge with a BA degree in math. After finishing at CSUN, I drove from LA to Raleigh to attend the graduate program at NC State University in the Dept. of Statistics. While at NCSU, I completed my Master's and Ph.D. degrees in statistics. After completing my graduate work, I returned to California and began work as a professor in the Dept. of Statistics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
While I was at CSU Northridge, I worked as a tutor for the math department and, through that experience, I discovered the joy of teaching math to others. I had never enjoyed such a fulfilling experience from any other occupation and I knew right away that I had great comfort in the role of a teacher. Now this is not to say that my approach to teaching was/is flawless!
I have been teaching at Cal Poly for several years and even now I find, with every passing academic term, there is something new that I can correct and improve upon. I would hope the changes I've made over the years have been for the better and that I am a better instructor now as compared to when I first started my career.
During those same years at Northridge, I knew very little of God. But that all changed thanks to a conversation I had with a good friend of mine. He and I were playing in a basketball tournament and, as we were waiting for our next match, we somehow started to talk about Christianity and his church.
That conversation sparked my interest and I accepted his no-pressure invitation to attend the upcoming service with him. 'Just come check it out', he said, 'and if you don't care for it, it can be a one-time visit.' And so I joined him at the next service and, through that positive experience, I found that the first visit soon led to a second. And the second led to a third. And before I knew it, I marked my first year in the church as I became a regular attendee.
I do have to admit, however, that despite the positive experiences I enjoyed at the church, I was not quick to call myself a Christian and a follower of Christ. Even after a year in the church, I still felt I had many many questions left unanswered and that I was not ready for the transition. But I kept on going.
I even joined a Bible-study/fellowship group, which was a wonderful venue to ask all the questions I had in my heart. Every week I attended those study sessions and I would ask my questions '¦ sometimes I found answers, and sometimes I didn't. But I kept asking away and I kept searching.
Right around that time I moved away to North Carolina to pursue my graduate studies. And I still remember the evening when I was in my dorm room reading the Bible and I finally made the decision to become a Christian. I wish I could say some earth shattering phenomenon caused this event, but it was just a soft comforting feeling that resided in my heart that told me it was the right thing to do. Knowing full well that I still DIDN'T have all the answers, I went into prayer '¦offering my faith and belief in God.
All my life I've felt I've been led in very specific ways to arrive at particular destinations. Even before that fateful evening in my dorm room, I often prayed to God asking for directions on certain important issues in my life. And even then I was able to witness very specific prayers being answered.
Skeptics may argue that what I perceived as answers from God may simply be coincidences explainable by mere chance. And that very well may be true. But, after you witness 'coincidence' after 'coincidence', at some point even a skeptical scientist (and statistician!) would say 'that's not likely due to chance alone '¦ there's something else going on.' For my life and what I've witnessed, I believe and have faith that the 'something else going on' is God.
I've been a Christian for over 10 years now and I certainly know I have much more room for improvement in terms of my Christian growth. There's always something new to learn. But, as with my teaching, I would hope the changes I've made over the years have been for the better and that I am a better person now as compared to when I first chose to let God into my life.
Finally, I'd like to close with an encouragement for those of you who are curious about the Christian faith. I hope you'll never be afraid to ask questions. And don't forget about prayer! That line of communication is open to everyone (believers and non-believers).
As I've found from my experience, sometimes answers don't arrive very quickly. But during those times I urge you to be patient, be steadfast, and continue to search with an open heart. As with any thing you're curious about, if you take the initiative to search and ask questions, you may find that some answers come slowly, but if you choose NOT to search and ask questions, then surely those answers may remain hidden forever.