I was raised in a good family where I was taught to work hard, mind my manners, say my prayers every night, and go to church a couple of times a year, but Christ was not a part of our lives. That changed in October of my freshman year in high school when, at a youth group meeting to which I was invited by a friend, I prayed to receive Christ as my savior.
My spiritual growth was rapid, but as the years passed, I can see (in retrospect) that much of what I did was driven by a deep desire to feel significant and accepted. I turned to relationships, academic and artistic achievement, and moral uprightness in an attempt to prove my worth to the world, to myself, and to God. It didn’t work.
My efforts to earn the universe’s affirmation left me frustrated and exhausted. By tying my identity to my own ability to perform perfectly in various arenas of life, I had set an unattainable standard. Failures became devastating. Intense energy was spent keeping up the appearance of having it all together, despite the fact that I knew I didn’t. I felt my musical and moral shortcomings with particular intensity, but hoped that if I hated and punished myself enough I could somehow earn cosmic brownie points. I was convinced that God’s opinion of me was even lower than my own. There was no doubting that Christ had died for my sins, but I thought of salvation as a really strong perfume covering up the stench of my life. God would let me into heaven because he was contractually obligated to, but that didn’t mean He had to like it—or me.
Thirteen years after accepting Christ, I spiritually burned out. Knowing I was unable to continue in the same path, I sought counsel from my pastor and another mature Christian in my church. Through their patience and gentle instruction, and with the help of Neil Anderson’s book Victory Over the Darkness, I began to understand that my perceptions of God, salvation, the gospel, and myself were very, very wrong.
Three passages of Scripture in particular spoke directly to my situation. The first was Jeremiah 2:13, which says, “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken the fountain of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” I had known this verse for some time, but it came alive in a new way. I understood that much of my behavior was comprised of illegitimate attempts to meet legitimate needs. The first thirteen years of my Christian life were summed up in that single verse; I had had the fountain of living water at my disposal, but had been furiously digging my own broken cisterns in a vain attempt to feel my life was worthwhile.
The next passage—another one I had known for years—shattered my perception of salvation as heavy perfume. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come.” I had been living my Christian life as a contractual obligation, as though nothing had changed when I became a Christian except God’s expectations. To the contrary, the Bible teaches (in 2 Cor. 5:17 and many other places) that I had been made new at the moment of my salvation and no longer needed to impress God. He had already done the work I was trying to do.
The last verse answered my need for significance. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ Jesus, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God created me on purpose, with purpose, and had a plan for my life, even if I didn’t fully know it yet. There was a time when I was certain that God’s intent was for me to travel the world singing opera. Now I realize that it is to be on a college campus, still singing, but being the best teacher I can. Most importantly, He has created me to be a faculty ambassador for Christ, offering to others the new life and purpose that He has given to me.
Friends describe me
Goofy, organized, a little OCD, ambitious
Sports (I love them!) -- especially playing basketball; cooking; working out when I can; watching funny YouTube videos and doing generally nerdy things with my family; quoting movies.
Fantasy dinner guests
C. S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Kurt Warner
My undergrad alma mater
University of Cincinnati (Conservatory of Music)
My worst subject in school
In college I drove
A yellow 1979 VW Super Beetle with moonroof and no heat (until it died...).
If I weren't a professor, I would
Mere Christianity, Great Divorce, All of the Narnia Books, all of the Harry Potter books
Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Die Hard (though I prefer the TV version), The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Into the Woods, Chariots of Fire.
Decaf latté. Not flavored.
My latest accomplishment
I Just finished recording my second CD: INCLINE THINE EAR AND OTHER SACRED SONGS, to be released by Centaur Records in the next year or so.
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