Have you ever heard of a “bus kid?” That was my label, as a child growing up in southern Illinois.
My parents were divorced when I was three. My mom remarried, but it was rough. My stepdad was an abusive alcoholic. I never knew what I was going to go home to, when I returned from school. My parents decided on the “every other weekend” thing, when the divorce was final. When I went to my dad’s for the weekend, he took me to my grandparents’ (his parents) house, and I would spend the weekend with them. I didn’t mind, though; they were kind and sweet, and they attended church on Sundays. That meant I got to go, too.
Back home, I never heard about God, Jesus or the Bible. Easter was about the Easter Bunny, Easter baskets, and egg hunts, and Christmas was about Santa Claus. I was never told “The Christmas Story,” or about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Though I was young, I would lie in bed at night, looking out my bedroom window into the dark night at the moon, and wonder Who God was. I would talk to Him, too; I would say things like, “God if You are real, and You are really up there, let me find You.” I was seven years old when I prayed that prayer.
My step-father and I were never close. He was always angry, yelling and cursing. When he got really mad, he would head to the tavern, drink with his buddies, and then come home to take out his anger on my mom, my half-brother, and me. Whenever we would move, someone from a local Baptist Church would stop by and tell my mom about the bus that came through our neighborhood on Sunday mornings. They would ask if I could ride along. To this day, I am so thankful that my mom always said, “Yes!” I was five years old when I began riding the bus to church, and I rode until I could drive myself. I was so thankful to get to be a “bus kid!”
I loved church! People there were nice and kind to me, and I felt loved and safe there. Soon, I began asking my Sunday school teachers for rides to all the services, and before long I was going to Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and youth activities on Fridays. I didn’t want to miss anything!
One Wednesday night when I was ten, I heard a preacher preach a message I will never forget. For the first time in my life, I heard Heaven and Hell thoroughly explained. I learned what the Bible says about Christ, and why He died on the Cross. I heard that God loves me…and He loves YOU, too! I heard why He sent His Son, Jesus. The preacher preached on repentance and faith, and gave Bible verses to explain everything.
That message really got me to thinking! In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! I had heard the plan of salvation so clearly. It was then I realized I was a lost sinner, and on my way to hell. I knew I could never be good enough to get into Heaven.
When I got home from church that night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept wondering, “What if I die right now?” I slept in a canopy bed, and it caused me to envision myself at my funeral, under one of those blue tents you see in cemeteries when someone is buried. I knew if I were to die right then, based on the Bible, my soul would go to hell.
It was late. It was dark, and I was alone in my bedroom. I got up, grabbed a flashlight, went inside my closet with my Bible, and I looked up every verse the preacher used in his message. I read them all over again to myself from my notes from the service that night. I had always wondered who God was. I had always wondered if He loved me. I had always wondered if He was real, and right at that moment, I knew it, and I knew He was drawing me to Him.
After quietly reading aloud all the verses I had heard at church that night, while sitting on the floor of my bedroom closet, I prayed. I was crying with thankfulness as I prayed. I knew I was lost. I knew I was a sinner, and I knew I was bound for hell. I also realized right then, that no matter how hard I tried, I could never be good enough to get to Heaven. I knew God loved me. I knew Jesus Christ died for me, and I believed His Word. Right then and there, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life and save my sinful soul. I trusted in Christ as I asked Him to forgive all of my sins. I asked Him to take me to heaven when I die, and I thanked Him for speaking to my heart, for allowing me to be a “bus kid” so I could attend church regularly and learn from God’s Word about the most important decision I could ever make in life…to submit to and believe on Jesus Christ as my Saviour, so I could truly know Him.