The simple story of my walk with God
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
But those who know me best, know that it is less a finding of Jesus as much as it is an absolute surrendering to His Love and Will.
Almighty God (the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has been tugging at me since I was about eight-years-old. Perhaps earlier.
I say this because I’ve always known God was there. As a boy, I could even see Him in my mind’s eye (always seeing Him during the Sermon on the Mount). Always sensing His presence in the sunshine and in the rain. As I saw Him in my boy’s mind (and even in my teenage, young adult, and – to a degree – middle-aged mind), He was always there high above the church steeples, stretched out enormously across the sky; calling me to do something in the furtherance of His kingdom, always leading me along a path to somewhere, though I never really knew – or thought about – where that path might ultimately lead. Nor was I willing to jump right in and commit to that quest on that path.
Let’s look at that path for a moment.
The path, as I visualize it today, is more of a dirt-road cutting through very deep woods or wilderness.
In my earliest boyhood recollections I remember walking along this path with Jesus.
I was always just behind Him or – at times – alongside Him. But never as fully committed to where the path was leading as He was (is).
At some point, probably from the very beginning of my life, I began to venture off the path into the woods on either side of the path. There I would explore the things of the woods. There was so much temptation in the woods (the wilderness).
I would never get too deep into the wilderness, though, that I would not be able to run back to the path and find Jesus.
As I’ve said, that venturing off the path and into the wilderness began as a boy. Today, as a 53-year-old man, I realize I have spent most of my life up to this point in the wilderness.
LET’S LOOK AT THE TIME I’VE SPENT IN THE WILDERNESS.
Throughout my time in the wilderness, I’ve always been able to shout back toward the path, “Jesus, are you still there?”
And He has always quietly – but in a voice loud enough that I could hear Him – say, “Yes, Tom, I’m still here.”
So being temporarily comforted, I would stay in the wilderness and play. If I got caught in a thicket or stepped in a hole, I would just work my way out and keep on playing.
There were (and are) so many temptations and false adventures in the wilderness. And there, on the fringes of the wilderness, always lurking was a dark shape, like a wolf, moving parallel to me.
As long as I was enjoying the fun of the wilderness, this wolf just sort of stayed on a parallel track with me, just beyond the trees and tall grasses.
This wolf never really bothered me.
He didn’t need to because he had me where he wanted me: In the woods.
Though he has always whispered lies.
The wolf has always said to me things like; “There is always tomorrow,” and “You can stay here a long time and enjoy all the fun,” and “being in the woods will make you strong,” and “the path is not as fun as the woods, so just wait and go to the path when you are too old to play in the woods. After all, all the fun people and beautiful women and sources of power and pleasure and possessions are here in the woods.”
The wolf’s lies were endless.
So I would struggle with the whispers I was hearing, and again, shout back toward the path, “Jesus, are you still there?”
And Jesus would again say, “Tom, I’m still here, and I’m never going to leave you.”
Sometimes, at various periods in my life in the wilderness, Jesus would say from the path, “Tom, You’ve been over there long enough now. Come to Me. You are always getting stuck in those thickets, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
And Jesus would say this at the most unexpected times.
Sometimes He would say this when I was working my way out of a thicket.
Sometimes it was when I really wanted something and couldn’t seem to get it.
Sometimes it was when I was hurting.
Sometimes it was when I was happy.
At times it was like that night I was by myself guarding a nuclear weapons space aboard ship, and – as the hours ticked by and I stood there alone counting the bolts in the bulkhead – Jesus began to press on my heart to come to Him, calling me from the path.
“Tom, I love you,” Jesus said. “Just come to Me. Trust Me fully, and I will take care of you and give you the desires of your heart.”
I said, “Yes, Jesus, I want to, and I will, sort of. But with conditions, because I’m still young and strong, and I have my whole life in front of me. So I’ll be a good person and I will pray and read my Bible, but I have to play a little more. The woods are fun, and I know they are going to get a lot more fun, and I don’t want to miss out. Besides, what will my family and friends think of me if I reject the world and totally surrender to you? I don’t want people thinking I’m weird.”
Jesus didn’t push the issue, because He had given me the ability to choose. But I did sense that He stopped there on the path and looked at me with that look that a disappointed dad gives a son, and I felt ashamed.
Meanwhile, the wolf said, “Don’t listen to that. You’re a good person. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
THEN THERE WAS A STRANGE AND TERRIFYING ENCOUNTER WITH THE WOLF.
Remember, Jesus gave me the choice. But the wolf did (does) not.
At times, I would say to myself, “OK, I’ve had enough of the woods, maybe I should just trust Jesus. I want to go to the path.”
So I would start toward the path, and I could see Jesus standing there smiling at me like a proud father in the distance waiting patiently on me. And there was this inexplicable love exuding from Him.
All of a sudden, the wolf would burst out from some tall weeds, roaring and knocking me down and tearing me apart. And so I would limp away bloody and broken and utterly terrified.
At the same time, I was crying to Jesus to save me, And He was softly and reassuringly telling me to keep coming toward Him.
But I was injured and afraid and too busy trying to fix my situation. And I didn’t have enough faith or trust that Jesus could save me because I was too deep in the wilderness.
You see the path where Jesus was standing was about a thousand yards away. And the wolf was either right on top of me and ripping me to shreds, or about 30 feet away, growling and ready to attack me again if I made another attempt toward the path.
So I resigned myself to a lukewarm, distant relationship with Jesus, knowing that He was there and that He loved me, but that was about it.
This terrible cycle has repeated itself time-and-again throughout my life.
That is until my race toward the path this time, last year
Yes, just like all the other times, as soon as I started toward the path, the wolf attacked; and it was horrible (every aspect of my troubled life began to meltdown even faster).
But this time I kept going.
As I drew closer to the path (closer than I had ever been since I first ventured off of it as a boy), there was Jesus, standing there, smiling, and holding His arms wide to receive me and saying, “Tom, keep coming. I’m right here, and the wolf will not be able to hurt when you finally get to Me.”
Anyway, I am still in the wilderness, I am running and crashing through the brush, stumbling, but staying on my feet, always running, desperately trying to get through the woods and to the path.
Yes, I am wounded and the wolf is on my heels in pursuit (he only attacks when I attempt to escape the wilderness). But the closer I get to the path, the greater the power of Heaven I am feeling. The wolf is still pursuing – and with greater resolve than ever before – but he is winded and losing ground.
Jesus is getting closer. His power is becoming more manifest in my life. And I will never turn back. I will never stop running.
– Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at http://uswriter.com.