My mother was a backslidden Christian when I was growing up and so I did not attend church or receive specific Christian indoctrination of any kind. On warm summer evenings I would often lie on my back and look at the stars and I knew in my heart there had to be a God "out there" somewhere. I would observe graveside services in the cemetery across the street from our house and wonder what life was all about and whether there was any life after death. I pondered these questions very deeply but didn't talk to others about them.
Over 50 years ago (in the later l940s sometime) when I was probably 10-12 years old, I was alone on a sunny summer day by the old slate board at the back of our house. I was looking up the driveway covered with yellow stones that went back to my dad's work buildings when suddenly the driveway was transformed into a beautiful, glistening street of pure gold. I saw dwellings that were emanating beautiful light and angels going up and down the golden street. It was more beautiful than can be described in any human words. I felt totally loved and overwhelmed with a sense of peace such that had never happened to me before. I told no one of this experience until well over 30 years later but just kept it in my heart. Shortly after this vision I was alone again a short distance from my slate board and suddenly a very clear revelation came to my mind--not an audible voice but totally real. Here's what was revealed that changed the direction of my life forever.
I was told: (1) Life in this present plane was short and that even if I lived to be very old my life as it is now would be brief in comparison to an eternity beyond; (2) Nothing that I was seeing around me would last. Sooner or later it would all pass away; and (3) I needed to live my life with reference to eternity and not get overly attached to anything on the material plane that I was seeing on an everyday basis. From that day to this it has been literally impossible for me to become very fixated on anything of a material nature--cars, houses, fancy clothes, sports, travel, or anything else. I take material things very lightly and use them where necessary and enjoyable but I feel no deep sense of attachment to anything material and never have since that early childhood revelation which was so simple, plain, and made so much sense to me.
In 1951, as I was turning 14, I had a very deep conviction that my life was empty, without meaning, and that I needed something I didn't have. I started to read the Bible for the very first time and Christian books and literature that was either coming through the mail or that my mom had kept around the house. As I look back I suspect people from her former church were praying for my family and sending Christian literature. Through this very intensive reading I soon began to experience such a sense of fullness deep within my soul that I determined then and there to dedicate the rest of my life to the pursuit of God as absolutely #1 and everything else would take second place. I have stayed with that focus all of my life since and have never regretted it.
Sometime in the summer of 1951 I was in the optometrist's office and there was a Christian magazine in the waiting room that had a picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd reaching down to pick up the lost sheep on the edge of the cliff. The Holy Spirit told me clearly that I was like that lost sheep and Jesus was reaching out for me and gathering me in His arms of love. There was a coupon in the magazine for Bible lessons and I soon started to study through the mail a Junior Bible Course and listening to the weekly Christian broadcast that sponsored the correspondence lessons. This was my first oral Christian teaching except for perhaps Unshackled from the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago which I began listening to around 1950 when it first started. I think that broadcast planted some seeds that fed my hunger for God and helped me to realize that I had a "big hole" that needed to be filled.
By late summer of 195l mom and dad finally separated after years of a very unhappy marriage and mom and I moved into town and started attending the church that she had belonged to many years before. Several of her old friends that she had fellowshipped with were still in that church and welcomed us with open arms. It was a homecoming for her. In December 1951 I was baptized, an experience of deep spiritual infilling that I shall never forget--ever!
All over these many years since I made my decision that the Kingdom of God would be absolutely first in my life I've given God all of the glory for calling me by His grace to experience fulfillment when I see so many others experiencing emptiness and trying to fill the "big hole" with many kinds of addictions and materialistic pursuits. Yes, I've had my struggles and the pains of life have not passed me by but in the midst of all of it I have found God to be an ever present help and that He meets my needs. I have discovered at least somewhat the power of the Word of God and the importance of feeding upon it constantly. I read, ponder, memorize, listen to, and saturate myself with God's Word. I never get tired of hearing "the old, old story of Jesus and His love." It is for me an ever new and very exciting story that is fresh everyday. I thank God for it. I thank God that this present life that is indeed so disappointing and troubled is not forever. God has offered us an eternity with Him and I long to enter into the fullness of life with Jesus my Lord and to help as many others find eternal life in Jesus as I possibly can. I'm thankful for the millions of Christians around the world who seek to share the good news of Jesus Christ and I join with them in prayer and fellowship.
I would welcome comments and feedback from readers of this testimony.
Tom Durst of Spokane WA