I had come to a stage in my faith where I greatly enjoyed telling people about Jesus, and I had many opportunities to do that during my last semester at Wyoming Park High School. I have already mentioned that I carried Don's Bible to school, and that I frequently handed out "tracts." I continued to do these things in my last months of high school, and I became increasingly vocal and open about my faith. I took a lot more initiative in asking people to give their lives to Christ.
I also started to use objects as "tools" to gain opportunities. I bought a small pin that said "Jesus Cares" and I wore it to school everyday so that people could see it. I also bought a Petra T-shirt at the Petra concert, and I wore it to school once a week. What was so significant about the T-shirt was that the "t" in Petra was shaped like a cross, and it stood out because it was significantly larger than all the other letters. The word "PETRA" took up much of the space on the front of the shirt. There was a number of times when people gave my shirt a second look. Occasionally someone would ask me about it. (In the early 1980's, Christian rock music was not widely known among those who didn't listen to it. It gets more mainstream attention today, but this was not the case back then. My shirt therefore got a lot of attention as being something unusual.)
Don didn't approve of my T-shirt. He thought it was a "bad witness" for me to wear a T-shirt of a "rock band." Don, however, only commented about it once. I was very careful to never wear the T-shirt on a Wednesday because my church's youth group meetings were on Wednesday. I didn't want to get into arguments about it at church.
I sometimes still had a problem with being a little pushy and judgmental when I "witnessed" to people, but I was making a sincere effort to change that. An example of this occurred near the end of the semester when I witnessed to a guy named Jay. I became a little obnoxious and judgmental. Jay told me that he was a Christian, and then he gently tried to tell me that I was being too judgmental in my methods.
"I know," I responded. "I'm sorry. I'm only trying to 'share' my faith, and sometimes I don't always know the best way. I'm learning. God still uses me."
"You need training," he said.
Even though I had enough humility to admit that I was wrong, and even though I was making a sincere effort to be more loving, I still judged Jay in my mind. I thought to myself, "At least I'm telling people about Jesus! That's more than you're doing!" However, I really didn't know how much Jay was telling his friends about Jesus. For all that I knew, he might have frequently spoken to his friends about Christ. I, however, had this attitude that he never did because I never saw him do it.
My first hour class changed from Earning and Spending to Business Law. It was still taught by Mr. Walters, and it was held in the same classroom. Will (who had been in my Sociology course during the previous semester) was in the Business Law class, and he had all kinds of questions for me about God and the Bible. I was able to answer every question except one.
"What about evolution?" he asked. He was asking me what I believed about the inconsistency between the theory of evolution and the creation account found in the Bible.
"I don't know," I said.
I was coming to the conclusion that I didn't believe in the theory of evolution, but I didn't know how to answer questions about why I was rejecting evolutionary theory. I just believed that evolution and the Bible were inconsistent, and I could no longer believe in evolution. However, I was the type of person who had to have a reason for everything I believed, and I had to find out why there was an inconsistency between the two ideas. I talked to "Brother" Mark about it. He introduced me to the field of "Creation Science." This was actually my first introduction to the fact that there were reasonable arguments for creationism, and that there were indeed scientists who accepted these arguments. I knew that Mr. White, my 11th grade chemistry teacher, didn't believe in evolution, but I didn't give this much thought until now.
I never actually answered Will's question. Will apparently got an answer from someone else. He signed my Senior Year Memory Book by writing, "Rob, you have a good summer, and don't worry about evolution, I've had it explained."
I developed a pretty good friendship with George over the course of the semester. George, you may recall, had sat with Don and I during lunch during the previous semester (see Chapter Twelve). He, along with Matt and Nathan, sometimes showed interest in the gospel, but sometimes showed hostility.
George had never liked me before. He was a big guy, and earlier in high school he had occasionally pushed me around. His attitude toward me had now changed, and, whenever we had free time during Business Law, he would walk over to my table to ask me questions about the Bible or about God. Sometimes he would come over just to talk about general subjects. I really enjoyed talking to him, and I grew to appreciate his friendship. I couldn't believe that a guy who at one time didn't like me was now my friend asking questions about God and the Bible. I was awe-struck at how God had changed things!
George struggled with grades. He sometimes expressed his frustrations about getting bad grades in classes. George even had trouble with basic spelling. He misspelled "future" when he wrote in my Senior Year Memory Book, "Good luck in your fucher." He told me, however, that he was good when it came to constructing things with his hands.
Eric was also in my Business Law class. You may also recall that during the previous semester I had confronted Eric for listening to rock music in class, and he later pushed me into a urinal. I thought that my actions had forever turned him away from God. I was afraid that I would never be able to show him the love of Christ because I had acted in a tremendously self-righteous manner toward him. Eric, however, did eventually take an interest in Christ and the Bible. During the second half of the second semester, Eric walked up to me during Business Law to ask me questions about the Bible. He did this on several occasions. There was no hostility. I had been praying for Eric ever since that day he pushed me into the urinal.
I invited Eric to my graduation open house party.
"Are you going to have people preaching there?" he asked. He said it in such a way that indicated that he actually wanted me to have people preaching there!
"No," I said. "It's just a get-together."
After the school year ended, I heard some people say that Eric did indeed become a Christian, and I was told that he started to get involved in Christian organizations and ministries. I was even told that he attended meetings of the "Fellowship of Christian Athletes" before the school year had ended. I was never able to confirm whether or not these things were true. I never saw Eric again. However, it was an awesome sight for me to see that God opened Eric's heart in spite of my bad behavior during the previous semester.
Tina and Paula, who had been in last semester's Earning and Spending class, were in this semester's Business Law class. Both Tina and Paula had a strong background in the church. There were several times when we engaged in discussions about the Bible and doctrinal issues. Tina and Paula sat at the table in front of the one I sat at.
Tina and I got into a big debate one day. We disagreed on a certain issue, and it turned into a very heated argument. I said some nasty and judgmental things to her, and she said some nasty and judgmental things to me. People were staring at us. The whole class saw our argument. After I went to bed that night, I regretted my behavior. I also felt bad because other people had seen me act in a divisive manner. I knew that I had to apologize to Tina.
I said to her the next day, "Tina, do you remember that conversation that we had yesterday?"
George, Will, and a few others walked up to us just as I asked this question.
"Yes," she responded to me.
I started to feel self-conscience because I was about to apologize to her in front of several people. I felt a little embarrassed. However, I told myself that I was now a Christian, and I had to humble myself and do what was right. I needed to forget my pride.
"I just want to say that I'm sorry," I said.
"I'm sorry too," she responded.
Nobody seemed embarrassed by my public apology. In fact, almost everyone seemed impressed that I had the humility to apologize and admit that I was wrong.
Tina and I had no more conflicts.
My third hour typing class didn't go as well as Business Law. You may recall that I had a lot of trouble talking in that class because I was very shy around the girls who were there. Some of them tried to talk to me, but I was too shy to talk back.
A girl named Ramona sat two seats in front of me. She repeatedly tried to talk to me. She eventually became very mad at me because it seemed as if I was deliberately ignoring her. I tried to talk to her about Christ one day, but it came out all wrong. It started when she asked me about something, and I responded by saying, "I'm a Christian." However, I wasn't answering her question. I was just trying to find a way to "witness" to her. She misinterpreted my statement to mean, "I'm a Christian so I don't do the sort of thing that you're asking."
Ramona then turned to the girl next to her and said, "Did you hear that? I just asked him about something and he said, "'I don't do that because I'm a Christian.''
I suddenly felt embarrassed. "Is that a quote?" I asked her.
"No," she acknowledged. Her tone of voice indicated that she was very disgusted with me.
"All right," she added, still obviously upset with me. "You said, 'I'm a Christian.'"
I didn't say anything else. I went back to typing my assignment, but I felt very ashamed. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.
I got a little "cocky" with Ramona at the end of the semester. Everyone in my typing class was saying their good-byes to each other during the last week of school, and I decided to get a few words in. I said, "Hey, Ramona!"
She turned around and said, "What?"
I said very sarcastically, "It was nice talking to you this year!" And then I laughed.
She grunted in disgust. She was very angry with me because she knew that I was mocking the fact that I had NOT talked to her all year long in spite of her many efforts to get to know me.
She angrily shouted at me, "You know, all I've done all year is try to be nice to you!"
I just laughed, but inside I thought, "I know. I'm sorry. Why am I laughing?"
I didn't laugh because I thought it was funny. I laughed because it was a way to release the frustration, anger, and sadness that I was feeling over the fact that I was too shy to have a real conversation with her. Even my "Nice talking to you" statement was a way for me to release the frustration. I hated myself after I said it. I was embarrassed, and I was angry with myself. I went to my fourth hour class very depressed. I "witnessed" to some people in my fourth hour class hoping that it would pick me up, but it only made me feel like a hypocrite. I thought to myself, "I am so shy that the only way that I know how to talk to girls is to act like a jerk!" I really wanted to talk to her, but I just didn't know how. I would sometimes look at how easily other guys would talk to girls, and I would feel depressed and pray, "God, what's wrong with me? Why can't I do that? Why am I such a jerk?"
Don and I had a lot of arguments during second semester. Don drove me to church every Wednesday and Sunday. He picked me up at the school on Wednesdays because I was still there doing homework by my locker after I finished my janitorial job. We constantly argued during many drives to church. We frequently debated about rock music. Don was very aggressive in the way that he disagreed with me. Many of his statements to me were cruel, and they hurt me a great deal. Don even talked about me to other teen-agers in the church. On one particular Wednesday night at church, Don was talking to three other teen-agers, telling them about my "sinful" behavior of listening to Christian rock music. I heard them from a distance, and I knew that they were talking about me. One of the three walked up to me after awhile. My eyes were feeling itchy, and so I had just taken my glasses off so that I could rub them. I accidentally dropped the glasses.
"Do you know what causes that?" he asked after I picked my glasses up. "It comes from listening to that contemporary Christian music." He faked a laugh and added, "No, I'm just kidding. Ha. Ha."
He then walked away. I wasn't laughing.
Don and I also got into debates about some of the various Christian denominations. Don would frequently attack other churches, such as those that were Pentecostal, and I would tell him that Jesus is more important than all the "secondary doctrinal differences." He would get upset at me for that. He would attack various Bible versions. He was "King James only," meaning that he believed that all English versions except the King James Version were sinful. I used the King James Version, but I was not opposed to other Bible versions. I soon quit looking forward to going to church with Don. I began to dread it whenever he drove up to the school to pick me up. I even felt relief and happiness on a couple of Wednesdays that he forgot to pick me up.
My fourth hour class changed from American Literature to a study hall. On a particular February day, I started talking to a guy in the study hall about Jesus Christ. He was very open to what I had to say, and began asking numerous questions. A friend of his joined him after awhile and also started asking me questions. Another person joined the conversation after a short time, and then another, and then another! Before long, I was surrounded by people who were asking to know more about what Jesus Christ could do in their lives! They asked serious and hard questions!
I told the group that "we are all sinners on the road to hell, but that we could gain eternal life through Jesus Christ." The guy who I had started the conversation with (before everyone else gathered around) said that he felt that he was going to heaven because he never did anything "really" wrong.
"I don't commit adultery," he said.
"Have you ever 'lusted after' a woman?" I asked. "The Bible says that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery."
"But everyone does that!" he said.
"I know," I said. "That's why we all need Jesus, because we're all sinners. Nobody can live totally right. We're all guilty."
"But I can ask Jesus into my heart before I die," he said.
"But you don't know when you're going to die," I responded.
He dropped his head as if he was in deep thought. "That's true," he said very softly, as if he had never thought of that before.
Others in the room stared at us from a distance, not wanting to come near. It seemed as if they weren't quite sure what to make of what was going on. There was no direct hostility, but it was obvious that there were many in that study hall who were uncomfortable with the large amount of people talking about Jesus. The group that had gathered around me was large and loud enough for the whole study hall to know what was going on.
It was at times like this when I was on "a spiritual high." Telling others about Jesus was an exciting experience for me, and I was encouraged by the fact that many people were open enough to listen. Oddly enough, it was when I was on these "spiritual highs" that my arguments with Don were the most intense. His statements were often so vicious and cruel that I would became depressed. I would then stop praying to God, reading my Bible, and "witnessing" to people. Then, for some unknown reason, the arguments between Don and I would stop. We would go an entire drive to church without one argument. After a week or two, I would get tired of being depressed. I would then pray a prayer of "repentance." I would confess to God that I had sinned by drifting from Him, and I would recommit my life to Christ. I prayed one of these prayers one night after school while I was outside working on the school's lawn, and the feelings of depression went away. I finished work, and walked around to the front of the building. I noticed a guy smoking by the main front entrance near the library. I told myself, "It's time to get back on my feet again!" I pulled a tract from my pocket.
"Can I give you this?" I asked as I handed him the tract.
He took the tract, looked at it, and said, "I've already seen this about a dozen or two dozen times. I saw one in the bathroom, I found another one in the library, I saw another in the cafeteria, I found another one in my locker, and another one in the gym."
I laughed lightly. "Yeah," I said. "Me and about three other guys leave these all over the school for people to pick up and read." (I made a point to leave as many tracts as I could at different places for people to find and read. I even went around once and put them in people's lockers by shoving them through narrow slits that were on the top part of the lockers. Putting them in the lockers, however, was not the wisest thing to do. I slipped one through a slit in the locker of the guy who was next to my locker, and he was very angry about it. I found that same tract in my locker the next day; it had been ripped into little pieces. Even Edward's mom told me not to do this again. I needed to respect the privacy of people's lockers.)
I talked to the guy smoking outside the main entrance for quite awhile, and I regained excitement about my faith. I again began to read my Bible, pray, and "witness" to people. Don picked me up again at the school the next Wednesday, and he started the arguments again.
This pattern went on all semester long. I went through the same cycle several times:
(1) I would try to "serve God with all my heart" by telling others about Christ, praying, and reading my Bible.
(2) Don would argue with me, I would get depressed, and I would quit trying to serve God.
(3) Don (for some unknown reason) would quit arguing with me, I would get weary of being depressed after a week or so, and I would repent and begin serving God again.
(4) Don would argue with me again, and the cycle would go through another loop.
Don, of course, didn't plan to attack me when I was on a "spiritual high." He never even knew that I was getting depressed. I asked myself however, "Is it a coincidence that Don only attacks me when I am 'on fire' for God?" I came to the conclusion that the devil was attacking me through Don. "Brother" Mark had preached one Wednesday night, "The devil has no reason to attack you when you're down. He's already got you! It's those who are serving God who come under attack!" I therefore began to believe that it was the devil who was using Don to stop me and bring me down. I told myself, "The devil is mad because God is using me in a powerful way in my school." Of course, I knew that Don was a Christian, and he was also being used by God to do great things. But I began to believe that because Don was guilty of the sin of divisiveness, the devil was somehow able to use that sin in Don's life to try to bring me down.
By the time the semester had ended, I had spoken about Jesus Christ to quite a number of people in my fourth hour study hall. One such person was a freshman girl who's name I don't remember. The only thing that I remember about her was that she was short, cute, and the sister of someone that I knew. I gave her a tract one day. Two weeks before school ended, we spoke again. She told me that she said the prayer on the tract. She also told me that she wouldn't mind handing out some of the tracts to other people. I grabbed about a hundred tracts a week later, and I stood outside of the study hall at the start of 4th hour waiting for her to show up. She finally did. As she walked by me and into the study hall room, I handed her the tracts and said, "Merry Christmas." I then walked away because Seniors didn't have to go classes during the last week of school.
I was later told that she gave a tract to everyone in the study hall.
I went to church with Dan instead of Don that night. I told Dan, "This girl in my study hall just received Christ. I gave her a bunch of tracts and she handed them out to everyone in the classroom."
"There's something about new Christians," Dan said. "They just seem to have an excitement that we loose as we get older in the Lord."
However, I think that I had spoke a little presumptuously. I passed by the girl in the hallway the next day and she tried to avoid me. I saw her deliberately move away from me, and I saw her actually pushing through a crowd of people to get away from me. I immediately felt bad. I felt like I had pressured her to do something that she didn't really want to do.
Our school had a Baccalaureate service at the end of the school year for the Seniors. It was to be held on the Sunday before the graduation ceremony, and we met on a Friday morning to practice. It was a very formal occasion, and we dressed up in our graduation cap and gown. I walked the aisle with a girl named Kathy.
I got together with Don and Edward after the practice was over on Friday. We didn't have to attend classes because, as I have already mentioned, Seniors didn't have to go on the last week. It was 9:30 a.m., and the bell was ringing for the rest of the school to go from 2nd hour class to 3rd hour class. Don, Edward, and I decided to walk through the halls and hand out as many tracts as we could one last time. We walked through the crowded hallways for the next ten minutes handing out tract after tract, and telling as many people about Jesus as we could. I felt extreme excitement!
Later that day, I walked through the courtyard of the school and I thought to myself, "This has been the greatest year of my life. I'm going to miss this." I felt sadness about leaving high school and going on to something else. I would be going to a Christian college in the fall, and I felt disappointment that, because most of the people there would be Christians, I wouldn't have opportunities to share my faith with people who didn't know Jesus.
The baccalaureate service went as scheduled on Sunday. It did not, however, go as planned! Kathy and I were at the end of the line, and we were the last ones to enter. Mr. Gabe, the school counselor who had arranged the order of the service, forgot to tell us who was to go out first when the service was over. I knew that I was the last one to enter, but I didn't know if I was to be the first or the last one to leave. When the service ended, I didn't know what to do. Kathy was looking at me, and so was everyone else in my row. We were all wondering what to do. I didn't see the front row moving, so I led my row out. We made it to the exit door when Mr. Gabe ran up to me and said, "What are you doing? You're supposed to be the last one to leave! Get back in your aisle!" We squeezed back into our aisle, and I felt very embarrassed!
Tom came up to me after the service and said with a laugh, "Hey, Robert! Did you see that last row walking out when they weren't supposed to?" He really didn't know that I had led the row out.
I wanted to crawl under a rock! I rolled my eyes and said, "Yeah," but I was too embarrassed to tell him that it was me who led the row out. Very few people knew that I had made the mistake because the auditorium was too dark at the time. I was very careful not to let anyone know that it was my fault. The embarrassment that I was feeling was almost overwhelming, but it became much easier to handle as I learned that almost no one knew that it was me who made the mistake.
The Seniors met for graduation practice the following Wednesday. Mr. Gabe said, "There was some confusion last Sunday. So for the graduation ceremony tomorrow night, the last one to walk in will be the last one to leave after the ceremony is over!" I rolled my eyes, relieved that almost everyone still didn't know that it was me who made the mistake! (If anyone from my graduating class is reading this, now you know who did it! The secret is revealed!)
At eight o'clock in the evening on Thursday, the ninth of June, I graduated.
Edward received a diploma that had his name misspelled! He was angry about it.
"They have been misspelling my name for the entire time that I have been in this school!" he told me. He spoke to someone about it, and they told him that they would correct the problem.
I flood of emotions overwhelmed me that night. It took awhile for the joy and excitement that I was feeling to die down.
My parents held an open house for me the following Saturday. Relatives came, friends came, and people from my church came. Even Jerry, who quit coming over to see me after I talked to him about Christ the previous summer, came over to see me.