In 1984 on the Southside of Houston, TX, my girlfriend, Regina, asked me to go to church with her every weekend. I kept thinking that I liked this girl a lot but there was no way I was ever going to go to a church with her or anyone else. Fat chance of that happening! But I was polite and kept saying no. Each weekend I said no. Over and over I said no. And that worked for me for about a year.
And then one weekend, I kept thinking about God. I kept thinking about the hereafter. I wondered where my life was headed. I wondered where I was going to end up in life. What was going to happen to me when I died? I grew introspective, contemplative, and a bit disturbed about my life.
Although raised to go to the assembly of the church on Sunday mornings, I had become agnostic in college, and even somewhat atheistic. I enjoyed inviting door knocking evangelists in and antagonizing them. I took it as a challenge to get them to question their faith in God.
After all, I had easily beaten a Catholic priest and a protestant minister in a debate in my Intro to Philosophy class in college. And I got a 100 perfect score on my essay in the class on why God did not exist.
But in my mid-20’s I had grown tired of being atheistic, and had become a comfortable agnostic. And I had this girlfriend who kept asking me to come to the Alvin church of Christ with her. And I had this weekend where all I could think about was how uncomfortable I was in my spiritual path in life, and where I would end up.
And then I heard myself agree to go to church with Regina on Sunday. And it was August on the South side of Houston. It was a very hot and humid Sunday. If you’ve not been to Houston in August it’s hard for you to appreciate how hot it was.
But there I was at the Alvin church of Christ listening to a sermon on the birth of Christ – in August. I said to myself: “That’s a Christmas sermon.” You don’t preach on the birth of Jesus in August. What’s this guy doing?! But I listened to him. He said Jesus was born in a feed trough. A feed trough!? What is he talking about? And then I realized I didn’t really know what a manger was. I was raised in the suburbs and had never lived on a farm. I didn’t realize you could buy a manger out of a farm supply catalogue. And the preacher said the point was that Jesus had a lowly birth. That Jesus was God with us - with us in our lowly state. That no one could claim that God was too high and mighty for them, because he was born in a barn in a feed trough. And here I thought a manger was just something in the pretty crèche scene in front of the church building.
And these people around me were writing in their Bibles, and using highlighters to mark key phrases. Something was different about these people. They were treating their Bibles like textbooks – like they believed this stuff like it could be a real, true story. That was the first time I thought of that. Growing up I had just thought all this Bible and Jesus stuff was fable – like it was Lord of the Rings stuff.
Something was going on here.
Then the assembly was over. And I was in the lobby and these people were shaking my hand and introducing themselves to me. They were being friendly. And then it happened.
This old guy was pumping my hand and introducing himself. I told him my name and he stopped. He still had my hand, and he took mine in both of his hands. He had a twinkle in his eye, and look of recognition. He said, “Craig Hill! I know that name. Where do I know that name? I know. You’re the guy we’ve been praying about on Wednesday nights. We’ve been praying you would come to church. That you would question your salvation and want to come to church with Regina! Well welcome here.”
Well Regina had been talking to someone else, but standing right beside me. Needless to say, her head whipped around. And she had a look of panic on her face. She tried to interrupt the conversation, and she seemed mortified that this old guy was saying these things to me.
But I was smiling and charmed by him. He had evidently let the cat out of the bag that she’d been praying that I would feel “Uncomfortable in my salvation”. I found out later there was a class at the church on Wednesday nights where everyone submitted their prayer request and they spent the class time praying for those requests. Her prayer request was for me to feel “Uncomfortable in my salvation.”
So Regina, and these people, believed prayer actually worked! Hmmm. They treat their Bibles like college textbooks, they preach about Jesus in the summer, and they believe in prayer. Something was different about how these people at the Alvin church of Christ approached the Lord.
And so began my journey – my journey to find the Lord!
Prologue: I came to Christ and was baptized the following year, and I married Regina. We’ve been married 27 years, and have 3 wonderful children.