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Jim's Letter

Like a flash of light, Christ became real, human, someone capable of being my savior.

I was raised in the southern part of Texas, along the Gulf Coast. My entire family was Southern Baptist, except my mother, step-father and myself, we were the "outcasts" due to our lack of church involvement. My Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Grand Parents all attended various Baptist churches. My mother and step-father worshiped on the stool of the local pub.

I was ten or eleven when I started attending the Southern Baptist church in the small town of Taft Texas, in 1957, and was baptized, in that church on Easter Sunday 1958. I thought I had arrived, envisioned being treated as a part of the family in my new spiritual home, but I was "only a child" and was welcome as long as I was silent, and only asked acceptable questions, or challenged the authority of the church and became a "cookie cutter" Christian. Being rebellious by nature made these things impossible.

For the next few months I was actively unhappy in my new home, and often found reasons not to attend church. Then it happened, I once again began asking questions, questions that may have been hard for my stiff neck teacher to deal with. "Didn't Jesus ever have any fun, didn't He ever joke around or laugh%3F" I asked one Sunday. The response did little to squelch my desire to know more about Jesus:

"Jesus was sent to earth for our salvation, to teach and to suffer. Fun was not a part of His life. He was about the business of His Father God, and would surely have been very businesslike." I didn't like the answer, and a part of me refused to accept it.

Some time later we were discussing Communion and once again I challenged authority, "You told us it is bad to drink, but Jesus drank wine." Once again my charge was rebuffed with the old, "Wine was not wine as we know it, it was more like grape juice." My next question was, "Then why do we use wine in our Communion%3F", the response was some short, sharp answer that I can't even remember.

The last time I was in that church was just before a school dance. Once again, our Sunday School teacher was laying down the "don'ts to us, this time about dancing. Not willing to allow this to go without a charge I reminded her that the Methodist church right down the block holds dances in their church basement, and wanted to know why Baptists believed they would go to Hell for dancing. I can hear her words as clearly today as I did then, "Who ever told you there will be any Methodists in Heaven," she said as she glared at me as though I was something less than human. I left that church that day and never walked into another until 1980.

I had a thirst for knowledge about the Bible. I studied it and could soon counter any statement made in support of the Christian faith. I angered Christians every chance I got, and would debate the falseness of their foolish beliefs, using their own Bible to refute their claims of salvation through Christ.

In 1980 I met a Christian who truly lived as a disciple. Nothing I said made her angry, all she said to me was in love. Our debates would often go on for hours, each stab at her faith was rebuked in love. To make a long story short, I eventually agreed to attend the Chapel at the small Naval base, and began feeling I may have been wrong.

There were pictures I could not get out of my head...the answers to my questions raged in my brain. "Wine, grape juice...Music...Dancing...Jesus always serious." All of these things made Jesus less than human, or more than human, but not someone who had felt the things I had. Because of this I was unable to completely turn my life to Christ.

Then it happened, and like a flash of light, Christ became real, human, someone capable of being my savior. In the window of a small Christian bookstore was the Laughing Jesus. It seemed He was laughing with me, laughing at my fears and doubts. Not laughing at my foolish life, but laughing as if I had just told Him of my doubts and he washed them away with that laughter. I committed my life to Christ that day.

I can not say that every day since then has been filled with laughter, some days were just as hard as the days before, but I knew that when I poured out my problems, doubts, fears and pains, Jesus would carry them all away on the wings of laughter.


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