The Presbyterian Church was located about a mile from my home on Candler Street in Winder, Georgia. I could ride the distance on my “Blue Horse” bicycle in about five minutes. I know that may seem slow to some, but I enjoyed the ride and I was only twelve years old.

Times were different then. It was safe for a young boy to ride a bike at dusk, or even in the dark, in this small southern town. Doors were left unlocked on houses and cars alike. If I put my bike on the ground and played basketball with my friends, the bike would still be there along with the coat I had shed.  Times were different.

Sunday nights usually found me at the church attending the P.Y.F., the Presbyterian Youth Fellowship. Not that I really wanted to be there, but in obedience to my mother’s wishes I attended.  We were learning the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith, one question and answer at a time.  Exciting? No! On one particular night in the fall just before I turned thirteen, I picked up my bicycle from the ground at the side of the church and began the ride home.  What happened next is still a mystery to me.

I loved to ride with neither hand on the handlebars. I was so good at that. I could guide the bike around corners, even peddle up hills with no hands. It happened suddenly. I felt this strange tingling in my legs and arms and in the core of my body.  Then I began to smile and laugh and sing!  I raised my hands in the air and gave thanks to God. A God who’s name I knew only because He was spoken of by my mother and grandmother at home.

The excitement was almost more than I could bare. 

I pulled into our dirt driveway and parked my bicycle against the garage. I ran into the house and up the back stairs to my room. I found a bible and turned to the Book of Revelation and read the entire book. What was happening? I laid there in the night, waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. I didn’t know Him. But I wanted to meet Him.

The next day came and passed along with 5,840 more days. Sixteen years. Never once did that expression of joy repeat itself through these years. Nor did I pursue any relationship with Jesus Christ or God.  Then, I did. Sitting on my bed in my apartment in Miami, Florida at the age of twenty-seven I cried out to the God of my mother. He heard me. One more year would pass before I would come to know His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  When I did, He reminded me of that night on my bicycle in Winder, Georgia.

I only have one regret from that night. Why did it take me sixteen years to respond to such a great love?  What I missed can never be regained. No matter how much education and ministry I have been privileged to receive and give back, there were sixteen years of darkness before the light. And, these don’t include the first twelve that preceded them.

My heart goes out to those who are loosing years. Especially the young men and women from pre-kindergarten through the years of university.  Here is my word for them.  Don’t live a day without Jesus as your Savior, let alone sixteen years.

Wally

Dr. Wally Hostetter is a pastor at Mount Pleasant Community Church.