Toilet Paper & Tobacco

Toilet paper and tobacco seemed like all the supplies that this bunch of high school boys needed. This is how most of Friday nights started. We were too cheap to buy the toilet paper rolls so we systematically stole them from the janitor’s closet at school. Walking around my friend’s neighborhood tossing TP into trees exemplified our carefree attitudes. Nick started bring some chewing tobacco and that made us feel older and more dangerous. No one told us not to swallow our salvia with chew tucked in our lip, so after leaving Paul puking in the ditch to go get a wagon to carry him home in, we gave up on the chew. I felt like there was a lot that no one was telling me.

As a 17-year-old I had nine months to figure life out before I was thrust on my own in college.  “I could do it,” I thought, “Plenty of others had done this before me.” So, when a friend invited me to his church on a Wednesday night I accepted because there was a promise of cute girls and possible an answer to my question of, “what’s next?” Possibly someone could tell me. I never expected a short, late 30’s, over-the-top-excited church guy, to be that person.

As some of the same friends, who the last week had used perfect propulsion to launch toilet paper into trees, stood stretching out their hamstrings in church so we wouldn’t pull a muscle during the singing portion of the youth ministry, I was wondering about the pastor’s words. Could it possibly be true that God wanted a friendship with me? I thought God was just waiting for me to mess up so he could throw a road block into my path towards fun.

I realized how serious God’s desire for a real relationship with me was when this pastor showed up at my next Cross-Country meet. He had come often to support the football team, but no one volunteers to watch kids run in and out of the woods. However, something clicked deep inside me as pastor Kevin cheered my name next to my just-as-surprised mom; If this man was willing to cheer me on, then I was willing to give this relationship with God thing a try.

I prayed for salvation probably a dozen times because it was so freeing to know that my mistakes, sins, failings, and shortcomings weren’t actually what God cared about. Pastor Kevin finally let me know that I didn’t have to keep praying for salvation, that Jesus had given me a new heart, his heart; one with purpose and hope for tomorrow and forever. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Someone was actually telling me what life was about, the plan! I had yearned for someone to just tell me what my purpose and life was about, I’m so glad that person was God.

Today, I still listen to that someone who gave me His heart by transforming mine. It’s my privilege to tell you and others the same.  That Jesus has the same plan for you, a plan full of hope, with purpose, and connection from your heart to His.
Submitted by Preston T. on 11/11/21

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