Fifty Years of Faithfulness By Mark Mitchell, Executive Director

It struck me recently that this is a special season for me. It was fifty years ago this Spring that my life was revolutionized by Jesus Christ. My story is much like many others during what was called the Jesus Movement, but it was also unlike many others. Let me explain.

I grew up in the small, affluent suburb of Los Altos. My parents created a stable home for my brother and me, though there were disruptive forces at work beneath the surface. We had more than enough materially, which I grew up feeling very uneasy about. I never fit with the country club life that my parents lived.

We were nominal Catholics, attending church irregularly. I did the things Catholic kids are supposed to do – Confession, Communion, Catechism, and Confirmation. After I was confirmed, my parents said I was on my own as far as religion was concerned. Although I had a vague belief in God, and prayed in times of desperation, the idea of a real relationship with God never crossed my mind. I had other things on my mind.

My primary passion while growing up was sports. My entire sense of significance and self-worth was rooted in my athletic performance. In four years of high school, I never missed a sport, earning twelve letters in football, basketball, wrestling and baseball. I was far more determined than I was talented. But when I graduated, I was named the outstanding senior athlete in the school. I learned so much through sports: discipline, hard work, teamwork, submission to authority. But, unfortunately, athletic success was my idol, and it nurtured in me a performance mentality that nagged me for years.

During my senior year of high school, in the Spring of 1974, I had an emotional crisis. Despite some of my dreams for athletic success coming true, I was restless and unhappy. I felt empty and even ashamed of my selfish and debauched lifestyle. In the midst of this crisis, out of nowhere it seemed, I began to hunger to know more about God. I knew of some Christians in my high school, but I was too proud to approach them. I remember turning on the Sunday morning religious TV shows to see if I could glean anything. I scoured my house for a Bible and found nothing. I was desperate and didn’t know where to turn. Finally, one night I knelt beside my bed and cried to God to help me. I confessed my sin and surrendered my life to Him, although at the time I had no idea what that meant.

The next morning I woke up and realized that the burden of guilt and shame I’d carried around for months was completely removed, and I felt real joy! I recalled what I’d done the previous night in giving my life to Christ. I knew then that something significant and real had happened to me. For several weeks, I was more joyful than I ever remember being. I recall having two intense convictions: First, I was loved and no matter what ever happened no one could take God’s love away from me. Second, I wanted to serve Christ the rest of my life for what He’d done for me. I truly couldn’t imagine doing anything with my life but serving Him. What makes all of this so unusual is that I still hadn’t read a Bible or spoken with a Christian! But somehow I had known where to turn. Perhaps I remembered our frequent chant in the Catholic church: “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Whether I remembered that or not, I know now it was the Holy Spirit that drew me to Him, and I believe Jesus really did take away my sin.

Truthfully, I’ve never gotten over what happened to me in the Spring of 1974. Here I am, fifty years later, still very much a work in progress. But the Apostle Paul described perfectly what I know happened to me: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13). Thankfully God’s work in me didn’t stop then. I’ve seen his faithfulness in almost 46 years of marriage and 40 years of pastoral ministry. For decades, I have sung a little song that expresses perfectly how I feel about that:

Something beautiful, something good;
all of my confusion, he understood.
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,
but He made something beautiful out of my life.
Soli Deo Gloria!