Prayers When I Was Sixteen

Prayers When I Was Sixteen

    Like many young homeschooled teenagers on fire for Jesus, I prayed a lot.

    Since I had so many prayers, at the suggestion of the revered preacher C.H. Ward—who was later found in a hotel room with a male prostitute, but told people he was evangelizing—I decided to keep a prayer journal.

    I would record all most intimate and profound prayers in this journal. 

    We should talk to God, C.H. Ward said, as if we were talking to our best friend.

    Since I didn't have a best friend at the time, this seemed like a good idea.

    But in only a few months this prayer journal would ruin my sixteen-year-old life.

    I offer here a selection of my prayers, from the spring of 1997.

    April 7

    Dear God, you are all powerful and almighty and can do whatever you want.

    Please have Chrissy come to youth group tonight. I know she’s not part of our church but she said she might come and visit.

    Since I’m worship leader I’ve been really practicing this song and I know she would like it. I know it would lift her spirit. I know she would really praise Jesus with this song. So please have her be there.

    April 8

    Dear Jesus, I’m very disappointed that Chrissy wasn’t there.

    Sarah was there and I know she likes me and she’s cute but I've already told her I’m not allowed to date.

    She cornered me near the water fountain and asked if we could go somewhere quiet to pray together. I said yes because that seemed like a good and holy request.

    We went into one of the classrooms and it was just her and me and we knelt down together and held hands.

    She wanted to pray for Eddie Kim, the South Korean minister who is imprisoned in China. He writes letters to our church, telling us about the terrible suffering Christians undergo in China for their faith.

    We are so blessed not to have to experience that kind of suffering but of course both Sarah and I are ready to die for our faith.

    Eddie Kim says the most important thing that the church in China needs are prayers from those pure in heart, those who have true faith.

    So that’s what Sarah and I did. We held hands very tightly and after we said amen she wanted to keep holding my hand but I said I didn't know if it was a good idea, even though I liked it.

    My brother found us. He's only a year younger than me.

    Stop making out! he screamed. Dad's here to pick us up.

    We weren't making out, I said, running after him. We weren't making out! We weren't making out!

    April 11

    Maybe Sarah and I shouldn’t have been in the same room alone together. Maybe that's where we went wrong, even though we were praying.

    That goes against everything that’s in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Dear God, thank you for inspiring Joshua Harris to write this important book. We youth who live in this secular and corrupt modern world need to hear this important message of purity.

    Please help me have pure thoughts and motives.

    I keep thinking about what it was like to hold Sarah's hands. It was thrilling. 

    No, no, I can't let my thoughts go there.

    Today I found out that someone told Chrissy that Sarah and I were in a room together alone and Chrissy wrote me an email saying that she was concerned that I would be tempted if I were in a room alone with a girl and that I should be more careful.

    You’re absolutely right, I emailed her back. Thank you.

    Jesus told me to write this email, she said. For the sake of your soul.      

    Praise God, I wrote her back.

    April 13

    Dear Jesus, please help mom stop crying in the bathroom. She tries to hide it but I can tell and it’s bad since we only have one bathroom and sometimes I really need to use it.

    I know mom and dad are fighting now since dad is unemployed and we don’t have enough money and the church is helping us out.  We're even going to the church food pantry. Please help dad get a good job.

    Also can you please make my next door neighbors Tim and Justin stop making fun of me since dad duct tapes his running shoes because he can’t afford new ones? Every time I’m in the backyard they come out and make fun of me.

    Thank you, God, that I don’t go to public school and have to see them every day.

    April 20

    Lord God, we call you father, since you are our heavenly father, but can I also call you dad?

    This is how I started my prayer at youth group and my brother started laughing. He does not have the spirit of God in him. I believe he is a lost cause, one of the damned. It will be hard to spend eternity separate from him while he roasts in the fires of hell, and I bask in the heavenly light with Jesus, but if it is your will, oh Lord, then I accept it.

    But, dad, after youth group, Chrissy and I went for a walk outside church when we were waiting for our parents to come pick us up and the connection between us is incredible. I mean the spiritual connection, mainly.

    I know that we are not supposed to date and shouldn’t spend any unsupervised time alone together but we were out by the playground and the sun was setting and suddenly the other people we were walking with disappeared one-by-one as their parents came or they left.

    Chrissy was saying how inspired she was by my holiness and calling God, dad.

    Because that’s really what he is to us, she said. God should be as close to us as our own fathers.

    Exactly, I said.

    I knew that Chrissy and I had a future ahead of us, a great future that involved marriage and kids, and a long life together.

    Chrissy, I said. God is calling us to do something great. Let’s be missionaries to China. We'll help out Eddie Kim.

    I feel the same exact thing, she said.

    Our faces were close together. We were looking into each other’s eyes.

    Temptation was upon us.  

    Sarah came over.

    Your dad is looking for you, she said to Chrissy, giving me a look.

    May 1

    Sarah sent me a long email.

    She said that she knew that Chrissy and I were good friends but she wanted me to know something about Chrissy.

    She had seen Chrissy and Evan go into a classroom by themselves last year after church service. She didn’t know what had happened but when they came out they both looked embarrassed, guilty. She was tucking in her shirt. 

    That news upsets me, but I have to put it out of my mind because tonight I am meeting with Mr. Weaver, Chrissy’s father. I’m going to ask him if Chrissy and I can be in a courtship under his direction.

    I have to forget Sarah, though I still can’t forget the way she smelled and the soft feeling of her hands. Forgive me, Lord.

    We have the youth group retreat coming up, and I need to stop thinking these thoughts. Or else I’m not going to be able to be around Sarah.

    May 2

    Hallelujah! I’m thrilled, excited. Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it! I’m the luckiest man in the world!

    Mr. Weaver has agreed to supervised courtship of Chrissy and me.

    We can talk on the phone once a week!

    And I can go over to their house as long as one of the parents are there. If all goes well, in good time, this will lead to marriage.

    I'm not allowed in her room by ourselves or anywhere else by ourselves, which is what we both want too. Mr. Weaver called my father and they went over the details and my father agreed as well. Is this what you want, he asked me.

    I said yes.

    Thank you, Jesus. 

    May 4

    Chrissy couldn't come to the youth group retreat. Her grandmother is in the hospital, she had a heart attack.  

    I have a confession, dear God. A confession of a terrible sin. My soul is forever tainted.

    After we arrived today at the camp and I played basketball, I was hungry so I went to the kitchen and Sarah was there with her friends but they left her and she came over to me and said she wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    That’s what I’m having, I said.

     Oh, is it? she said.

    Too bad about Chrissy not coming, she said.

    Yeah, I said.

    So you guys are courting? she said.

    Yeah, I said. We hadn’t really told that many people yet.

    Congratulations, I guess, she said. Is that what you say?

    Sure, I said. I don't know actually.

    I was too distracted by the way she smelled, the way she smiled at me.

    We sat and ate our sandwiches.

    We were talking about how much we both liked C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, how important that book is, how amazing C.S. Lewis, how this generation needs another writer like him.

    Before we knew it, we were the last ones in the common area.

    Everyone had gone to bed, and the chaperone had forget to check the kitchen, or maybe had fallen asleep. We didn't want to go to bed. Instead we went outside and sat on the steps and looked at the stairs.

    We looked over at each other, deep into each other's eyes, and we kissed.

    I'm sorry, God. I'm a wretched sinner. I've sinned against you and against Chrissy.

    May 5

    I can’t believe what I did. I have to tell Chrissy and apologize. This will never happen again.

    May 6

    Maybe I don’t need to tell her.

    Maybe I shouldn’t.

    It was a momentary weakness and I have avoided Sarah ever since.

    How could I do this? I am the sinner, the worst of all singers, the refuse of mankind. 

    I don’t talk to her, I don’t look at her. Sometimes she is still in my dreams but, God, please forgive me for my dreams.  

    May 7

    I spoke to Chrissy on the phone and I said the retreat was great. I said it was a wonderful time for prayer and fellowship. I didn’t tell her. I’m not going to tell her when I see her tonight. I’m not. She'll never know.

    We’re going to get married and be missionaries and I’ll forget about it in time. But when I close my eyes it’s all I can think about. That kiss.

    Oh God, no one has faced such a crisis in their lifetimes as I have.

    Have mercy on me, Oh Lord.

     

    That’s where the journal ends. It's because the next Sunday shortly before I had to go to youth group I realized I couldn't find it.

    My brother had gone early since it was his turn to help set up, and I called off my search until after the meeting.

    Mom dropped me off at the church.

    As I walked down the hall, people were looking at me, laughing to themselves. I saw copies of my journal taped to the wall. Pages and pages laid out in chronological order.

    My brother had done it. I knew. He was the only one evil enough.

    I found him in the back parking lot by the dumpster smoking with the other reprobates.

    You’re going to hell, I screamed at him. You’re going to hell and I’m going to laugh at you and I won’t even let you have a sip of water.

    When I went back in Chrissy and Sarah were reading the pages. Chrissy wouldn't look at me. She left before youth group started.

    Sarah smiled at me.

    I had a hard time leading worship group that night. No one really sang along with me.

     

    Mr. Weaver called to say the courtship was over. Chrissy wouldn’t talk to me.

    Sarah and Evan started dating, actually dating. Not courting.

    My dad got a new job in another state.

    As we were packing up the moving truck, Tim and Justin, the neighbor boys, came out.

    Don't forget to pack your duct tape, they said, laughing, You never know when you're gonna need that.

    Shut up, I said.

    What? they said.

    I ran at Tim and knocked him over. Justin was going to pull me off when my brother came out and tackled him. His other reprobate friends were with him and we all duct taped Tim and Justin and put them in their shed in the backyard.

    As we drove out of town, I remember closing my eyes.

    The happiest years of my life were over. Where were you, God? I said. Where were you?