March 1977

You have put gladness in my heart

    more than when their grain and wine abound.

Psalm 4:7

 “We have a finite numbers of ways to sin; God has an infinite number of ways to forgive. After observing the human condition for a few years, we find that in regard to sin we’re mostly watching reruns . . . Sinning doesn’t take much imagination. But forgiveness and salvation? That’s a different story: every time it happens, it’s fresh, original, catching us by surprise.”

Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall

            Sometime in Mid-March of 1977 I became a Christian. I don’t know the exact date but I do know the exact month. For me, meeting Jesus Christ was an encounter I’ve never forgotten. That unknown day in a known month was forty years ago. I am who I am because of what happened all those years ago.

            I was a sophomore at Penncrest High School on the day I met Christ. It was a lousy day, I remember that much. I think I blew a test and I’m pretty sure that a girl I liked blew me off. I remember weeping as I went to sleep that night. I wept from a place of brokenness and emptiness. In the previous months, I had been attending the youth group at our church and like a sponge; I was soaking up all I could about the Christian faith. Sure, I had been raised in Sunday school and church but it was as if I was hearing the good news for the first time.

            I heard that Christianity is less a religion than a relationship. I heard that the Bible was more than a bunch of made-up stories. I heard that I could be forgiven and that forgiveness makes everything new. I wanted to be new even though I only 16-years old. Through my tears and out of great pain, I cried out to my Savior, “Jesus, would you come and take over my life.” And He did.

Two weeks after I gave my life to Jesus, I felt that I was supposed to be minister. That came as a surprise to me and to just about everyone I knew. Since fourth grade, I had been working with speech therapists to help me with a severe stuttering problem. So this stutterer, named Stuart Spencer (which is a tough name to have when you stammered like me) was called by the Lord God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, to stand and speak in front of people.

The verse from Psalm 4: 7 has always meant a lot to me. The writer says that God has given more gladness or joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Pile up what you want—things, money, pleasure. Those things will never come close to delivering me the gladness that I have known for forty years.