I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
For 18 or 19 years not only was I not waiting patiently for the Lord, I wasn't even interested. Both of my parents had left the church in their twenties along with much of their generation. I knew that Christianity was out there because I have always had Christian friends, and because my grandmother would subversively send me Bible stories for my birthday. But I managed to make it to university without ever giving serious thought to faith and religion as more than a curious relic from 'olden days.'
First year at university wasn't as comfortable. It was no den of iniquity, yet I think of it now as the miry bog. My friend Graeme, a lifelong Lutheran, had hooked up with a group called LSM—Lutheran Student Movement. He introduced me to the University of Alberta's Lutheran Chaplain, Richard Reimer and invited me Tuesday night suppers. Thirty or so students gathered together for a meal and prayed before they ate. It wasn't the praying that surprised me—we said grace at Gran and Grampa's house. It was the way they talked about God as if God was real, someone who cared about them and who they cared about. But if I envied that, I didn't yet think it was a relationship I could have. I was too full of questions and doubts, and it seemed to me that a person probably had to have grown up with faith to ever have it.
My conversion came in the fall of my third year of university. I had managed quite nicely to resist the offers to come to church or Bible studies, all the while trying to think my way out of these doubts I had. And then, sitting in the Lutheran Student Centre one afternoon waiting for the group to gather, I had a sense of connectedness with everyone around me. I still vividly remember that moment, but I have difficulty describing that feeling, beyond saying that I felt God's hand on me then. So I told Graeme, "I think I'll take you up on that offer to go to church this week" and I told Pastor Richard, "I want to talk about getting baptized." I talked to my parents, who accepted my decision.
On November 21, 1999 I was baptized. Baptism seems like it should be the happy ending to this kind of story. Happy it certainly was, but not an ending. That was almost three years ago, and my faith story is still a work in progress.
Every day I try to be guided by a prayer: "God, I can only take this one step at a time, and I need you to show me how to be a Christian." In three years, I've had a lot of help on my faith walk from pastors, friends, the library (I admit I'm the bookish type), my wife, Lindsay, and, of course, God. I've served LSM as Vice-President & Spiritual Life Coordinator, planning worship and sharing a weekly devotion with the community. Being in Christian community has always encouraged me to reflect on my faith, and that's been so important for me as I grow and mature in faith.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, 'Great is the Lord!' As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.
-- Matt Greiner
Hosanna, Edmonton, Alberta