This is the testimony of how I, Rob Crawford, came to know Jesus Christ and accept His Atonement for my sinful life.
As a young child, of less than six years of age, I had developed an enhanced perception of death. I can remember laying in on my bed and contemplating what would happen after someone stopped living. I would also think about how I would feel if others I knew would die. I grew up in a middle class, middle American house with little to no religious activity. My family would have identified as Christian but there was no relationship and no obedience to His Word.
At the age of eight I had an experience in my life where my heart stopped, my breathing wouldn’t work and I knew I was dying. There seemed to be an eternity of time while my mind worked through all the scenarios that I had envisioned and I was scared. This all happened in a short period of time with only me present and then like a flash I was back to where I had been. I did not realize at the time how deep the fear had planted itself into who I was.
I finished my education and spent my time living carefully in fear of dying. By the time I was a teenager I would go through long periods of melancholy as I ruminated on what death would mean to me depending on who it happened to. I had some plans for the future but mostly I just wanted to move on and start living.
At eighteen I joined the military for education benefits and then left my home for training. During this time I got exposed to some of the “Christians” my family had always talked about. I was witnessed to by a young man from Kentucky who I was able to successfully best among my peers. In my youth the Swaggarts and Bakkers of the church filled my family with a sense of hatred to the hypocrisy of the “church”. My dad had grown up poor and was always willing to give. They watched these people take money from others then live ungodly lives. All of this was my weapon as I attacked this person and solidified my smug feeling of victory.
My turning point came less than a year later when I was informed that my unit would be going to war. I had been trained that the average life expectancy for my position was less than five minutes in a pitched battle. As the day to leave neared I struggled to come to grips with my new reality. The death that I thought about and had no answer for was really close. I went through the motions of preparing but was never far from real despair. The day we left the states I was in a gymnasium filled a lot of others most likely facing the same issues and was handed a Gideon’s Bible.
Once in country and out in the field with my unit, I began to read that Bible and in the end I made the promise at the end of the book. Unfortunately I had no idea what I was making a promise to do. A few months later I got a complete Bible and again began to read. When I got far enough into the Old Testament I had a breakthrough that allowed me a reprieve in my fear of death. I even was somewhat cavalier and started to discomfit my fellow soldiers. I felt like if all this was going to be judged on scales, I had way more on the good side than on the bad.
The war ended, I went back to living and the Bible became a talisman that I held onto. I was really no closer to an answer and death still stalked me from the shadows. I started to search out other religious activities and desiring a deeper understanding of myself. This desire more than anything else became the ground work for what has transpired since that time.
I reenlisted, changed my job, moved to a new military base and continued my search. I began to strip away parts of who I was and start to think more about who I wanted to be. Even though death was now farther away I did still end up with those dark periods of contemplation that started when I was very young.
It was in this state that I met my wife and we started our life together. We left the military and ended up back in my home state. We were challenged with the need to be baptized and the Lord provided a miraculous way for us to be baptized together. In this state God challenged me and I shed my past like and dislikes. I realized that He was all I needed and that my understanding of myself had just begun.
A couple of key points to this process that I did not quite get until many years later.
- I spent a week of time each summer, from around 8-14, at a Vacation Bible School near our home. These people would come and get us. The really, really cool part is that I have a confession in my own hand that I would follow Jesus from the last time I attended.
- I was protected by God from myself. This may seem like a silly statement, but I spent a lot of time mad that I couldn’t have a life like everyone else. I thank God everyday that I do not carry the scars that I thought I just had to have.
- I was raised with a strong sense of morality. As related to the point above, my parents seemed to be way more strict on me and as such my moral compass was always pointed in the correct general direction.
So who is Jesus to me and why did I need His atonement? Jesus to me is someone who knows me. He knows everything that I did, did not and desired to do. Yet with all of that knowledge He chose to give me an opportunity to know Him. I have had a few true friendships in my life but they all had weaknesses. I could keep some information back and protect myself. When I started my friendship with Jesus I knew everything was on the table and that made me complete for the first time. I needed His blood atonement because that is what allowed our relationship to begin.
As for my nemesis, death, we still sparred from time to time. The battles were shorter and less fierce as time went on. Finally after about twenty years I got back into contact with the young man from Kentucky. I was able to share my testimony and then receive an encouragement from him. In his own life he had recently faced death and had attained victory by acknowledging he wasn’t in control of the outcome. I was able to step into that same truth and shut out the evil one and his hold on my life.