My life while in college was a strange mixture of genuine cognitive belief in the doctrines of the Bible, strong passion for girls and basketball, and a lukewarm heart for God. Yet though I could live a double-life in high school, sooner or later something had to give. It wasn’t that I fell headlong into lust and lasciviousness. The Lord kept me from all that. Yet though my sin was quieter, it was no less wicked. Through my freshman year, I claimed to love God and yet clearly loved worldly things. One of the two had to win my heart. One of the two had to direct my destiny.
It could easily have been basketball. I had grand plans to go to college and make it big, thus proving to my hometown that I was a good basketball player. With ferocious discipline, I readied myself for try-outs at little Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. My preparation, however, only readied me for even greater disappointment. The day tryouts ended, the coach called me into his office and cut me from the team. I never cried, but I cried then, all the way back to my dorm room where I collapsed in shame and heartbreak, my dreams departed, my world seemingly falling in on itself.
Yet there was a seed of hope in the experience. Basketball had ceased to become a game for me. It had become a way of life. It was an idol, an earthly object that commanded my devotion and passion, and I worshipped it well. When I was cut from the team, the idol was suddenly taken away from me. I had chased the dream of college basketball for years, and now I had nothing. Or at least I thought I did. I had a wonderful Christian roommate with whom I would talk and laugh each night. He was zealous in his faith and seemed to find genuine hope and joy in God. It was through contact with him that I first came to evaluate my faith.
I compared my love for God to his and found mine sorely lacking. We both said that we were Christians. But where he read his Bible, prayed for a chunk of time each day, and actually tried to live a holy life, I did none of these things. Or rather, I read Christian devotional literature for a few moments before I fell asleep. He had joy and peace in his heart, and it stemmed from the truths he learned in the Bible. I had joy and peace in my heart, and it stemmed from basketball, video games, and flirtatious encounters with girls. He attended church and found something deeply meaningful in it; I attended church, and found something deeply sedative in it. I saw the contrast in my life then, and I saw that on the whole, my lukewarm faith was not getting me anywhere. What’s more, I found myself thinking more about heaven and hell, and I saw that my lukewarm might well get me somewhere—it just might be hell.