And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. — Ephesians 2:1–3 and 2:8–9
It was the second day of the 1960 Wisconsin gun season. My dad and cousin Clifford were supposed to noisily walk through the “ash swamp,” in hopes of causing deer to flee toward my Uncle Johnny and me as we waited at two strategic locations. But when we arrived where I was supposed to stand, someone was already there, even though it was on our property! We proceeded to Uncle Johnny’s stand and then I cut back to a point about 100 yards in front of the trespasser, shielded by very thick woods. I didn’t know then why I decided to stand under that particular balsam tree. In retrospect, it was God’s providence. My dad and Clifford had barely begun their march through the “ash” swamp when I glimpsed a deer heading for Uncle Johnny. The deer must have scented him, since it cut back toward me, stopping broadside at 15 yards. A single shot from my brand new 32 Winchester Special ended the life of my first buck. But in the picture, I was as spiritually dead as the buck was physically dead. I had no idea that 26 years later I would become a child of God.
I grew up in a loving, but unbelieving family. Generally, I was a “good boy,” never in trouble with the law, respectful to my parents, hard-working and a good student. But such admirable character traits could not save my soul. I persisted in unbelief as a perfectly happy pagan, believing the big bang and evolution accounted for the creation rather than the Creator. My atheism started to unravel a bit when my wife was suddenly converted in the fall of 1984. About a year later, after a lively discussion, she quoted Herbert Spencer, “There is one thing that will keep a man in everlasting ignorance; rejection prior to investigation.” I got her point, reading the “Living Bible” in about three months. I was not impressed. The Old Testament fulfilled my expectations of a bunch of mean and nasty characters in all kinds of sin. I looked forward to the New Testament, expecting to like Jesus. Instead, I saw Jesus as very unattractive and rude, because of the way he would criticize the Jewish religious leaders. I remained a pagan!
It was about 12:15 pm June 18, 1986. I had just finished my last training run before my third marathon. Inexplicably, I looked up at the sky and said, “Thank you, God, for seeing me through my training.” Astonished by this spontaneous statement, I entered it in my running log book and went back to work. The next morning at breakfast I asked my wife, “How did you become a Christian?” She spoke of confessing her sin and believing in Jesus by faith, trusting in Him alone for her salvation (see chapters 55 and 56). I left for work saying, “Don’t get your hopes up!” She got right on the phone and called a number of people to pray. About 10:00 AM, the clearest thought I have ever had popped into my mind. It was: “You have rebelled long enough. At noon you are to go to a certain place along Rice Creek, and there you are to receive Christ as your Savior.” This I did and came back a changed man. As I write these words, tears come to my eyes, so powerful was the conversion experience. I had not considered any pros or cons of becoming a Christian. I had been gloriously and graciously called from death to life. To God alone be all the glory!
Books By Carl Schmuland: