It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1985. I was a junior in high school. That school year had started off as a very good year for me. I was one of the top runners on the cross country team, and I finally got my first girlfriend. In early November, both the relationship and the cross country season ended. By Thanksgiving I was feeling about as lonely as I ever had.
That Sunday evening, at the end of the long weekend, while I was reading a book for my English class, I felt a tightness in my chest, and I started having trouble breathing. I felt dizzy. I've had respiratory allergies most of my life, and this was probably related to that condition. If so, it was by far the worst attack I've ever had.
I don't remember the next few minutes. I had been sitting in a chair on one side of my bedroom, but the next thing I remember I was lying in my bed on the other side of the room, slowly getting my breath back. I remember thinking, my life is worthless, and I whispered a prayer, "God, if you can hear me, just let me die."
What happened instead was that I slowly became aware that someone else was in my room. I couldn't see anyone, but I could sense a presence. The intensity of the presence began to grow, until it was so overwhelming that I was aware of nothing else, not even myself. I knew I was in the presence of God. I don't think the English language even contains the words to describe the sensation.
My life has never been the same since. Things didn't turn around immediately, but I started on a journey that has led me places I never would have imagined.
Tonight is the 20th anniversary of that experience, and the memory is still as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday.