There are events in our lives that mark a turning point – our life goes in a different direction afterward. Often we realize the importance as the event is happening but occasionally it doesn’t become clear to us until much, much later. This story falls into the second category.

The first weeks of my freshman year of college were bewildering and unsettling for me. I was overwhelmed by the activity around me, I was homesick and I was overwhelmed by the internal pressure I felt to change the world. In my narcissistic head I believed college was my field to cultivate and I was prepared. Sometime in those first weeks I was flipping through the student newspaper when I saw an advertisement for Planned Parenthood. That was the first domino to fall.

I began composing a letter to the paper. I no longer have a copy of it but it was full of fire, passion and conviction. I railed against Planned Parenthood as an “abortion mill.” I bemoaned the loss of so many unborn babies. And I implored the paper to stop accepting advertisements from such a sinful organization. And I sent it fully believing I was doing the Lord’s work.

You see, at that time you could have found me squarely at the crossroads of self-importance and fundamentalism. It had been drilled into me during the later part of high school that if someone I knew went to hell it was because I let them down. If there were babies being murdered and I didn’t do anything about it then I was a participant in the crime. I would listen to the lyrics of Baby Doe by Steve Taylor and cry as I realized that I did bear the blame and I did share the shame. It was up to me to do something about it.

So I sent the letter fully expecting that the paper would read it, the Planned Parenthood ads would be pulled and I could move on to my next conquest. I was unprepared when they published the letter.

In retrospect I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t have published it. The writings of a religious whack-job certainly had entertainment value. Suddenly my name was known everywhere on campus. I was recognized as an uncompromising crusader for righteousness. Everyone I passed who looked at me knew who I was. They might not have liked me or what I stood for but by God they knew who I was.

Actually that was all in my imagination. I wanted it to be true but I suspect most people forgot about the letter if they read it at all. But in the next issue there were two responses to the letter – one from a Planned Parenthood representative and one from a professor. Both debunked my letter’s assertions calmly and reasonably. I didn’t mind. Someone really did notice my letter and I was itching for a fight. I would respond publicly in the paper with my magnum opus and demolish the strongholds of evil in my college town once and for all.

I began writing my follow-up letter. I was intoxicated with the sense of power. I would spend hours in the library researching Planned Parenthood, abortion procedures and crafting my words carefully. I would imagine the accolades I would receive from fellow Christians when they realized what I had accomplished. Several days later I had finished my masterpiece and I was prepared to unleash it on the world.

I never sent it.

For weeks afterward I was disappointed in myself. I had a chance to do something great and I let it slip away. I initially attributed this to cowardice and tried to mentally move on to something else. But over time it became clearer and clearer to me that my little crusade was not holy. I realized it really had little to do with God and mostly served as a way to maintain my inflated ego. I quietly burned the unsent letter and went on with my life. Once in the library I gave my name to the lady behind the counter and she responded “Oh so you’re the infamous one?” I mumbled something and left as soon as possible. Other than that I tried to forget about the letters and move on.

In retrospect this was one of the most important moments in my life. It clearly marked the beginning of the end of my adolescence and the start of maturity, both emotional and spiritual. Had I sent that second letter my life could have taken a frighteningly different course. By the grace of God it turned out differently.

I still occasionally struggle with grandiosity. Part of that is how I’m put together and part of that is the unhealthy influence of my early faith instruction. However it’s become less and less prominent as time has flowed on. I’m twice as old now and I recall the incident with embarrassment but also with enlightenment. As I’ve become more whole, I’ve sought to develop a healthier faith. It’s become important to me to put away childish things.