The Long Road

I was born in Chicago. That’s why I talk funny 😝. I grew up loving baseball, Chicago-style hot dogs (still my favorite food), He-Man and WWE wrestling.

I went to a private Lutheran school on the same block where I lived from K through 4th grade. It was fun to walk to school, especially in the Fall with the huge leaves on the old trees changing colors.

My school, it’s chapel, and the church that ran it, helped build within me a foundation of truths about God to build on. I remember loving most of all singing children’s Christian songs in chapel. My favorite was The Butterfly Song.

This was all helpful in guiding me to see God’s love, but when I moved to the suburbs of Chicago in 5th grade, I didn’t understand the gospel yet. That wasn’t a good thing, especially since my new school didn’t teach about Jesus and we never found a new church. Basically any Christian teaching came to a halt.

The focus was sports, video games, fishing, bike rides, and whatever my friends and I found fun, from 5th grade through high school. We weren’t monsters, but our jokes were crude and sometimes pretty mean. I would have told you I believed in God back then, but I certainly didn’t have living for Jesus anywhere on my radar. I didn’t even know what that meant.

Something would change all of this when I was in late high school. My dad lost two siblings in a short period of time. This led him to pray something that would change my family forever. He prayed and asked God that if He was real that He would reveal Himself to him. God did just that! The Lord brought into my dad’s life a man to help him coach baseball. This man was on fire for Jesus. My dad would soon give his life to Jesus.

So here I was late in high school, after years of very little talk of God on the home front, and my dad was slipping me little notes that said things like- ‘Jesus loved David so much that He died for your sins’. Our response as a family was freaked out at first. Basically ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, ok, but you don’t have to be a weirdo about it’. My friends even went so far as to tease and call him Cardinal Zablocki (example of that joking I spoke of)ðŸĪŠ.
As standoffish as we appeared, it was planting seeds, and I began to dust off a Bible and read it. I specifically remember reading Romans 12 about loving each other and even loving our enemies. I still clearly remember thinking, that’s nice and all, but it’s not possible. To me it was all just idealism because I was yet to understand Christ’s forgiveness, and how that motivates ours. I was yet to experience how the Holy Spirit can transform our hearts and minds. I was still on the journey that had taken years and years.

A little later on I started community college. At that time I would occasionally check out church services with the few people in my life that actually went. When I did go I would listen closely, ask questions, and I really tried to learn.

About that time in my life there was one night when I was in really bad shape. I don’t know if it was spiritual warfare or a panic attack but I felt like I was going to die. I cried out to God and I got a very strong sense that I was supposed to read Psalm 71:17-21. I was skeptical, but I read it:

17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up 21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

I knew it was from God. I was greatly comforted, because it spoke of trusting God to take us from bad times to good times, including a future hope of serving and sharing Him. Honestly, at the time I was most glad because it sounded like I wasn’t going to die quite yet 😂.

Throughout college I got more serious about Bible study, but my understanding of Christ was lacking, and my lifestyle didn’t match what I was reading. I was learning it in my mind but not walking it with my feet. I didn’t understand what it meant to believe in and be a follower of Christ. In fact I would often try to get better in my own power and that left me more frustrated than anything else. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t let me become more obedient. I now know that I needed Jesus.

After college I became a school teacher in a rough area. A few years into my teaching I finally decided to check out a church, but only if it was one that reached out to the poor. I got involved with a large church that had a youth prison ministry and a food pantry. I volunteered regularly and I loved it!

At one of their church services they offered a 12, or maybe a 16 week, discipleship course. For whatever reason I knew I was supposed to be there. The day came for me to go and…I chickened out. I remember feeling so convicted. I was supposed to be there! I blew it! Then as I sat in church the next Sunday the announcement came, ‘If you missed last week you can still come’. What a relief! And so it began.

I don’t exaggerate at all when I say every week it seemed like God was speaking directly to me. Regardless of the topic it was always EXACTLY what I needed to hear. And I felt God at work within me. At one study we had a time of personal prayer to ask God to reveal our sins to us. I received a big word and remember I had to look it up because I didn’t know what it meant 😀. I was like, yup that’s me alright 😎, sorry. This was the real deal for sure.

Around this time, one night while I was driving in the car, I felt a joy I never felt before. It was so powerful I would never match how it felt to this day. I knew God was with me, that I truly believed in Jesus, and that He died for my sins and rose again, and on that night the joy exploded from my heart. I sang as loud as I could down that beautiful tree lined road. A new journey had begun. I was saved.

I continued to go to church and fellowship with other believers. I also continued teaching in a rough area, but I became convicted that my students needed Jesus more than anything else. I felt drawn to move into a role where I would be able to teach lost young people about God openly and often. I thought, maybe as a youth prison chaplain where I was volunteering, or something like that. Then one night during communion I prayed to God that I wanted to give my life to serving Him in full-time ministry.

Over time and experiences, especially an internship at my church’s kids ministry, God would guide me to children’s ministry, and I love it!

On that panic-filled night many years ago God told me of a future:

17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

What an amazing God. What a blessed calling He has given me. What love we have found in Jesus.

– Dave Zablocki

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