Two of my earliest memories in life still have great significance to this day. First, in the spring of 1977 my life was transformed as I prayed and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Second, just a few weeks later, I saw Star Wars in the theater. Right around the same time little “Timmy,” who was almost four years old, was in awe of both Jesus Christ and Luke Skywalker!
My parents were so cool (and they still are)! I always felt like I could trust them and that they would never lie to me. As soon as I could comprehend anything they were very clear with me that Santa Clause did not exist, but that we could have fun and pretend that Santa would visit us on Christmas Eve. In fact, I still remember our Christmas Eve parties. My mom would bake a birthday cake and we would sing “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” Then my sister and I would blow out all of the candles before we would open our presents — with Christ in mind (usually more Star Wars toys)!
The same day my parents told me that Santa Clause did not exist they were also careful to clearly state that God did exist! My parents made the gospel message clear to me at a young age. My grandma (pictured above) would always share Bible verses with me. I learned John 3:16 by heart before I got out of preschool! My parents told me about God and that He created the universe and how He had revealed Himself to the world through Jesus Christ. They explained the incarnation and the concept of the trinity to me at a very young age too. In fact, I will never forget the first exposure I ever had with the concept of substance dualism and that human nature is body and soul together. It was the same day I prayed and asked Jesus to “live in my heart,” which was shortly before Star Wars hit the theaters. Here’s how I remember it:
My great grandpa Matejka had just died. I don’t think I even knew what death was prior to that. My mom sat me down at the kitchen table to explain death to my young mind and that my great grandpa was no longer with us, but now with Jesus in Heaven. To help explain, my mom took a little Weeble Wobble that had the outer plastic shell cracked (by our rocking chair) so that it could slide on and off of the toy. My mom explained death to me and as she held the Weeble Wobble down (because “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), she slid the outer plastic shell off of the figure and said that this was like the human soul which can exist apart from the body (2 Corinthians 5:8).
She went on to place this “soul” on top of a shelf that my short little self could not see. She told me that we cannot see Heaven right now, but that it is more wonderful than anything I could possibly imagine. She told me that my grandpa was in Heaven with Jesus and that if I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life, then I could be there some day too and live there for eternity. I understood the gospel clearly right before my fourth birthday! I still remember that day in 1977 like it was yesterday.
Now, my parents loved Star Wars almost as much as I did! They bought me all the action figures (I still have them to this day) and my bedspread, pillowcases, and curtains were all Star Wars! I will never forget my parents comparing Star Wars with Christianity. There was nothing I daydreamed about more as a little kid than having the power of the force and becoming a Jedi! One Sunday morning, as my family was on our way to church, my parents told me that true Christians were actually more powerful than the Jedi. They explained it something like this:
“Timmy, the same power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives in you through the Holy Spirit if you are walking in God’s will! That is the ultimate Force.”
I will never forget that morning because my dad started pretending we were caught in a tractor beam and the church was pulling us in. Then he said, “This isn’t the Death Star, it’s the Life Star!” Okay, that might be a little cheesy, but to the young Timmy Stratton, it was quite memorable!
Let’s fast-forward almost 40 years later: I have always felt God’s presence in my life ever since that day in 1977. However, sometimes I would start to wonder if all of this was just too good to be true. I wondered if the only reason I was a Christian was because I was raised in a Christian family in the middle of Nebraska. I went on a journey to see if God really does exist and to see if Christianity is, in fact, true. I embarked on a journey to find evidence for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity – and I found it! During this process I grew strong in the Force. In fact, I was becoming not just an apologist, but also, an Apolojedi.
I still love Star Wars and I still love Jesus! However, I know that the proposition “Luke Skywalker was raised on Tatooine,” is a true statement based within a fictional narrative which does not correspond to reality. In contrast, I know that the proposition, “Jesus was raised in Nazareth,” is a true proposition that corresponds to historical fact. Moreover, I know that we have good reason to believe that God does exist and that He has raised Jesus from the dead. I know that Christianity is true and that the same power that created this universe from nothing and raised Jesus from the dead is available to Christ followers today through the ultimate Force of the Holy Spirit. I also know that we have evidence that human souls are substances that are other than our physical bodies and we can survive death. As Obi Wan Kenobi explained to Darth Vader: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!”
My parents made this clear to me at a young age and I have found logical, scientific, and historical evidence validating the teachings of my parents (see the hyperlinks above to get you started). The Force is strong in my family. My father and mother have it. I have it. My sister has it. You can have that power too! “The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in!”
Merry Christmas and may “The Force” be with you too!
I want to thank my mom and dad for teaching me the truth regarding reality and allowing my sister and I to have so much fun along the way. I had a fantastic childhood and I love our theological talks that we continue to have to this day.