“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
“Christian by association, Christian by upbringing”—this is how I describe the first 22 years of my life. I grew up in a loving, supportive, church-going family, and attended private school up to high school. I attended Sunday School, camps, AWANA clubs, youth groups, listened to Christian music, memorized Scripture. I checked the “Christian” box on any forms asking my religion.
But I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Not in the least. I only knew Jesus in the form of religion and legalism.
Though I wasn’t atheistic and claimed to believe in God as some distant, universal higher power, the thought of living for Christ was far-fetched—and I wasn’t interested. I misconceived Christians as hypocritical, judgmental, boring, outdated, stale. I was convinced that I could lead a “good life” and still be a “good person” without being a “Bible-thumper.” I knew of God, but He didn’t receive my glory or gratitude, because my thinking became futile and my foolish heart was darkened (Rom. 1:21). The message of the cross was foolishness to me because I was perishing (1 Cor. 1:18).
In college I was introduced to philosophy and other religions. I listened to educated scholars teach me about taking control of my life and my destiny, and essentially how all religions led to the same ocean. I interacted with people with different beliefs from different walks of life. I took bits and pieces of each professor and friend to form an individualized version of God. It was easier to mold Him to fit my standards than to commit to His. I was taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depended on human tradition and basic, worldly principles rather than on Christ (Col. 2:8).
The natural repercussions of fitting God into my own mold left me lost, confused, and alone. My life’s purpose was unclear, my self-worth was low. I sought my identity in the superficial and the dangerous: others’ opinions of me, unhealthy relationships and sex, my appearance. Reliance upon myself seemed easier and immediate. I could control my feelings, my actions, and the world around me if I was clever enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or determined enough. The cyclical nature of my sin typified Proverbs 26:11—I was a dog returning to my vomit, a clean pig wallowing in the mud (2 Pet. 2:22).
When I graduated from college, I was invited to volunteer at my newly-saved best friend’s church in the AWANA ministry. There I met a woman who introduced me to her son. As I began dating this man, he expressed that a relationship with Christ was important to him—and important to him in the woman he wanted to date. Yet, I resisted. Christianity was “nice” for him, but not for me. In Christ-like grace, his humble and only request was that I attend church with him on Sundays. Nothing more.
I sat in church week after week, internally hostile and resistant. I was unaware that the Lord was working in my heart, showing me the reality of my sinful heart, uncovering my need for Him. My arm was out in resistance, but the Lord’s unending love pursued me with divine strength. As my sin increased, His unrelenting grace for His fallen child increased all the more (Rom. 5:20).
At the time, I didn’t know what to call it except a prayer. In retrospect, it was the plea of the Holy Spirit to ask Jesus into my life. My words were far from eloquent, a simple, “I want to be like that, but I don’t want to be fake. I don’t know how to do this. If you’re going to do something, do it.”
And He did.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Shortly after my heart’s cry, the song “Mighty to Save” was playing, and I remember physically feeling an outpouring from my spirit as I sang the words, “Take me as you find me, all my fears and failures, fill my life again. I give my life to follow everything I believe in. Now I surrender.” A weeping from the depths of my soul consumed me. The hardness of my resistant heart had been shattered by an all-powerful, sovereign, personal God. I remember my ears perking up to the sermon, eagerly writing down what I was learning. It was the first time I understood freedom, newness, wholeness.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Cor. 5:17
I married that man who invited me to church, the one who asked me to “just come along, that’s all I ask.” Matt and I were married the next year in the same church I was resistant to attend. We also publicly proclaimed our faith in Christ together through baptism thanks to our church.
It has been eight years since I placed my saving faith in Christ, and I still fall prey to the enemy’s familiar lies that because I am unworthy, my salvation couldn’t be true. However, because the Holy Spirit dwells within me, I stand equipped to battle Satan’s schemes. In immersing myself in the truth of God’s Word, I feel strengthened and confident in my rock and my salvation (Ps. 62:2). In the moments when I don’t feel as though I’m enough for others, I’m reminded in Scripture that His grace alone is enough to sustain me (2 Cor. 12:9). Whenever my heart condemns me, I am reminded that I can rest in His presence, that He is greater than my heart (1 John 3:19), and that nothing can separate me from His love (Rom. 8:28).
I continue to revel in the Lord’s patience with me during all those years of rebellion. I was once an enemy, but I am now reconciled to Him (Rom. 5:10), not by my own effort but by His mercy (Rom. 9:19); because of this, may I only boast about the saving grace of Jesus Christ for as long as I live. And now that I understand that the Gospel isn’t an embellished, irrelevant, outdated story, and that it is God’s Word spoken to us for righteous living, I am committed to sharing it with others. I continually pray, “Lord, use me.” I pray my life be a working example of the cross’s redemptive, transformative power. I cling to 1 Thessalonians 5:24, a simple verse that depicts my testimony: “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” Eight years ago, I literally asked, “Do something,” and He did. He called me because He is faithful, and though it felt prolonged, He is not slow in fulfilling His promises to His children (2 Pet. 3:9). I rejoice that I now have a crown of righteousness in store for me, and if you long for His appearing, you do too (2 Tim. 4:8). I now have the Son, and now I have freedom, I have life (1 Jn. 5:12).
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”