i was born to two parents who deeply love God. as I live in this world, i have learned how rare that is and radically kind of God to give such a gift. and what i mean by “deeply” is that they aren’t people who simply believe in God without giving Him another thought, doing nothing beyond that simple head agreement. instead, they live a lifestyle of following His ways and seeking to know who He is, seeking an authentic relationship with Him. their individual relationships with Him have grown since my childhood in really incredible ways, but from the beginning they have placed high value on church. we attended every Sunday and rarely missed. they also highly valued a Christ-centered education for my sisters and me, so i attended the small, private school, maranatha christian academy, from the ages of five to eighteen!
so i heard about “the prayer” as many times as you might imagine with that much church and christian schooling. one specific instance sticks out in my mind, though. i was maybe five or six and my older cousin, emily, sat me down at her kitchen table one day and explained to me the deal about Jesus and how important it was that i “asked Him into my heart” and admitted that He was God, that I was a sinner and He saved me by dying on the cross so i could go to heaven because i couldn’t get to heaven on my own merit (“the prayer”). i think i really believed her that day, as much as a five-year-old could, and i wanted it. i probably repeated emily’s prayer after her so i could “get into heaven,” but i never thought about any of it very seriously until fifth grade when i saw the movie... oh this is so embarrassing... left behind. say what you will about that cheesy movie, but that movie is the first little snap that woke up something inside of me to consider God a little deeper! perhaps because i was so terrified of getting “left behind” when all the christians were taken up to heaven at the end of the world (the premise of the movie)! scary concepts for a little kid! i remember many nights going to bed so worried that i wasn’t going to heaven. i had many questions for my dad during that time (he's always been the person i go to when it comes to my questions about God). so i guess i had started considering things more deeply starting then, but looking back, it was mostly driven by the fear of not “getting into heaven.”
from that point, my middle and high school experience involved many, many questions. i know it's easy for people to say that someone like me was brainwashed, being so surrounded by the christian worldview, but actually i have wrestled with every question that any other person has. there just comes a point when you can’t believe something just because your parents do. believe me, with that much church and christian schooling, it would have made sense for me to run as soon as i got out of high school. i still remember a time in tenth grade when i was just so frustrated because i was getting sick of it all. at that point in my life, my week plainly consisted of: church on sunday, chapel on monday, Bible class tuesday and thursday, and church small group on wednesday. it seemed like an overload and i wanted to throw my hands up and be done with it all at several points. but here's the thing: i kept coming back. there was something there beneath all the obligations. at some point in the midst of it all, a point i can’t specifically say “that’s it, that’s when i became a ‘christian,’” but somewhere in the midst of it, i guess God got ahold of my heart, and He kept getting ahold of me in new and beautiful ways. i sort of fell in love with Him! i was so perplexed by Him, so curious about Him and wanted to know Him and learn more. i wanted to know what kind of God would leave His glory and majesty and become a human being in the most vulnerable form to two jewish teenagers in a dirty animal feeding trough to ultimately bleed in humiliation and torture on a cross just to save people who rejected Him. (You can find the long version of this in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John in the Bible :)) that was a God worth my time. that was a God i was going to give my life to, a God i could talk to, a God i wanted to know. His love made me love Him. there was no other option in my mind. i just could not (and still can’t) get over a holy God who would do something like that. i think God gets a bad name for all the brokenness that goes on in the world and everyone likes to point their fingers at Him and say “how could you?” (me too, i’ve done it!), but i think we don’t consider that if He wiped out the wicked, the whole earth would be vacant, and He has shown the most outrageous mercy and love.
i’ve had the fear that someone might say to me, “well of course you believe in God, why wouldn't you? nothing's ever happened to you.” but actually that's not true. i have never experienced death and i have never been raped and i have never experienced divorce or abuse or so many of the terrible, terrible things and cruelties that people face every day (please know i am not saying this lightly; my heart breaks for all of those things). i am not going to ever pretend i know those pains, but i do live in the world and i do experience pain. i still hurt people and am hurt by them and i have seen what my life looks like when i am disregarding God and choosing to live for myself and i have decided that it is all so very meaningless and ugly without God. i have decided that why would i choose any other way to live than for the Maker and one who designed life itself? i have decided that life’s designer would know how to live the best and so i follow Him. through these decisions, i have also decided that i want to know God, the real God, not the one that sounds good in my head, even if that means i find myself not really liking some of His ways or traits. i never want to shut myself off from certain realities of who He is just because i might not like them. i don’t want to live for a God who looks and acts and votes like me, because then i would be God and then things get scary. i wouldn’t be a very good god.
to say i have it all figured out now would be the biggest lie. i don’t, not at all. i still (and i think i always will) have questions, and every once in a while i still get urges to just throw up during church when i am going through the motions of all of those classic Christian phrases and rituals, just being honest! this is a story that is still being written. just because i have decided to make Jesus Christ Lord of my life does not mean that it stopped there. i have to choose to let Him be Lord of my life every single day and He makes me more like Him as i walk with Him and learn and grow. there is not a nice, neat little bow wrapped around my life now because i follow God (sorry, joel osteen). i’m not happy all the time because i follow God (believe me, i feel all of the emotions), and i make mistakes and make them often. But i know the truest, deepest love i could ever know, from Him. i know deep security, deep comfort, joy, and steadiness. i know peace and full, rich life; not because life is easy, and not because my parents are great (they are, though!). but rather, because i know God. my deepest desire for you, and every other person in the world, is that you would know Him, too. this is what my life is about and how it got there in summary and i so badly wish you were sitting across from me in a cute coffee shop and we could have a conversation, but if that never happens, it had to be known in this space.
i have seen what God can do in a human heart (my own) and how He digs Himself into the deepest crevices of it, every nook and cranny of it, and makes a beauty-filled home there for Himself. He puts life where there wasn’t any! He dusts out the cobwebs and crusty bitterness. when we let Him, He makes us new! and oh, friend, let’s let Him! i want my life to be a story of letting Him, and i want that for you, too.
"i am just another beggar pointing to where the bread is!"