Thursday, May 7, 2015

This is My Story.

I didn't believe I had a story for a long time. When people talk about someone with a story about the change from God, it's usually about Paul. He went Saul to Paul, he persecuted Christians in horrid ways and then was blinded by God for a few days, was encountered by him, and then became a Christ follower. He wrote most of the new testament. His story is found in Acts 9:1-19.

Eventually, I learned I had a real story. And to say I don't have a story that matters is to say I don't matter.

This is my story. 

I wasn't born in the Christian faith, because it's not something you're born into. My parents knew Jesus and I did grow up in the church, though. I loved it. I loved church, although I didn't always love getting up early on a Sunday morning. I went to church at least three times a week (bible study, youth group, and church, plus any additional church events), knew the Bible backwards and forwards, and could give you all kinds of Bible knowledge facts. I knew there were 66 books in the Bible. I knew the words to the songs sung in church.

And when I was 9 years old, almost 10, I knew there was something more. I didn't exactly know all about the whole Jesus thing--I knew the story, but the part about having a for real relationship with Him was a little confusing. But I knew that's what I needed. I remember the pastor asking me several times, as did my parents, if I was sure about this. I was so confused as to why they were asking, because they were the ones teaching me this. Eventually I understood--my parents and the pastor knew the reality of committing to Jesus. They knew it was a personal decision. They knew it wasn't how much knowledge you had or what your attendance chart looked like, and wanted to make sure it was me making the decision for legitimate reasons, not because I am blindly agreeing to what they say. Much later, I realized how much I appreciated them.

My decision at the age of 9 only made me more excited for church. I brought so many friends to church in middle school, it was almost ridiculous. I loved church and I loved learning about Jesus.

When I was 14, the church I had attended for the past decade began to fall apart. I was devastated and allowed that to destroy my faith. I was hurt by the church and was unwilling to forgive. I harbored hatred and anger for many, many years. The latter part of my sophomore year of high school, I began to engage in church again. There, people rallied around me and supported me and encouraged me to ask hard questions.

I realized that while my decision to follow Jesus was legitimate, I wasn't appropriately fostering or growing my faith. I was afraid to ask hard questions, I was afraid to be angry, I was afraid to be hurt, and I was afraid to question and doubt. I'm nothing like Paul, the guy mentioned earlier. I am like Thomas.

Thomas' story is found towards the end of the book of John. He is often referred to as "Thomas the Doubter" and people sometimes hate on him. The gist of the story is that after Jesus rose from the dead, Thomas was the dude who said, "Hold up, this doesn't make sense. Prove to me that you are Jesus, that you for real died, and that you actually rose from the dead". He was the guy who said, "I'm not sure, show me" rather than "Yeah, okay, I believe you without hard facts". What I love so much is that Jesus met him where he was at. Jesus showed Thomas what he asked and gave Thomas the evidence Thomas sought. Thomas wasn't rebuked for questioning Jesus. I really believe that Jesus welcome questions, welcomes doubts, and wants to meet us where we are at and provide answers. That's what happened with Thomas.

So sophomore and junior year of high school, I questioned, I struggled, I doubted, I grappled. But I did not to lead me astray from my faith, but with the genuine, earnestness of wanting to learn more. I refused to blindly follow, to just accept things on the surface. I wanted to be a for real, legit, hardcore follower of Jesus and what that really meant. This is when I really started to own my faith and make it for real mine. Where I seriously started to "get it".

A big part of Christianity is that "we are all sinners". AKA we all screw up. And while I knew this, I wasn't sure if I really believed it. Because seriously, I was a really good kid. Other than the fact that I hate mornings and wasn't good at waking up, I really didn't know how I was a "sinner". I didn't really lie, I always did my homework (so much so, my teachers told me to not do homework sometimes), I didn't party, I didn't do drugs or drink, I got along with almost everyone, etc. To the world, I learned that I wasn't a "sinner". Because on the outside, I do look good. It's the inside where I am a mess, and that's where my sin was revealed. I struggle with pride. I struggle with jealousy. I struggle with self worth. I struggle with vulnerability. I screw up way more often than I ever want to admit, and it's rarely on the outside. Most of it is on the inside. That makes it difficult for people to really hold me accountable and for me to fight. It's really easy to hide and that's one of the reasons why I continued this blog, to increase my vulnerability.

In Christ, I have been able to find my identity and worth in Yahweh, the God of Jacob. I know I am worthy and I know I matter. That revelation didn't come easy and something I value more than anything. Knowing my identity drives me, my passion, my desires, my dreams, my values, my choices.

There is another thing I am learning with Jesus, particularly throughout college. My heart has changed for the world. As told through this blog, as this is the seed that planted this blog. I have learned that God is bigger than America. And I need to love the world. Not just America. Not just the part of America I am in. But every place. Because God is so much bigger than America. He knows more than the English language. He is the God of the world and for me to say I love God means I need to love the world.

I also have had, and continue to have, questions. I am logical. I am rational. I think things through. Senior year of college I started to wrestle and doubt and struggle with new ideas and new questions. Questions I hadn't thought about before. And I ran.

I had started to lose some of my support network in regards to my faith, because I was so focused on my job in college. And I moved to a new state, where I had zero support network. I struggled. A lot. After a long while, I started to slowly share it with a few people. And then I had a massive head injury that lasted 9 months. And then I remembered I had questions. And I didn't know where to go for answers. But I knew I needed to do something, because the running can only work for so long. I re engaged in Church and found a home church. And I started to once again see the beauty and intimacy of God. The love and desire and yearning and passion he has for people. All people. I continued to be reminded that God loves us. Regardless of whatever mess we are. And I continued to ensure that I rationally understood what I believed. I started asking my questions and had raw conversations.

I've never had blind faith. But I have had muddled faith, times of confusion, times of running away, and faith that is shaky. And I've learned that that is okay. And as I continue to engage in those questions, continue to build a support network, continue to seek understanding, I don't get afraid of posts on social media. I don't get afraid of conversations related to God. I don't get afraid of other people's questions. I don't get afraid of my own questions. Because I can be sure in the steadfast love of Christ.

My story isn't about me, really. It's about God reaching out to me, pursuing me, not giving up on me. My story is similar to millions of others who have committed their life to Christ. The details are all different, but the shift, the purpose, the point is all the same. Weird analogy, but it's like how The Lion King is similar to Hamlet. The details are different, but the premise is the same. My hope is that when reading this, you maybe learn a little more about me, but you learn more about God. Because that's really what I've learned is the purpose of a testimony. 

No comments:

Post a Comment