I grew up going to a traditional-style church and would have called myself a Christian all my life. I prayed for things I wanted, believed in God, and even believed Jesus died on the cross for my sins. However, looking back, I can see that Jesus was more of a concept than a reality to me, someone to pray to than to truly know. He was a "get out of hell" free card rather than a personal Savior and friend. But I could not have told you why Jesus needed to die for me (honestly, it seemed a bit excessive).
Therefore, my faith was not a solid ground to stand on. In those crazy high school and college years where we discover who we are and what we believe, I found myself insecure, making poor choices I thought would lead to fulfillment, acceptance, and happiness, but ultimately left me empty.
After graduating college and getting married, Cory and I began church shopping because we thought that’s what we were supposed to do as young adults. (More likely, it was God’s sovereignty!) A co- worker of Cory’s invited us multiple times to her church in a denomination very different from the ones we grew up in. We finally accepted because she was so persistent!
It was at this church where I understood the gospel for the very first time, although I’m sure I’d heard it plenty of times before. I finally understood how my sin separated me from a Holy God, and that He invited me to repent and reconcile to Him. We were welcomed into a small group of young marrieds who became the closest group of friends we’ve ever had, and they helped us grow exponentially in our faith. I became very excited about my new faith, and those closest to me would probably tell you I was a bit over the top in sharing about it.
I’ve walked with Jesus exactly half my life now. I used to be so disappointed that I missed Him for so many years. I was jealous of friends who had found Jesus at a young age and had not made some of the mistakes I did in my teens. But now I see it as a blessing, because I remember what it was like not to walk with Jesus, and I don’t want to go back.
Today it is clear to me how He saved me from myself and changed the trajectory of my life through His saving grace. Not only am I finding it easier to love and enjoy people more than I used to (I used to be incredibly self-focused and judgmental), but I have grown to put my focus more on Him: His kindness and compassion, His mercy in salvation and sanctification (making me more like Him), rather than on me striving to clean myself up trying to be good enough.
Don't get me wrong: Life is still hard sometimes. I still struggle with some of the same sins and unhealthy thought patterns I did before following Jesus. But what has changed in me over the years is that Jesus has become more beautiful to me. He is my hope, the steady Rock I can trust. I am imperfectly and slowly learning to surrender all to Him. But I'm learning my identity is Child of God, and that is the one thing in this life I can never lose!
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