Before I was introduced to Jesus, I really lived in a world of ignorance, in every literal sense. I really didn’t even know what church people called “sin.” So when I first heard of it, I really didn’t understand it. I was a kid when I first heard of Jesus and how he loved me so much that he’d be willing to give up everything for me. Since I was only a kid, I really didn’t have much of a chance, before I met Jesus, to get into too much trouble, too deep. I’m not one of those who got into all kinds of junk. I was really what people call a “good” person. But all of this changed after I became a “Christian,” after I grew up a little. I became, in all intense purposes, a rebel. Searching for acceptance. By the age of 17, my life wasn’t worth living. I had all but given up. The life that I had lived, the life of religion and the life of the world was pointless.
Prior to realizing my need of Jesus, I think I struggled with acceptance and validity, maybe even searching for such things. This was shown in many ways, but primarily in terms of my insecurity both personally and with the world around me and a lack of meaning or purpose in life. I think many people have inner needs that they long to satisfy. For some it might be like myself concerning insecurities or lack of purposes, for other, it might be loneliness or fears. There are many ways to fill those voids in our lives, though I found them to be fleeting. Many people try to fill those needs with work, money, drugs, relationships, sports, or sex. For me I dabbled in many areas even dabbling in church and religion, trying to find just the right thing to give me the satisfaction I was looking for. Little did I know prior to Jesus that it was only with a correct relationship with Him that I would ever be completely fulfilled.
I really don’t know what happened as far as what motivated me. But as a sense of seriousness and soberness came over me, I faced my reality. I began seeing that life wasn’t here forever, it was fragile. I realized that the basis of my life was centered on the now, centered on me, and how all that I had been taught up until that point was not being played out in my life. What motivated me more than anything was seeing that my life didn’t have the contentment that I longed for, the validity that I knew was out there. I grew up from my earliest remembrances knowing the Bible, knowing God, knowing the Truth . . . knowing that I didn’t have it, knowing that I didn’t KNOW God.
In all honesty, my testimony isn’t a day and night story. I didn’t wake up one morning knowing all that I know. Yes, I can look back to a certain moment that my life turned for the better, but still, for me, it was a day-by-day progression in the Lord. There were stages of deepening, moments that God revealed himself more and more to me. The age of 9, then 14, then . . . somewhere around 18, God began turning my life around, drawing my heart back to his own. It wasn’t until I was 24 though, that my heart was genuinely turned back to my heavenly father’s. In 1999, I began to cry out for more of the Lord, to know him in a real and personal way, and the Lord heard me. He answered my prayers. He revealed himself to me in tangible, real ways. In 2005 God asked me to go to Bible school, and in 2007 he made a way. This calling was based out of a prayer that I had been praying for several years by this time, “to know you more,” and “there has to be more to you than this.” It was in the fall of 2007 while in the school’s auditorium, while in the midst of several hundred zealous worshipers that God whispered in my heart . . . “this is how we can be.” Using the words of a single worship song, the Lord began unfolding within my heart and mind all that he longs for with me. That song was this:
The more I seek you
The more I find you
The more I find you
The more I love you
I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand
Lay back against you and breath,
feel you heart beat
This love is so deep,
Its more than I can stand
I melt in your peace,
(from the top)
In those few moments, my life with God turned from being one of knowledge and heady stuff to one of passion, acceptance, love, and value. Suddenly I began to see the image that was written of throughout the Bible, (Rev 19:7) an image of a passionate groom longing for his passionate bride. Suddenly my life turned from being a life of memory verses and dull chapter after chapter of lifeless reading to being a life . . . with life. Suddenly, in that moment, the Holy Spirit revealed to me through the analogy of my own physical longings and cravings with my own bride, his similar longings for me, for his bride. I know I am not perfect, what bride is, but through the rose colored lenses of love . . . I am. It was within that moment and the days, weeks, months, and even the next few years that followed, that that kind of love that he had for me, that Jesus had for me, began transforming the self-image I had of myself. No longer was I not good enough. No longer was I looking for meaning and worth . . . but I had, and am, finding it . . . in Jesus. All of a sudden, with this transformative revelation of his love, I was able to understand the grossness of MY goodness, the futility of MY flawlessness. All of a sudden, through the work that he afforded me, I was set free from the bondage of my sin, the slavery of having to do good enough to gain the acceptance that I was after. Suddenly I was secure, not with myself, but with God. My life now has purpose and meaning. My life is no longer about the greatest thrill or being right or good. My life is full of contentment, peace, fulfillment, and happiness. Yes, my life is still filled with hardships, disappointments, and grief . . . but through it all, I remember who my God is. I remember the Love that He showed me; I remember the “why” he wants me.
My “conversion” from where I was to where I am now has not been a dramatic moment, although there has been a dramatic difference. What I mean by that is this. Think of a light switch. Not the standard up and down kind but the round push-button turny kind. The correct term for them is “dimmer switch.” That was my conversion experience. Before, I primarily lived for . . . myself. Therefore, my world revolved around my needs, my wants . . . my life. I lived in basic ignorance of a “world” out there beyond myself. My conversion started out very dismal, though the switch was turned, the circuit closed. Yes, there was a faint resemblance of light, but it was very faint. But as it would turn out, over the years, life’s events and circumstance led me to not just believe that “Jesus died for my sins” but firmly believe that Christ is the solution to which I was searching for. No longer am I looking for validity or am I left feeling alone and insecure. Even though my conversion didn’t blaze all at once for all to see, my faith is grounded in the knowledge and truth that it is only through Jesus that I am saved. My efforts to obtain peace with God, my hard work, (even if it was rewarding work) never afforded me the opportunity to live my new life. It was only because of Jesus that I was freed from a hopeless life, a life of aimless searching. Before “the Light came on” in my life, I thought I was “doing” the right thing, but it was only through understanding that I had missed the mark. Over time the reality dawned on me that I was not on the right path, that I was sinning in my pride and arrogance thinking that I could earn my way to eternal life, and that I needed to admit I was wrong. It is a process. Not my rescuing, that was done by Jesus on the cross, but the process for me is my dimmer switch that controls the light, continues to grow brighter and brighter. Yes, there have been moments where the light seems to be bumped up brighter. Times in my life where my jaw hits the floor in sheer awe that Jesus was willing to give up all of his eternal share hold, for me. I could look back on those times as times when I “rededicated my life” to the Lord, but in actuality, once I initially gave my life to God, my life was never NOT dedicated to Him. The light was always on; it is just that at those moments, the light was jolted brighter as if a surge of electricity shot through my spiritual bulb.
My life has greatly been affected by Jesus being in it. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt what life is like without Him. It is miserable. It is lonely. It is hard. It is pointless. Though my life may at times be miserable, lonely, and challenging, it is not pointless any more. In fact, the Bible promises us that life will be hard if we follow Christ. But when I am allowing Jesus to be the Captain of my ship, it is never aimless. Now, when I am going through the hard times, I know that He is with me. Now I know that when I feel like I am alone and my best friend has turned on me, I know that He is still faithful to be with me, even when it doesn’t feel like He is. He is there. He loves me. That was one of the hardest things for me to wrap my mind around is that even when I am not loving on Him, He loves me. Even when I am at my worst, the bottom of the barrel, maybe even broken through the bottom of that barrel, He loves me. He never promised that life would be smooth. He only promised that he would never leave us or turn His back on us.
Now that I know what true forgiveness is, now that I know what true love is, I can do the same. Before, my idea of love was relatively selfish. Living my life, my version of love as “I’ll ‘love’ you as long as you . . . . Do what I say . . . Do what I want . . . Do as I think is good.” But that isn’t how God loved me. He loved me when I didn’t even know He existed . . . and then He loved me even when I did, and rejected Him still. When I did not even know the extent of my rejection towards Him, he loved me, he forgave me. And then when I continuously act in ways that I know are not his desires, he still forgives me. Since He has forgiven me, since I have seen His example in how He treats me, I can treat others in the same way. Is it easy? Not in a million years. But with His help, I can forgive, I can love. Do I make mistakes? Do I act in ways that are not loving – You betcha, but I know of a better way. I know that there is a way that seems contrary to what I want to do, but it is a better way. God forgave me. God loves me. Therefore, I can forgive; therefore, I can love those that hurt me.
The change in my life has been more of an evolution. As I attend classes, as I mingle with those who do not know Christ, who are still searching . . ., I realize some of the differences between the man I used to be and the man I am now. I no longer ask the questions of what is my purpose here on earth. I no longer wonder all those eternally challenging questions. I no longer ponder on the meaning of this short life. My purpose here on this earth to simply discover who God is, intimately, and help others do the same.
I love God. We talk together . . . and he hears me. How do I know he hears me? The same way I know my daughter hears me when I ask her a question . . . she answers. Yeah, I go though times of learning patience, times where I am tested, but all of us get that treatment even from those who say they love us. We may beg and plead for someone to tell us what’s in a certain box, but until the right time, until it’s our birthday, they won’t reveal it. The same is true for God. Until the right time, many of his secrets aren’t revealed to us. Now that I know Jesus the way I do, I see the world differently. Life is fragile, I learned this when I worked in the medical field. I see the ambulances screaming down the avenue, I watch the funeral procession being led by the black hearse and I ask myself . . . “I wonder if Jesus knew them.” The Bible says that many people know Jesus, even the demons know Jesus, but the Bible says that Jesus will say to some . . . “depart from heaven, I never knew you.” I see people through a different set of lenses now. Where I once looked at others through a critical lens, I now see us as the same. Since 2007, well, actually the Lord used the people even before that, but at least since 2007, the Lord has been putting all kinds of people in my path: hypocritical Christians, backslidden Christians, people who think they are Christians, abusive Christians, Atheists, Gnostics, Buddhist, and a bunch of people who fit all kinds of labels . . . and what it all comes down to is that we are all the same. We have all rejected God, missed the mark. We have all disobeyed God and sinned. We are all equal. All of us, regardless of the title we put on ourselves or our neighbor, all of us have been without hope and need help. None of us are sufficient by ourselves.
If someone asked me today, what my relationship means with God, I would have to say that it gives me hope. Not just hope for myself, but hope you, hope for me, hope for all of us.