Coming to realize my weaknesses and dealing with them has been a process. When I was a youngster, I went to church and heard about a problem that I had. I knew something was wrong my whole life, that something was off. I learned in church that as humans we have a condition. Much like illness this condition was going to result in a spiritual death (separation from God). I learned this and heard that God had made a solution to my problem. He had sent His Son to take the punishment for my sin, which was the offer of restoring a relationship with Him. Well I wasn’t a rocket scientist, but this seemed too good to be true, so I accepted it. It was truly the greatest decision I’ve ever made. I prayed to ask Jesus to take my sins and invited Him to be a part of my life when I was in 3rd grade. Although I prayed the prayer then, the process of really owning what I had just done wasn’t so quick.
Middle school came and so did the pressure to fit in, to be popular, to make others laugh. I knew what my faith meant in light of eternity, but I was living in the present trying to make a name for myself. It was then that God got a grip on my life in a cool way. My good friend had moved to Reno, Nevada because his father was helping pioneer a church for the community, so I traveled out to visit him. The trip was a lot more challenging than I expected, and I realized at that time that my good friend wasn’t going to be there for me. He had changed, and I had not. This was a reality check in which I had to realize the things I hold comfortably and assume will always be there (like this friendship) are not. I remember breaking down in tears, and letting go of my perfect world that I thought wouldn’t be damaged, and had to trust that God would never leave or forsake me.
I would like to say that after an event like this I never looked to other things to satisfy me. It’d be great if I could tell you that in high school I never wandered off trying to please myself more than God. That wouldn’t be my story though. I was more like a prodigal son found in Luke chapter 15. I would run to things to satisfy me, they would turn out to drain me of moral character, deceive me into thinking my identity was not in Christ, and leave me tired, empty, and running back to my loving Father.
I also related to another character in the Bible named Daniel. Daniel was a captive due to his nation turning their back on their God and it eventually collapsing. This story is found in the book of Daniel chapters 1-5. I was like him as I was entering into college, in a foreign environment with a choice to make. Would I serve God and have my life reflect that or would I conform to the pressures of college and the lifestyles that I observed through the people in my dorm? Well, I didn’t make the right decision. I got involved in parties, drinking just to fit in, and would always try to one up someone, which led to multiple occasions of waking up with regret. I remember the last time I drank, I got sick, and I remember most of my friends just laughed more than anything. I tried to get the guys on my cross-country team to like me, but I ended up being a mockery instead. It didn’t take too long for me to realize I didn’t like where I was headed.
God took this opportunity of brokenness and used it to shape me once again. Like the loving Father he is, he never gave up on me and provided a bible study in my dorm with some caring upperclassmen. These men took me in, learned about my problems, and came alongside me in life. They encouraged me to get in the bible, held me accountable to good choices, and something I had no idea I needed, but they would stick with me in these hard times. They even encouraged me to go on a summer project (a summer long mission’s trip to some strategic location where you live with other Christians and are trained to go out and share your faith). I went on a summer project to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That summer I learned for the first time to share with complete strangers the love God has for them, and how He sent His Son to take their place in judgment and pay a penalty they could never pay.
If I could sum up my testimony in a story it would be the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15. The prodigal son is a story Jesus told the Pharisees about a young man who decides that instead of waiting for his inheritance, he takes it, goes away, blows all of it, and ends up in a bad spot. Thinking of returning home he gives up on ever asking to be a part of the family again and decides to return home to beg to be hired as a servant. To the son’s surprise his father runs out to greet him with much joy and calls for a celebration taking the son back in without a second thought. This is how I see God in my story, ever persistent, even when I am not, ever loving despite my wandering, and joyfully waiting for me after I’ve given up on myself. Being all in for Christ was, and still is a long process. I know I still make mistakes, but I know I have a God who will not give up on me. If I could share one verse that has meant a lot to me it would be Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”