My life before coming to know Christ was actually a quaint one. I did not have anything close to what some may refer to as a “mid-life crisis”. I seriously believed that I would outgrow the community in which I grew up, leave it to fulfill my own destiny and Christianity would become an afterthought. That meant that I would never go back to church once I was able to live on my own.
I was by no means a “perfect” person. I believed the flaws of all people were to be either accepted or ignored, never changed. I believed in letting others live their lives the way they saw fit as long as their personal liberty did not impact mine — a passive, neutral life, but it was the one I knew, and the one I accepted as my own.
My relationships with most people, even my own family, were all distant. Affection towards others was seldom expressed. I hid most of my true thoughts for fear of being judged for expressing them. Although anger, sadness, anxiety are normal and expected emotions, I felt they were always looked down upon no matter what. I knew these mental stresses lower quality of life, yet I saw no true remedy in sight since it only exasperated the negative emotions and didn’t address their root cause; being totally deficient in spiritual matters meant I had no outlet to relieve my mental strains. This meant I was always on the verge of an insane outburst, but I discovered the truth about the eternal salvation that I never had to earn and the loving God who saved me even when I was wholly undeserving.
It surprises me how I came to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and truly begin a relationship with God. It was at a high school retreat that my life was thrown into a different direction. It wasn’t anything particularly moving; it was during the height of the evening in the final night where the biggest worship session took place. The pastor called upon the congregation to ask the person beside them if they want to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. At this time, I considered myself a Christian, though only by name, but I wasn’t about to tell anybody that. My friend beside me asked the question. I had to make a choice. Do I, awkwardly, say no and claim that I was already a Christian or say yes, go up to the altar and finally accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior? Bear in mind, I thought I was a Christian, but saying no would have ruined “the moment” for my friend, so I played along and said yes.
I had to go up, I had to tell everyone the lie that I am not a Christian and if I didn’t really believe in God, what did I have to worry about? I could just continue pretending like before, and after the retreat was over, go back to living my life the way I wanted. Perhaps it was the guilt inside that I was lying to all those nice people. Maybe it was the fact that I could have been exposed that night. Or, maybe God’s will finally broke through my life and showed me a new path that my life could take, but something happened.
I won’t try to build this up. I wasn’t too keen on paying attention, as the pastor explained the significance and welcomed us into a new life in Christ. I just wanted that night to be over, but as the pastor asked around if there was any more he could do to explain the meaning behind the commitment to being in a relationship with God as well as an opportunity to talk about anything, I found myself compelled to take him up on that offer. So, I did. I revealed my life to him and explained how my life was. We prayed, he spoke some words of encouragement and I thanked him.
That moment marked my time as a person saved by Christ. It’s not something I take lightly either because it is the moment that I accepted the love of Jesus Christ into my heart which saved me from eternal damnation. I went from being without hope to being saved. Because I took that initial, courageous step toward Jesus, I received salvation. I was saved by nothing but the grace of God who reached out to me in my darkest hours. Because I was saved, I came to revere him and praise him because he, in his infinite wisdom and power, saved a sinner like me. Undoubtedly, God is eternal, and ultimately, the Lord above all and his love endures forever.
My family was elated to find out that I had accepted Jesus Christ into my heart, which I didn’t recognize at the time. My family had always wanted me to come to Christ on my own volition despite raising me in a Christian family. God understood who I was because he loved me and of his own will, chose to sacrifice his one and only Son to save a wretch like me. My thinking about everything I assumed as truth in my life was challenged rationally and it convicted me like never before. I had to reject everything I thought I knew and begin learning about God all over again from the ground up.
I heard one extremely important message about how prayer is a conversation with God. God is my Lord, but he is also someone I can talk to, my friend. Instead of asking for everything, I pray in thanks to him and to worship him. Prayer has become an important part of my life because of how much more often I begin to do it, instead of just in the morning, evening and before meals. Prayer is, essentially, my gateway to God and it makes me stronger in my relationship with him by helping me to see his will for me and making me put my life into perspective.
I recall one verse I learned in Hi-C Sunday School that my teacher always pushed the class to memorize:
Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
This single passage gave me the strength to push forward and continue to seek God. As with all relationships, the growth comes from the interaction between the two. I may stumble in this relationship and fail to follow his commands, but It gives me endless hope that he is always watching over me and that his will is always to guide me. If I don’t seek the Lord, how could I ever know the answers to the problems of our lives? However, this verse doubles as a warning; since he has a plan for me, I must walk that path. The Lord not only gives me a path, but a command to follow and serve him.
The years after accepting Christ have given me insight into the strength of community, as well as shown me first hand, the people who have helped me through my life at this church even as I was a non-Christian. It makes me realize now that God has blessed me with a community of fellowship in my family and friends. They gave me the courage to announce, publicly, my faith in Jesus Christ.
I still have so much to learn about God and his will, but my life had been filled with zeal since the day I accepted him into my heart and I will continue to follow in his footsteps because of his unending grace and overflowing love.