I grew up in a loving home and I am truly blessed to have never doubted the love and support of my parents. I had an understanding of great human love, modeled before me daily. I don’t remember ever not having some sort of concept and knowledge of God. I knew that God existed and that he loved me but other than attending church regularly and praying before dinner, I don’t remember a lot of talk about Jesus. My parents continually encouraged me toward good, strong morals and values but to me, being “good” seemed to be enough.
One of the first times I remember making a decision for Christ was in junior high after spending a week at a Christian camp, which I did dozens of times, summer after summer. We were gathered around a late night campfire and someone told me Jesus had died for my sins and it was possible for me to have a relationship with him. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that this was something I wanted. Something was missing in my life and I thought this could be it. That night, a counselor at that camp walked me through the decision to follow Christ.
The years that followed were filled with continual struggle. I was walking proof that you could do all the right things externally, and still have a heart filled with insecurity, fear and doubt. Like many, I think I thought a relationship with Jesus meant struggles would cease, which they didn’t, so despite being a generally “good” person, I doubted that my salvation had stuck. Recommitment after recommitment, decision after decision, led to deeper and deeper confusion. I began to search in all the wrong places for fulfillment and satisfaction, placing my hope in relationships, good grades, good deeds, appearance and worldly success.
It wasn’t until high school when I really began to understand what it meant to be a Christian. That sin doesn’t disappear, but that grace and forgiveness abound in Jesus. I realized that Christ had paid the penalty for my sin on the cross, making a way for me, an imperfect and sinful human, to come before a holy and perfect God. This wasn’t something I had to work for, despite years of trying, and it didn’t mean I had to be perfect, after trying all too hard at that too. It is already accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ. I could live in freedom and with the sole purpose of bringing glory to my Creator and Redeemer, dependent on him alone for lasting fulfillment.
It was also in high school that the process of discipleship, someone intentionally walking through life with me, was introduced, through the relationship I had with my youth pastor and his wife. Since then, I have been taught truth, been deeply challenged and walked closely beside a handful of mentors that God has provided. It wasn’t until college that I was baptized as a believer, and at this point, my salvation was sure in my heart and mind. College was an extreme season of growth as my faith became my own and I followed God’s leading to go to seminary and into ministry.
After coming to know Christ, I still struggle with misplaced hope in the things of this world and the temptation to get caught up in good works. God is continually reminding me that he alone can satisfy the desires of my heart and that there is no place for the pursuit worldly perfection in his grace, only the pursuit of Jesus and his glory. I am safe and secure as his and all that this world has to offer pales in comparison to him.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But as for me, it is good to be near God.” – Psalm 73:25-26, 29