RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
During my first month of college, I met a Christ-follower who invited me to a Baptist church in Orlando. After visiting, my notion of church was completely overturned. Later, my friend invited me to meet at a Starbucks, where he asked me if I wanted a relationship with Jesus. I was hesitant because I didn’t completely understand what a relationship in Jesus looked like, but, I acquiesced because I had grown more curious, and I was coming to an understanding that God had not allowed my suffering because He was bad, but because there was a purpose to the suffering.
A NON-RELIGIOUS JESUS
Growing up, my family didn’t pray for anything other than our dinner, and I never really knew who the God was we were praying to. That was the main difference between the anonymous God that I grew up not taking seriously, and the Jesus I found in Florida’s Baptist church, and with my friend — I had never known Jesus, personally. But with my new experiences in Florida, I was beginning to see not religiosity — with rules and rituals — but a man with morals, humility, integrity, and Lordship. But, it wasn’t the Lordship of Christ that drew my interest in Him as much as His humanity.
USING THE BIBLE FOR ITS AUTHENTIC PURPOSE
Faith came gradually, through conversations, Bible studies; prayer, and time spent understanding the Bible with more context and less stricture. I had never known there were “translations” of the Bible, or that certain translations made the reading of the Bible easier to follow — without changing the meaning or significance of its content. When my friend helped me find a Bible version more suitable for me (NIV), he helped explain what we read together based on Bible studies he’d had with spiritual mentors. His breakdowns were insightful. Sometimes he even brought humor into our studies, which made me appreciate the Bible more. It also made clear to me how Jesus had moved in my friend heart, positively impacting his ability to convey our studies in a way that helped bring me closer to Jesus, just by using His own love for Christ. I was beginning to realize that the message of the Bible that I thought I knew as an atheist was either based on distortions, or misplaced assumptions.
REMEDY FOR EMOTIONAL PAIN
As mentioned in Part 1, I resorted to lust when I failed to find appropriate closure for my emotional pain. When I learned about Jesus’s integrity— which was founded on His relationship to His Father— I felt inspired. This helped me understand that my dependance on the acceptance of others was unnecessary, and that my pursuit of romance with women was sourced from infatuation — not from a healthy, biblical desire to love them as Jesus would. I had wrongly viewed relationships to women as the solution to my problems. With Jesus, I learned faith — and the support of safe people — are the healthiest, most natural sources of closure on the most appropriate path through emotional pain.
HEALING FATHER WOUNDS
When I first brought up my new faith to my dad, he too had found Christianity from another church in Michigan. I was pleasantly surprised, because for the first time in my entire life, we related to something meaningful. For the longest time, my dad and I rarely spoke more than once every few months. But that changed to once every couple weeks during my transition into the Christian faith.
FAITH REPLACES LESS HEALTHY PERSPECTIVES
While growing up, I had looked up to my mom like a god because she was an authoritarian; strict, knowledgeable, and always having answers to questions — complex or simple. When I found Christ, I realized how powerless my mom really was. Her more obvious emotional shifts in my teens became crystal clear to me. I came to understand her from a more mature perspective in alignment with faith, and a weight was finally lifted off my shoulders. I prayed that God would lift the weight off of her shoulders as well. My faith has enabled me to see my mom in a healthier way, loving her where she is in every aspect of her life, rather than feeling tormented by our differences, or feeling afraid of losing her through trauma.
I pray for Him to soften her heart, and to help her to intimately experience His grace; imagining her directing her energy towards passionately evangelizing the love of Christ in her life.
THE BLESSING OF INNER-TRANSFORMATION
The pain that led me to my suicidal thoughts years ago has been replaced with my relationship with Jesus. Jesus is real to me because I’ve experienced Him in my spirit, where I continue to pursue faith in Him. I understand faith to be a continual, day-by-day journey. I believe His love was pouring into my heart when I tried to kill myself, and that His hand was what drew me from the water. I believe He didn’t want to lose me to suicide, and that He doesn’t want to lose me now. I also believe my parents’ divorce was His way of influencing me to take faith seriously, to find Him in a way that wasn’t merely “following the crowd,” but rather, choosing relationship with Him on my own accord.
CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT EQUAL PERFECTION
Being a Christian doesn’t make a person perfect, and it doesn’t enable a person to know everything about life and its troubles. To me, being a Christian means putting relationship with Jesus first, and seeking Him whenever we fall short. Christians are sinners who recognize/admit their sin, acknowledge their need for a Savior, and receive God’s grace by entering into relationship with His son.
THE POWER OF GRACE
Jesus’ grace sounds like this: “You’ve sinned, and it requires a debt. But because I love you, I’ve taken your punishment upon myself and paid, with my life, the debt you owed. Now, you don’t have to worry about paying your debt. Go and love others, living with the joy of knowing you are free.” When we receive His grace, we live differently. That is how Christianity functions when a person comes to faith: We readily receive His grace when we recognize how we, otherwise, live under an umbrella of shame in our sinfulness (imperfections); whereas under grace, we live under the freedom of forgiveness, and the invitation to lean on Jesus’ unending, undivided, unconditional love. When we feel truly loved, we are no longer imprisoned to live feeling unworthy of joy.
MADE NEW IN CHRIST
I hope and pray that by reading my testimony, you feel encouraged to open yourself to Jesus and experiencing the fullness of relationship with Him. Truly, faith in Jesus changes everything from the inside out: Our perspective of pain, our view of purpose in life, the meaning of everything large and small, and not needing to have all the answers.
After all that I’ve been through, Jesus words, “I am making all things new,” makes so much more sense to me. He made me new, starting at a soul level by giving me a purpose (writing). He made my relationship with my father new by connecting us through our faith, and He made my relationship with my mom new by clarifying that only He is God. He even renewed my desire for closure by helping me understand what is most important is relationship with Him. I cannot imagine my life now without Jesus. Without a doubt:
Trust Him, listen to him, love him, choose Him, and continually pray (speak) to Him. He will never forsake you.
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