I turned 26 today. Looking back, I cannot help but be in awe at the world of difference my feeling towards this birthday is and over what the future holds, especially compared to my birthday three years ago. I was fresh from the biggest break-up of my life then, wanting to both live and die. Live in the sense that I felt like I needed my life to shout “Look! I’m doing great! I’m doing fine!”, yet wanting to die just so the anger, pain, and bitterness would stop, and so I wouldn’t have to face people nor the looming questions that came with them.
‘Living’ for me then was all about pursuing whatever I thought would help me be happier, as well as trying to make sense of my life. ‘Living’ for me now means following Jesus and wanting to reflect his love so that others get to know him too–because in Him I experience unfathomable joy and the truest sense of purpose. ‘Following Jesus’. There was a time I might have given you the eye roll had I heard the phrase. Sure I believed in God (although there was a time I chose not to) and prayed to Him when I got the chance (ie when I was in desperate need for something to go my way), but I always thought reading the Bible, serving in ministry, all those ‘good-people’ things, were too huge of a stretch for someone like me. I even used to mock people who did, telling them (or whispering to friends) that they were going to get past heaven from all that godliness. Fast forward to now, where I have become one of the very people I used to brand as ‘Jesus freaks’. I do not want to come off high and mighty because I am very far from perfect, but I do want to tell you about how and why I got to this point. And therein lies the reason behind this post. (I hope today being my birthday merits me some more patience from you, to finish reading this 🙂 )
I love how my friend Dumbledore put it, that “happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Put in the context of my life, due to a string of bad choices and rebellious recklessness, I was often led to pretty dark days–and the prelude to that birthday three years ago was the biggest one. (More on that in my previous posts!) But it was also then that I was reminded to turn on the light–that there will always BE a light–and found myself asking if I was missing something, if there was more to God than randomly calling out His name, praying He fix the situation, and waiting for things to change.
In that mission to find my faith I found out a fundamental truth about Christianity–that it is a relationship with the Lord, not a religion. We go to a building to learn more about God, yes, but how we choose to live our lives in response to what we learn about him, and what he reveals to us, is what truly matters. I learned that the Lord DOES speak and that we can know him intimately–through the Bible–and that everything we need to guide us throughout life is in it. Most of all I learned that I had it all wrong: I didn’t need to change before I could be loved by God. He already loves us as we are–he sacrificed his only Son to be crucified for us so we could live and be reconnected to Him. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18 NIV). I learned that our role is to seek forgiveness, accept the love and salvation that he freely gives through Jesus, and as we grow in our walk with him see that it is his love that changes us.
Here’s the thing though–I thought back then my life didn’t need any changing. That was all until proof in the form of dangerous vicious cycles and empty nights showed me otherwise. I learned the hard way that unless we dismount from our high horse, we will always think our way is right until we’re proven wrong. And being proven wrong most often comes with dire consequences. I don’t know what those consequences are or could be for you, but for me a couple of them involved coming home late for days on end numb from drunkenness, waking up with severe hangovers, feeling used and abused from countless romantic escapades, and on two separate occasions, wanting to end my life. Pretty heavy stuff, which would be best discussed in detail in more personal terms. What I want to drive at is that I didn’t think my life could ever be the way it is today. My past perspective of living for and fulfilling my fleeting pleasures has been taken away. Life has instead gone on to become something I never, ever dreamed it would be– I am constantly learning that different parts of who I am to the core–my personality, talents, passions, both my good and ugly life experiences–can and will be used by the Lord in all sorts of circumstances for his glory.
It took several years and several life-altering situations, but I have now come to a point where I am writing this, living a life that would have felt like alternate reality a few years back, and using my birthday hype as a platform to tell everyone who will listen that Jesus changes lives–if you let him. Finding out about Jesus and what it means to call him Lord and Savior leads you to a path not your own. It’s definitely not what I had planned–it is hard and costly, but over and over I am given proof that it is infinitely more rewarding, both in this life and the next. In the last three years, my questions ranging from existentialism to ‘will I ever get married’, have either been answered or comforted, my relationships with loved ones have significantly improved, my dangerous vices have stopped, and the hardest, most trying days are not hopeless. Now that I am also sure of who made me, why I was made, and that there is a promise of eternity, I have the time and freedom to focus on the how and what–how I can reflect Jesus’ love, how I can serve my Lord and his people, and what else I need to surrender and correct in my life.
I didn’t think it was my business, exploring Christianity. Who has time to read an ancient book, much less discuss it with others, right? But I believe that we are all, in our heart of hearts, looking for meaning and truth. How will we find it when we do not begin to seek, or when we refuse to accept that the answers might not be in the direction we are looking? I don’t know the status of your faith right now. Maybe you’ve been disappointed by religion, or by people who represent it. Maybe you’ve been jaded by life–wars are everywhere, people are getting killed, and faith is a root cause for most of them. Maybe you just don’t think it’s for you, like I used to think. Maybe you believe in something, or someone else (my hope is you are not offended, but rather open to at least hearing another view). And maybe you’re asking what suddenly made me an authority about Christianity (I assure you I am not, but I am at the very least the authority of the story of my life, so I’m sharing what I know of it thus far.) My bottom line is this: if you’re reading this and you’ve never really thought about knowing Jesus, or even just tried truly asking what Christianity is for, I sincerely believe right now is the best time to start. Because though I began with the intention to write about my experience, I end with the motivation to encourage you to seek the truth. Why am I so intent on this? Well, 1.) I cannot shut up about Jesus because we cannot shut up about those we love, especially if it causes our entire life to be transformed. 2.) Everything I ever thought about life, who I am, and what I am here for, has changed ever since I found my faith. 3.) It is my most fervent prayer, and my biggest birthday wish, that everyone I know and love get to experience this inexplicable joy, comfort, and transformation that can be encountered through an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 🙂
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20 NIV
P.S. If you don’t know where to start, maybe consider the following?
– Praying to the Lord for forgiveness, accepting his love and salvation, and asking God to reveal himself in your life
– Opening the Bible and start reading the Gospel of John 🙂
– Attending the non-denominational church I go to, or trying to find a home church you can learn the most about Jesus and the Bible
– Being plugged into a group of people you can discuss your learnings and experiences about faith with
– Messaging me! I might not be able to answer all your questions, but I am most definitely here if you need a friend and a prayer.
– Researching! If you have doubts about your belief and the authenticity of Jesus and the Bible, may I suggest looking up C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and Joel Rosenberg 🙂