Big news…I have decided to go on a short-term mission trip with my church. We will be going to Ireland in May to work alongside missionaries there and to share the love of Jesus through service projects. Although the Irish culture has traditionally been religious in nature, the churches are now basically empty and the number people claiming to know Jesus as Savior is staggeringly low. (On a side note, I was surprised to find out that Christians in Africa are now sending missionaries to Ireland, England and the USA to share the Gospel!)
In order to participate in this exciting mission trip, I was required to fill out an application through our church office. One of the questions asked me to summarize how I became a Christian and to describe my Christian growth since then. Since it specified providing a separate piece of paper, I assumed they expected more than just three lines (which is usually what I get when asking guys on eHarmony to “Describe their spirituality”!) So, because everyone’s story is different and because God may use my story to speak to someone else, I thought that I would share with all of you what I wrote…
I became a Christian at age 10. At that time, it was mostly an act of obedience. Being raised in a Southern Baptist church and family, I knew this was what I was supposed to do. I don’t remember a day in my life not knowing about God and Jesus. However, at the age of 10, I don’t believe that I completely understood what Jesus did for me. But it was the first step of faith. As I became a teenager, our church youth group became a dynamic force in my life; we had great leaders and Bible teaching. This time period is where I remember first understanding that I am a sinner and that Jesus died on that cross for me – so that I could be forgiven and saved. I spent a lot of time studying the Bible and in prayer during those years and during my college years at a Christian college.
I have been a rule-follower all of my life. The environment where I grew up – both at home and at church – emphasized performance over relationship. During my early twenties, although I never stopped going to church, I began struggling with repetitive sin, cynicism and bitterness in my life. I first started attending my current church in 1999 and I remember feeling like God was speaking directly to me. Through the pastor’s sermons, God spoke to me about the concept of grace – which I didn’t learn in my home church growing up. I began to see followers of Christ who admitted their struggles to one another and who didn’t try to act “perfect” all the time. I began to see how a deeper relationship with Christ could change the way I lived my life. If I truly believe what I say that I do…that I am forgiven and that God loves me more than I can comprehend, then my life should reflect that. And through God’s grace, my life did change. I was able to really see my sin and understand the depth of God’s forgiveness in a new way.
Since that time, my spiritual growth has been tremendous. I have worked with a Christian counselor who helped me resolve some deep issues from my childhood. This healing opened up a part of me that had been locked away, and I now find it much easier to have a deeper, daily relationship with our heavenly Father. Actually, I cannot imagine not having this relationship where I feel completely loved and forgiven by God and so thankful for the sacrifice that Jesus made.
That is my story, but it is not over. It continues every day. If you read this and have additional questions about how to become a Christian, go here for some additional information.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:2