I’ve been a “Christian” for as long as I remember, but until September 2006, my knowledge of God was limited to the Sunday school bible stories. So He created everything, sent a flood that wiped out earth, sent Jesus to die for our sins, but big deal. He didn’t seem all that awesome to me. None of my prayers (more like wishlists) then were answered and bad stuff still happened, so where was God in the middle of all that?
But I didn’t really mind being a Christian, because church was a great place to socialize. So that’s basically my definition of Christianity: going to church on Sundays, praying every night (uh, more like reciting wish lists), and trying to be good. Even then, I still failed to do the latter two, and I probably wouldn’t have done the first either if I had no friends at church.
Obviously, things don’t go too well when one lives a lukewarm Christian life like that. My relationship with friends and family got worse, I’d curse people and God, I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done, I was depressed, I was suicidal – I was NOT good. I’d often feel like the whole world had turned its back on me, and I really didn’t know who to turn to. I felt like no one understood me. I felt like no one could love me for who I really was. Basically, I didn’t trust people at all.
Then came the US. Seriously, I did NOT like our church at first. I was like “dude, what’s up with these weird people?” But God sent an angel in the form of my friend Janice, and the only reason I stayed was because she actually made me feel welcome. Then there was the retreat. I can’t really remember the whole thing, but I know that for the first time ever, I felt the presence of God. He was there.
I mean, He’s always been there, but I just chose to turn away from Him. Yet He never gave up on me, but was patiently waiting for me to turn back to Him. In Him I was able to find the love I have been searching for my whole life: the unconditional, faithful, patient, gentle love that I’d try to find in people and things, only to be disappointed. That day was like a revelation day for me. I realized that there’s so much more to Christian living than just going to church and being good. And as I spend time with God each day, I discover more of His wondrous love and amazing grace.
Every time I think back, I wonder what things might have been like if I hadn’t gone on the retreat. But I did, and I realized that God has His perfect timing and way for everything. How we came to the US because of my dad’s job, how we were going to go to another church, but his colleague convinced us to come to this one instead, how I came just in time for the retreat, how I managed to agree to go, it’s just amazing when I think back about it. How could this have ever been possible without God? And not just this retreat, it’s my whole life. God has been working in my life all along, even though I didn’t acknowledge His presence and did things my way.
Yet when I started letting God, instead of myself, be Lord over my life, things really began to change. It wasn’t really an outer change, but more a change from within. I started looking at things more from God’s perspective and less from a human perspective, which meant surrendering myself to God in circumstances, even though the old me would have fought back. I was a very rebellious person, so you can imagine how hard it is for me to just let God take the wheel, especially when I feel like the car is about to go over a cliff. But when I think about how much God loves me, how much He went through for me, just so I could have this personal relationship with Him, I know I can trust Him with my life. People may change, but God is forever faithful.
I wish I could say that things went happily ever after for me from then on, but the closer you try to draw to God, the more the devil tries to pull you away from Him. That was what happened to me. It’s going to take 20 pages if I were to tell the whole story, but in short, my weakness and a longing for a romantic relationship almost destroyed me. I abandoned my relationship with my Lord for what I thought was my Prince Charming, but the only things they managed to charm out of me were tears and heartaches. The only one who stood by me and never stopped loving me was my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Once again I experienced His faithfulness and love when I least deserved it, but He gave it to me freely because He knew that it was what I needed most. The scars from past are still there, but I feel like I’ve been set free; that I’m no longer a slave to those harmful relationships.
Someone once said that they thought the bible was full of rules and oppressive. There were times when I felt that way too, but when I fully experienced the love of Christ, you realize that it’s anything but. It sets you free.