Every story that involves God is a story worth telling. For a while I told myself that my salvation story was too mundane to share. Then I shifted to the excuse that my salvation story was too personal to share. The thing is, though, it’s not just my story. I wasn’t the only one there at that moment or any of the moments before or after. God is, was, and will always be there.
My story starts in church. God was always a presence in my life and I saw people around me, my parents included, who had faith in God. From a young age, I could recite scripture, Bible stories, and other church-like activities. I was in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, but there came a point when I realized that was not enough. It was during revival my seventh grade year that I realized that I needed to make a decision about God for myself. It was invite a friend night to church, and, like a good church girl, I had brought my friend. I knew enough about church and God to know that people had to make a decision to accept Christ. I had actually gone through the motions by going up front and talking to the preacher when I was in third grade, but the difference between what was going to happen that night and what I had done in third grade was my heart. In third grade, I simply went forward, listened to the preacher say a prayer and went through the baptismal pool. I did not make any decision in my heart, because at that age, I didn’t understand what that commitment meant.
On the way to church that night, I was excited because I thought maybe my friend would “get saved” that night, even though I did not fully understand what that commitment meant at that point. I thought it meant that you walked forward and told the preacher it was time. Now I realize it didn’t really matter if I went forward and talked to the preacher or not; what mattered was my conversation with God and my heart. I don’t remember what the preacher talked about that night nor do I even remember who was preaching that night. When it came close to the time for the invitation, I felt really sick because I knew that I never had made a commitment to Christ. I knew the stories and what Christ had done but I had never made the commitment to trust him with my life. That night I chose to go to the altar and make that commitment by praying to God, but it wasn’t a decision that required an altar. I could probably even say that decision was made when I stepped out of the pew. When I stood up from the altar though, I felt relieved because I knew that my life was in the hands of someone bigger. I knew it was a good decision, even if it took a while for me to realize I had to make it myself.
God wasn’t done with me at that moment though. My eternity was secured and I put my trust in Him, but I still had a long way to go. Since that moment, God has dealt with me in various ways, He’s allowed me to suffer, and He’s given me joy. I know that I made the decision to trust Christ with my life when I was in seventh grade, but there wasn’t much visible change in my life. I was already attending church and I was not a bad kid, so I didn’t make much change in my life. I do remember a few instances where I really felt convicted over my actions or I really felt called to do something. It was easy to be a Christian while I was living with my Christian mother, hanging out with my church-going friends, and not having to make huge life decisions. The only real changes I made in my life involved more prayer and reading my Bible. It was not until I began preparing for college that I really needed to lean on God. First, I had to really trust him to decide where I should go, and I remember one night in particular, I was stuck between Centre College and Berea College. This night I was looking at the acceptance letters from both of them, knowing that I had to soon send in my letters of intent. I didn’t know. Centre looked really cool because it offered study abroad to every student, but it was expensive. Berea was much more affordable, but it was farther and both of my parents had gone there. It was a choice I had to make, and I remember distinctly crying and praying to God that I would know clearly which choice he wanted me to make. It may have been that night or sometime in the next few days, but I got an answer—God wanted me at Berea. Since that cry of help to God, I have seen situations that confirm the answer I got. I am supposed to be at Berea College.
During the summer after my freshman year at college, I worked at a Christian camp in Tennessee. I went there knowing no one, and I believe God led me there for reasons as well. One reason was that there were things I needed to work out in my own life and the camp provided the time to do just that. Before I can explain that though, I have to back up and explain some of the previous events in my life that led to my need for forgiveness. When I was in third grade, my parents divorced and I saw this as the first major grievance my parents made. Before that point I saw my parents as good people because my dad was a preacher and they are both Christians. I thought his preacher status made me immune from being the child of divorced parents. The divorce hit me hard in that way, but I adjusted quickly to life with my mom and brothers, probably because I was young and taken care of. Over time, though, my disappointment in my parents grew to frustration and anger at my father. I experienced disappointment at the fact that he wasn’t there all the time and in my heart, possibly without even meaning to, I held that against him. Even after I accepted what Christ did for me, I let the frustration and anger build. During that summer, I realized what I was doing. It was through reading a devotional book, studying God’s word, and some focused prayer time, that I realized that I had been letting my anger build for a long time. I realized that in doing that I was not following God’s commandment to love people and I was severing a relationship that God had placed in my life for a reason. It took courage to admit to my Father and my father that I was wrong in letting this anger build and ask for forgiveness. He is human just as I am and we both need God’s forgiveness and forgiveness from each other. In this part of my life, God began teaching me about forgiveness and it’s something that I have had to continually work on in my life.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
I would love to say that is the only area that God has had to straighten out in my life, but because of my sinful nature I have constantly needed God’s forgiveness, grace, and guidance. Thankfully, He’s always willing to offer it to me. Most recently, God has been revealing to me what grace really means. I have struggled with the idea that I am sinful and not good. Once a friend asked me if I considered myself a good person, and at that time I said yes. The thing is I’m not a good person; I’ve just been told my entire life that I am a good kid, a smart student, and a hardworking person. I believed it. The problem is that those compliments blinded me to my faults. While it is good to realize the good that God has given me and to know where my talents lie so that I can use them for God, I must also realize what my faults are. During this time I realized that I had placed too much focus on my shortcomings such as my impatience and selfishness. I let myself focus on the fact that no matter how hard I tried my motives are selfish most of the time and I am extremely impatient. In doing that I felt down and worthless and I didn’t want to serve Christ or show love to people. I wanted people to really see just how sinful I am because in doing that they would finally see the real me and I could stop hiding. I let it steal my joy. Then I had a conversation with that same friend, in which I was trying to help her see her worth to Christ. God works in funny ways though, because while I was preaching to her about her worth I realized how much I had been not realizing my own worth. By focusing on my failures I lost sight of what Christ did on the cross and why he did it. He died on the cross because he saw the good and the worth in me. He died so that I could be forgiven and set free from my sinful self. He did it because he loves me and sees my grace and he wanted the perfect relationship without sin being in the way so that I can share his grace with other people.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11
In addition to teaching me lessons, God has blessed me in so many ways. First, he has given me so much grace and taught me that there is nothing I can do to earn or pay back grace. God has also blessed me with so many Christian influences, many of those in my family, who have helped me grow spiritually. I am healthy, educated, and taken care of. My complaints stem from selfish desires rather than true need. I am blessed because I really have nothing to complain about. My friends are supportive. I have more things than I know what to do with. I have so many opportunities. Most of all I have an assurance that God will always be with me. Sometimes that promise is what keeps me motivated.
I still sin now, but because of what Jesus did, I am forgiven. I am free to have a relationship with Christ and God because he can look past my sin to see my worth. He can see the worth of my story and slowly he is revealing that to me bit by bit. I still must strive to be good and blameless but I don’t have to live under the burden of my sins. I must still try to control my impatience and selfishness and other sins but I don’t have to let them define me. I am defined by Christ now and he sees my worth. I am worth his sacrifice. He’s the only person who has ever died for me, so I’ll trust his judgment and opinion of me. Now I strive to be better not to gain favor of God but because I love God. Daily, he is revealing to me more about my story and about how much I am worth to his purpose.