Yesterday, after a day out and about in Colombia, completely oblivious to anything going on in North America, I went on Facebook to see a lot of posts about a recent Supreme Court decision in the States. A number of these posts included classmates from high school saying something along the lines of “I’m not religious, but…” and sharing a post about sin, or “this is why I’m not religious” and sharing a post from a Christian who didn’t think before voicing their opinion on social media. It’s weird sometimes, to see a post like that, because that could have been me. These old classmates, or people I’ve met somewhere along the way and befriended on Facebook, have this idea that Jesus is not for them and don’t mind advertising it. And that, five years ago, could have been me. In conjunction with a Timehop memory from 4 years ago the other day, I felt compelled to write this…
Growing up, I always believed in God. I believed He was up there, somewhere, floating around. I attended vacation bible school programs with neighborhood friends and sometimes went to Sunday church (but never really wanted to because hey, big church when you’re nine is boring) and that was that. By the time I was in high school, I wasn’t going to VBS activities anymore because once you’re like 12, they stop those things. The thought of going to a Sunday service anywhere probably never even crossed my mind. As a teenager, I never got into any type of trouble, but not for any religious reason — I was just brought up well by my parents that the thought of drinking or sneaking out (or however else high schoolers rebel? I don’t really know) never even crossed my mind.
I have this particular memory from the summer before senior year of going to my friend’s house. We were about to dye my hair, and she let me borrow a t-shirt that she didn’t mind getting hair dye all over because it had a Bible verse on the back — she told me, “I would never wear this in public so here, it’s okay if it gets dirty.” I laughed like, I don’t blame you, and put the shirt on and we dyed my hair and got black dye all over the shirt. It didn’t matter because what else would we do with a tshirt that talked about God?
About a year and a half after that t-shirt incident, I was off living in Athens for my freshman year at UGA and having a particularly awful time. I was in a pretty deep pit of depression, although I didn’t fully realize it at the time. I didn’t see anything getting better, and then a friend suggested to me that I seek God in the difficulties. I had spent my entire life up until this point believing that God existed, but never realizing there was more to it than that — more to Him than thinking He’s in heaven just hanging out. So I downloaded a sermon from a college pastor on iTunes and listened to it, and felt like the Lord was truly speaking to me through that. I started going to church and pursuing God, slowly beginning to trust that things in life would work out in His timing.
That March, life started its downward spiral again and I was so desperate for something to change that I signed up to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my best friend over the summer. I didn’t know what to expect, or even what my purpose would be on that trip, but I knew I needed something to happen. And in the Dominican Republic, by the Atlantic Ocean and under the palm trees, I felt God stir in my heart. There was never a particular moment where I was like, “oh! I get it!” and everything was suddenly good. Life still sucked for a while, actually, but now I had a rock to stand on. Over the course of a year, the Lord was teaching me that He didn’t just want me to believe in Him but that He wanted a relationship with me — He wanted to know me and wanted me to know Him fully. He wanted me to grasp that even a pretty-moral, never-been-in-trouble girl needs His love and grace. Over the course of that year, I began to understand (as best as any human can, at least) that God sent His son to die for me. Jesus, on the cross, for me. Jesus, rising again. Death beaten. The grave conquered. Victory. That is the King who is my Father.
I never, ever thought that I would be the girl who is tweeting Bible verses, downloading sermons to listen to in her free time, or living in a foreign country to share the gospel. I never thought I would be talking to friends about what the Lord is doing in our lives, attending or hosting Bible studies, or trying to help girls younger than me not get trapped in the same pit of despair I was in. I never thought. But God did. When I was 16 and listening to my Spanish teacher talk about her semester in Spain, the Lord was stirring up the desire in my own heart to travel, intending to eventually use that desire for me to serve Him. When I was 18 and dealing with a sadness I never wish to deal with again, God knew He would be using that story two years later for His glory (and over and over again countless times since). I never would have thought, but God knew all along.
So I share that story to say this: those people saying, “I’m not religious” on Facebook? That could’ve been me at one point. I didn’t have a desire for it, I didn’t think I was missing anything at all, I was just living my life. And then along came Jesus and I was transformed by His love and grace and mercy. I went from being weirded out by a t-shirt that had a Bible verse on the back to selling a t-shirt with a Bible verse on the back to raise money for this summer in Colombia. Five years ago on June 24, I was a high-strung 18-year-old girl who had a belief in God but nothing more to speak of. Four years ago on June 24, I got baptized in the Atlantic Ocean after a year of God changing and molding my heart. This year on June 24, I was living in Colombia working with a church to share the gospel and make disciples. Life changes. Life changes in the craziest, most unexpected ways, and for that I am so, so thankful.