When I was 13, no longer a child but in that in-between, awkward phase of trying to learn how to be me, I met Jesus for the very first time.
Having been raised in a church, I had heard about Jesus all my life, although it seemed to me that we were supposed to be mostly interested in God. God was the creator, and all those old testament stories warned us not to make him mad. When the preacher mentioned Jesus, he just seemed like an afterthought, a side story that really was too messy and complicated to focus on. In fact, everything about Jesus made me (and apparently everyone else) uncomfortable.
When I was 12, I went to church camp, not because I wanted to get closer to God, but to be with my girl friends for a week-long sleepover, and much more importantly, to meet cute boys. We had chapel each day, and along with most of the other kids, I told the leader that I had given my heart to Jesus. Soon after returning home, I and the others who had been “saved” at camp were baptised in water. I barely remember any of it because it just wasn’t that important to me. I see now that I was only doing what I thought was expected.
Sometime in the following year, I got involved with a youth praise group doing a production of “Pass It On,” a musical with lyrics I could relate to. I didn’t think about it at the time, but singing praises to Jesus began to open my heart to a yearning for something to love outside of my own self-absorbed focus. Also, the true love some of the kids had for Jesus made me curious. I see now that their sincere praises, sung out to Him, brought the Holy Spirit among us, like an enticing fragrance I couldn’t identify but wanted more of.
After we finished performing the Pass It On shows, I went with our youth group to another church for a revival service. Again, I didn’t go to be revived spiritually. I went to be with my friends, no doubt intending to make fun of anyone else I thought wasn’t as cool as me. I had no idea that God had a completely different experience in store for me that night.
The preacher told us the simple gospel account of Jesus, how He chose to leave His perfect home in heaven with His Father, to come to earth, knowing He would be despised, rejected, and ultimately die a horrific death on the cross. When I heard the preacher’s words, something shifted deep inside my spirit. I realized the truth: Jesus had died for me! He made the choice to come to earth knowing He would die in place everyone who has ever lived on earth, knowing that most of us would reject Him totally. In that moment, I understood that Jesus had already, once and for all eternity, died for me. His death on the cross was a done deal. And He had given me complete freedom to either reject His sacrifice or accept it. What pierced my heart was realizing that by rejecting Jesus, by brushing Him off as irrelevant to me, I could not erase His sacrifice. Whether I chose to care or not, He died for me!! Jesus’ heart of sacrifice for me, knowing how self-centered and rebellious I was, broke my wicked, selfish heart. I couldn’t run fast enough to the altar to fall on my knees in humble adoration of the Savior I’d never known before then.
From that day on, I have always known He was with me, especially in my loneliest, toughest times. It is my relationship with Jesus that sustains me and gives me the courage to do what I know to be right. Jesus is not only my Savior, not only Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing; Jesus is my constant, never-changing friend, always ready to listen to my cries, answer my questions, protect me, and comfort me. Jesus laughs with me when I am amused. He gets my jokes, doesn’t mind my off-key singing, and He loves me even when I don’t love myself. When I was younger, I often tried to run from His love, thinking that I had better things to do than draw close to Him. But He was always patiently waiting for me to come back to Him. Over time, I have realized more and more, that coming back to Him is the only way I ever find any real peace.
Jesus died for each one of us. His sacrifice is an eternal, unchangeable fact. Everyone who hears the good news, that Jesus died to save each of us from a life separated from our Father God, has a choice to make: accept Jesus’ sacrifice, His free gift of life, or throw it away and find your own way to eternity. Either way, He is there waiting to give you the peace that surpasses understanding. The choice is yours….