It’s Sunday morning, and you find yourself sitting in a pew. Maybe it’s part of your routine to come to church every week. Maybe you just came to get your grandma off your back. Maybe you have a perfect life, nothing really tragic has ever happened. Maybe you’ve only known trouble since birth. No matter where you came from, you made the choice to walk through those church doors this morning.
You were most likely greeted by a warm face and a firm handshake as you walked through the doors. You either feel completely overwhelmed or right at home. You are either going through the motions or are there because you want to be. You find your seat and settle in waiting to hear a sermon that you can take or leave.
As the pastor begins to preach, you realize something is different. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know today might just change your life. As you listen, something grabs hold of your heart. You finally recognize the emptiness you’ve tried to hide from yourself for so long. All of the sudden, you realize exactly what your life has been missing.
As soon as the pastor makes the call, you run down to the altar. You cannot bear to go without Him any longer. As the tears stream down your face, you don’t care what other people think about you. Nothing else matters except for praying that prayer and making the change. Now you know, you’ll never be the same.
I have to admit something. I am always so jealous when people speak about conversion experiences like this. I wish I had some grand story that included my church’s altar and that ugly cry that seems to happen every single time. I wish I could tell you it was some miraculous moment that led me to change my life and never look back. That is so not my story.
You see, I cannot think of a time that I didn’t know about Jesus.
From the time I was small, I heard a story about my own miraculous birth. I was told about how I shouldn’t even be here. I was born five weeks early to a mother that could have easily died. She had all kinds of health problems the greatest of which was preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnant women) that caused her to be on hospitalized bed rest at the beginning of her eighth month.
She’s told me more times than I can count about the dream she had that caused her to be at peace through the thick of it. She said she saw me in my cradle with angels all around. She knew then that no matter what happened, I was going to be perfectly fine. And I was.
Normally, when a premature baby is delivered, they spend as much time in the intensive care nursery as they are early. For me, that should have been five weeks. I went home after one. I loved Jesus as much as my little heart could because I knew that without him I wouldn’t even be alive. I knew that if it were up to the enemy I wouldn’t be here. God intervened and gave me breath for a purpose. It’s hard to deny a good God when you grow up hearing that story. It’s also hard to deal with the weight of it.
I always believed Jesus was the Son of God. I never doubted His holiness. I never doubted the He died on the cross and was resurrected. I never doubted how awesome and powerful He is. I never doubted that He was in control no matter what happened. For all the things that I didn’t doubt, there was one key thing that I did. I doubted that His love extended to me.
I knew there was nothing that I could ever do that would make me worthy of His love. After all, He did put me on this earth when the world was fighting against me. I thought that was enough. There was no way I deserved more than the first life-breath I was given. I allowed myself to be consumed by my circumstances. I wanted to rise above. I wanted to see the light in the situation, but I allowed myself to go to a place of defeat. I walked around with a fake smile plastered on my face. I put on an act. I went through the motions and said all the right things. I lived a life that was so fake that I didn’t really even know who I was.
It wasn’t until I was eighteen years old that I recognized just how wrong I was to try to live without Him. I found myself in the middle of a circumstance there was no way I could get out of on my own. Looking in a mirror, I stared at myself. It was hard to believe I was in the place I found myself. I recognized how great my need was. I also recognized that if I was in complete control of my life there was only one place that I would ultimately end up.
There was no grand revelation. There was no running down to the altar. There were tears but there was no ugly cry. There was no pastor-led prayer. There was just me making a decision to actually live my life like I said I did.
I was right in one sense. I didn’t deserve anything but death and destruction. There was nothing I could do by myself to deserve anything He could give me. I didn’t deserve to be redeemed. The truth is, no one does.
No one deserves the love and kindness the Lord extends to us. No matter what you do or what you say, you can never possibly repay the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made. Maybe that’s why it seems so daunting. We know we are finite and He is not. We know the greatest sacrifice we can give is our life on this earth, but He died for us.
Society wants us to think they have it all figured out. They say that freedom is being able to do whatever you want and live however you want. They want you to think that you shouldn't fight your sin nature. You should go along with whatever it says. Life in the world does not equal freedom. True freedom can only be found in Jesus Christ, when you accept Him and His sacrifice and choose to live out your faith.
Allowing Him to take control of our lives should be one of the easiest things we do, but our flesh fights it so much that is often one of the hardest things we do. It should be our nature to fill ourselves with our Creator, but often we find ourselves chasing the created. When we chase the temporal instead of the eternal, we lose sight of our future. We lose sight of the plans He has laid out since before we were born. It is easy to get overwhelmed by life. It is easy to lose God in our circumstances. However, He makes it just as easy to find Him again.
My earthly life began on April 18, 1990. On October 27, 2008, I died to myself and decided to start living my life the way it should have always been done. I hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection. This is not an excuse that says, "I'm human. I'm going to walk in the flesh." This is a statement that says, "I recognize that I am human, and I am going to fail." I am truly nothing without Jesus.
For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:23-24, ESV)