Today’s story comes from Chapter Three of Start Here, “Receiving Jesus.” We want to hear your story too–share it here.
Until my early twenties, I lived what I’d call the “average” American adolescent experience— surviving years of great peer influence coupled with a good dose of insecurity about who I was and what was valuable about me; spending as much time as possible with my friends; and experiencing my first serious, intimate relationship.
I started dating my now-husband, JD, when I was twenty-one. He was the first person I’d dated who was a Christian and who spoke openly about “the good Lord” (his words). Although he wasn’t living much of a Christian lifestyle in college, he at least had a foundational faith that was very appealing to me. A couple of years into my relationship with JD, God brought a couple of friends into our lives who invited us to come to church with them. They had something—a joy, a peace, a loving way about them—that I wanted. JD and I were discussing our future, so the idea of going to church together was intriguing. We went only a handful of times, but those few experiences (doing something “good” and “right” together when all of our friends were doing just the opposite) started that growth for me. Convictions about our behavior and choices began to set in, and we started to feel less inclined toward our previous ways of doing things. Partying with friends, having sex outside of marriage, and living together all became unap- pealing to us. We made a decision to stop being intimate and kept that commitment to each other and to God for the year and a half leading up to our wedding.
Hands down, my greatest obstacle to embracing my newfound faith was what my friends would think of me. And it wasn’t just that—JD and I struggled with the very process of change. We wanted to change; we didn’t want to; we wanted to; we didn’t. It was a process of letting go and asking God to transform our hearts.
Shortly after we got married, we felt compelled to find a church. Prior to getting involved in church, I had never felt a true sense of acceptance and belonging from a community of friends—ever! I never felt like I was part of the in crowd. Accepting Christ and choosing to follow Him and feeling the warmth of His love and acceptance was the first time I felt like I was in the in crowd. I know that sense of acceptance and belonging is one of our greatest yearnings in life—the first Bible verse that ever brought tears to my eyes (after seeing it on a bumper sticker!) was Jeremiah 1:5 (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”).
It took me until I was almost thirty-five to really take in how much He loves me and that I do not have to perform for Him or be perfect in some way—that I can come to Him with all my flaws and failures and that He will take me in His arms and hug me and tell me He knows—and that He wants me for His own.