On a hot night last summer, I sat out on the balcony staring up at the stars. I took each breath slowly, feeling my lungs expand with each inhale. “Okay,” I whispered. “I give in.”
It began like that, with a whisper. In that moment, I finally gave up the iron grip I thought I had had on my life and accepted Jesus in my heart. I had reached the point where I couldn’t keep going the way I had been going, I was tired and aching and so very empty inside my heart. I needed Him. And to my surprise, even though I had spent so many years angry with Him and rejecting Him, He was there in an instant to put His arms around me and welcome me back. Like a lost lamb, right? My Shepherd had been there the whole time to bring me back safely.
I grew up in a very Christian household. We went to church every Sunday, my mother was very involved in church groups and Sunday school. I prayed every night and wrote letters to God in my diary, but I was a bad Christian. The folks in charge at the church I attended didn’t like it when I asked questions about God. I was a naturally curious child and I wanted to know why tragedies happen if He only wants good things for us. I wanted to know how some of the things that happened in the Bible were possible. I wanted to know how the adults running my church could be certain that God even existed, or how they could be so sure that Jesus had once walked the earth. They mistook my curiosity for faithlessness and punished me. They told me I was never to question God, that I should be silent and learn my lessons and be a Good Girl.
I was never questioning God, I was only curious. He made me that way, to always think critically and question everything, but it was never a lack of faith. But being consistently shut down when it came to finding answers left a bad taste in my mouth when it came to Christianity. I was still too young to understand that religion is the worship of God, it is not actually God, and that sometimes the people who go to church every Sunday can actually be like snakes in the grass. Some of them are only trying to appear to be Christian when they really don’t feel the Holy Spirit in their lives at all.
And then my father died.
It was like all the air had been sucked from the room. A gaping hole had been left inside my heart and it felt like I had been gutted. How could this happen? How could God take away my father before I ever really had a chance to know him? That hole in my heart became a festering wound through which I began to lose my faith. It didn’t happen all at once, it took a long time for that wound to turn my soul sour. I tried to hold onto the belief that God would watch over me, but it slipped through my fingers. Over the next decade, it faded away to nothing and before long, God hardly passed through my mind.
They don’t tell you in church that when you lose your faith, you can keep going relatively easily. I always imagined it would be like losing a limb, like you just couldn’t keep going forward without God in your life. You can. But it’s a lot like the world loses its color. You stop seeing things the way you saw them before. Everything feels a little emptier. Anytime something awful happens to you, you blame yourself or others and you grow a little more bitter every day. And I went on like that for a very long time.
I never would’ve called myself an atheist though. I was more along the lines of an agnostic, I sort of believed God was there but I had shut the door and wouldn’t allow Him into my life. It was like “You do Your thing and I’ll do mine and we’ll stay out of each other’s business”. At the time, I felt like I didn’t have any place for Him in my life.
Then I met a really cool pastor through work. He asked me one day if I wanted to meet for coffee and have a talk. He wanted to know my story, and if you know me you know I love sharing stories with people. We met at my cafe and we traded some stories. Then he asked me where God fit into my life. I had wondered before I met up with him if he was going to preach at me, so I was somewhat expecting this type of question, but to my surprise it wasn’t quite like that. I suppose I had been expecting the kind of interrogation I would’ve gotten at my childhood church, but he just asked questions, listened to my answers respectfully, and let me know if I ever changed my mind or just wanted to talk to reach out to him. He had great answers to my own questions and he let me ramble. We parted ways and I didn’t give it too much further thought, but I know now that the seed had been planted. It was like Jesus was tapping me on the shoulder.
Some time later, that pastor’s church was putting on a movie night to raise awareness for the human trafficking problem that has gradually gotten worse here in the GTA. The film shown had a strong Christian message and was based on a true story. At the very end of the movie, one of the main characters tells a young prostitute that God loves her no matter what and I felt a little pull at my heart. It moved me to see this person on the screen who felt she had no worth being told that to God, she is precious. I had spent a very long time feeling as though I had no worth either, so I felt like the movie was speaking to me.
After the film, I got a ride home with my friend’s husband. He’s a big burly type, drives a tow truck, probably one of my favorite people on earth. No nonsense or bull with this guy, and I love people like that. During the drive, he began speaking to me about his own journey with Christ. About how he believes God has a plan because there’s no way the things that happen in life can be random. I was completely shocked. He did NOT fit my narrow idea of a believer, he was smart and funny and somehow I just didn’t picture him as a man of faith, but here he was telling me about his belief in God and suddenly I knew God himself was speaking to me. He had sent these people to me along my path to begin leaving breadcrumbs so I could find my way back. I had been so lost without Him and I hadn’t even known it until that moment, smoking a cigarette in the front seat of a tow truck, talking about God.
The instant I got home, I prayed. I felt moved to tears. I begged for forgiveness and asked for help and turned my life over to Jesus. “I give my life to You,” I whispered. “I can’t do this alone and I can’t do it without You. I want to live the life You had planned for me all along.” I gave up the illusion of control I had held onto for so long and let Jesus take over. I would walk the path He had for me, wherever it may lead, and I would do it with love.
A lot of things have happened since then, too many to write in one post. But ever since I gave my life back to the one who created it, my path has made more sense than it ever has. I have a type of clarity I’ve never had before. All those questions I had when I was a child, the ones the reverend and my Sunday school teachers hated, have been answered. God has shown me the answers through examples:
Why do tragedies happen? Because God wants to make us stronger. Strong enough to stand true in our faith and to come together and help each other. Just as a sword is forged through fire, we also must sometimes walk through flames so when we emerge on the other side we are stronger than we’ve ever been. My mental breakdown came after I had accepted Jesus as my savior and although it was a very dark time I now understand that He led me through that path so I would seek the help I needed. Now I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been, but I had to get through pain to reach this place. Without Jesus walking beside me I might never have gotten help.
How do I know God exists? I see Him everywhere. The random acts of kindness performed by strangers. The way the wind blows through the trees. The way the sun glints off the snow. God is in everything, and if you stand still and breathe deeply, you can feel Him all around you, connecting you to everyone and everything.
How do I know Jesus walked the earth? Because of the Bible and historical proof. Because I have faith. Because from the moment I said, “Jesus, my life is yours” everything in my world has completely changed in a very short period of time. I only need to look into my heart to feel His presence and to know He loves me and is walking beside me and will carry me when I’m too weak to continue on.
These are the answers I was seeking in childhood, and now that I’m an adult I have finally found them for myself. I’m just beginning my own journey with Christ but I am so excited to see what He has in store for me.
I am an unlikely (but incredibly happy) Christian.