Thinking back on the day that I heard Jesus speak to me for the very first time. Why some things, though they seem that they should be so obvious, aren’t even clear until years after the fact? Crazy…I remember talking to my oldest niece a few weeks before I gave my heart to Christ. I remember very distinctly thinking “wow, what it would be like to be so innocent and to be able to hear the voice of God”. I yearned for that in that moment of conversation with her–to be young again and pure and innocent.
I remember just a few months before that listening to my youngest niece try to teach me this sweet innocent song about Jesus by Chris Tomlin. I had thought to myself then, ‘boy, what a wretched person I am, full of filth and contaminated by this world and life choices and circumstances’- things that I was so grateful for that she did not know.
And wishing that I could have that innocence back and be open to even wanting God to take over my life–because I was so far from it. I was going to church, and something inside me was pulling me to Him, but I just could not find it within myself to surrender, though oh I tried over and again. My way, my life, my choices were all getting in the way and like the rich young ruler, I’d end up picking back up my things that I had temporarily laid at His feet, and walked back into my old unchanged life with an unconverted heart. “It’s too hard” I’d think, I just can’t seem to figure this out. I keep praying wrong and He is just not answering. Maybe it’s not meant to be, maybe He doesn’t want me…” My thoughts would trail off in a million different directions until they were once again centered on me, the center of my world.
So here I was, over a year into this process of asking God to “just show me how to love You” “help me to understand how to get to You”, because I had no clue of who He was or what He wanted from me or how to come to Him. And by Divine appointment, here I stood in the fall of 2011 talking to my youngest niece, as she taught me the words to (really, out of ALL the songs in the world on Christian radio, could He have given me one any better??) “Our God is Greater”, on a family vacation with my family in Colorado, during which my brother had planned for us to tour the Focus on the Family campus. I picked up a book there in that bookstore, wanting to see if it would help me get closer to being the right kind of person for God–I still didn’t understand utter, full surrender, and I still thought I had to prove myself to Him somehow.
I remember riding the tram on the side of the mountain and thinking that, although the beauty of the trees in all their splendor, golden and beautiful, there lied something beyond what I could see or smell or touch. I knew there was something deeper and richer and I was missing something I couldn’t quite grasp. I knew in my heart that there was something that lied beyond that surface beauty and I couldn’t figure out how to get in contact with it–but oh, how I wanted it.
And here I was, months after coming back from that trip, talking to my oldest niece on the phone, and marveling at (and quite honestly envying) the relationship she had with God. I wanted to know Him too–I wanted to hear Him clearly in my heart. But for a year and a half I hadn’t been able to lay down my life and in full surrender, pick up the cross He said I must carry if I chose to come after Him.
In the months prior, after having come back from that trip, I was flipping through my radio and landed on a Christian station. That same Chris Tomlin song was playing–and instantly I recognized it!! My niece’s song!!!!!! I stopped and listened. (Btw, my dial has never once left a Christian music / sermon podcast station for longer than a few minutes since. There’s just so much life in that music!)
Shortly after this, I happened upon the station playing John MacArthur sermons every day on my way to work. I was getting a daily dose of Scripture and praising Jesus, all before I knew and surrendered my heart to Him. And slowly, God was teaching me the art of simple faith and blind obedience and pure devotion.
A few weeks after that phone conversation, I get a seemingly random message from my dear friend and “big sister”, whom I had been around many times a month, sometimes even in the run of a week–and every time she radiated Christ. Every time I was around her, I yearned for what she had within her–I yearned for it for years. Secretly, because I dared not ask.
So, she messages me about something not even Jesus related–at ALL. And for the very first time in my life and probably the clearest I had ever heard Him speak to me, His words that day penetrated my heart as my eyes read something completely unrelated before me on the computer screen. My eyes were reading of my big sister’s thankfulness for something I had done for her in the previous weeks.
Yet, seemingly floating over the top of her words, were words that I did not read from a screen, but they penetrated my heart nonetheless. I had just the night before begged Him not to give up on me, because I was trying. I was trying to get to know Him and had been going to church regularly and studying scripture and trying to understand mentally everything I could–but my heart was just “not there” yet. I couldn’t make it follow my head, as much as I knew that I needed Him, my heart was unwilling to obey fully.
Th very next morning, He sent me this message: “My dear child, I’m not giving up on you. I have sent your Sister-in-Christ to uplift you this morning. Keep it up, You’re gettin’ there! I Love you.” –Your Saviour, Jesus ”
I could sense that behind that computer screen somewhere–perhaps somewhere in a different spectrum, not far away at all, He was standing there with His arms open wide, waiting for me to run into them. That evening, my sister called me to help me understand better my need for Jesus and to teach me the words to pray–not the words themselves but the matter of the heart before God with which we must come, in full surrender and desperation for Him.
I believe it was the next night that I watched that YouTube video and during the Passion of the Christ scenes during the music, I finally understood the weight of my sin, the heaviness of guilt of what I had done to put Him there on that cross . I understood my depravity and total helplessness to really be able to save myself. And I also understood that He died for my sake—carrying my personal sin-every bit of it–with Him. And in that moment, I realized that I could be free of that guilt and shame, if I gave it all to Him.
2 days after that, I gave my life to Jesus and for once I was willing to do anything, to pick up my cross, and follow Him wherever He led.
Is my life perfect? Far from it. I’m a wretched sinner, saved by an undeserved gift of merciful, bountiful grace. And boy am I glad it doesn’t depend on me to make it! I am so thankful that Jesus has become my righteousness, and that the Father sees only Him when he looks at me, because Jesus bought me with a price, redeemed me from the pit of hell by His precious blood.
To think back on this just makes me so grateful -that He was so patient with me and so gracious. May I never forget the priceless gift He gave me and the beauty of His love for me! May I strive every day to pick up my cross in obedience and faith, and follow Him wherever He leads.