From my earliest memories, I knew of Jesus. Raised in the church, attending a Christian school, I was very familiar with the stories of Jesus, and who Jesus was. Knowing of Jesus and knowing Jesus are two vastly different things. When I reached my teenage years, I was no different than any other teen. My questioning authority included questioning Christianity.
Teenage angst combined with spectacularly negative experiences in the church served to fuel my complete separation from the church and headlong plunge into any religion or belief system that was not Christianity. I was completely finished with the God of my childhood. Fortunately, He was not done with me. My life was consumed with the search for self-fulfillment, for what many religions call enlightenment, reaching for an elusive higher consciousness in which I would eventually realize my oneness with everything and the so-called god within. From humanistic philosophy to New Age belief systems, I diligently searched for what would fill the growing emptiness within me. I was so hungry for enlightenment, for peace and a sense of destiny and purpose, for relief and satiation of this hunger growing within my mind and within my innermost self.
Initially satisfying, I little by little realized that I was emptier than I was when I began my search for what I thought was one universal truth. I was drowning in a world of moral relativism in which there was supposedly no right and no wrong. How could my world be growing so much darker, so much more unfulfilling when I believed I had slipped the bonds of a limited way of thinking and a vastly inferior belief and outdated system that I believed Christianity to be? Why was it that the lives of all of those who I considered further down the road of enlightenment such complete disasters.
If I were the captain of my own destiny, the creator of my own personal reality, I was in serious trouble.
Only now do I see that Jesus began shining His light, His love and mercy upon me one little ray at a time, reaching me all the way down in the spiritual pit that I had dug for myself. For years, I had actively avoided thinking of Jesus for when I did, I had a literal physical pain within my chest – a fiercely deep longing which was, quite frankly, startling.
With infinite patience, through life experiences and even the most mundane of life’s circumstances, through the dismantling of years of false beliefs, He gently turned my face so that I would look directly at Him without the filter of my past experiences of those who used Jesus name to act in manners completely contrary to Jesus and His nature.
When I looked upon Jesus, when I sought Him myself, when I read His teachings, when I realized that though I thought I knew who Jesus was, I only knew Christianity as a religion. I was guilty of rejecting Jesus not for who He really is, but because I had allowed my negative experiences to define who Jesus is, what Christianity is, and how to live as a Christian.
The Jesus who cleared my eyes so that I could see Him, who never had abandoned me even though I abandoned Him, who required nothing from me but belief, is my Jesus. Nothing that I ever did or said, absolutely nothing kept Him from reaching down to pull me up from the depths that my own willfulness had placed me to carry me into an entirely new life. He saved me not because I had stacked up enough good works to earn my salvation, or because I was somehow inherently worthy of salvation.
He saved me because of His unending grace – His unmerited, unearned favor towards me.
Is my life now all roses and sunshine? No, it isn’t. However, my life is richer, fuller and more rewarding that I ever believed possible. I have a peace which I cannot explain and which I could never achieve through years of practiced meditation or human psychological self-help methods. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed of how I have been transformed despite myself and sometimes in spite of myself, into more of who God intends me to be.
When Jesus sets you free from the pain that is a natural result of living in this world, from yourself, from all that fails to satisfy that hunger for fulfillment and purpose, you are free indeed. Don’t take my word for it. Let me introduce you to Jesus. You’ll never be the same.