Years ago, if you had asked me if I was a follower of Christ, I would have looked at you like you were ridiculous. After all, I was raised in a Christian household. Sure, our church attendance rate was abysmal, but my mother made it known from the time I was very young, it was just who we were. God-fearing Christians. Followers of Christ.
It was as much a part of my identity as having brown eyes, being a citizen of the United States or being the oldest sibling. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need to give my life to him, because it had already been done for me. To me, the idea of rebirth and dedicating one’s life to the Lord was reserved for unsavory, wayward souls who hadn’t been blessed enough to be born Christian. Though I don’t fault them for it, my parents never told me otherwise. For the most part, our beliefs weren’t spoken of openly. They were just… there.
As I got older, my relationship with God went sideways, although I didn’t know it at the time. I went through all of the motions, including a hasty and ill-planned baptism when I had become one of the wayward souls I had chastised as a youth. I did all of the “Christian things.” I looked the part. I played the part. I knew all of the worship songs, I read all of the contemporary Christian authors and I was a brilliant public speaker, so I could pray aloud confidently and fit into small groups with ease. I rationalized my poor behavior during these years with the good works I performed and the titles I held. Outwardly, I was everything that I wanted to be. Inside, I was lost. I would have nightly battles with God. I was so angry that I had done all of the things I was supposed to do and I was still suffering. “This wasn’t the plan, God,” I’d say.
In early adulthood, I abandoned God and I assumed he had given up on me too. I had a failed marriage and two small children, and little else. I divorced my husband and Jesus all in one fell swoop. I felt the stares of everyone who said that we were married too young, heard the “I told you so’s,” dodged all of the prying inquiries by the gossips around me. I had failed.
Spiritually, the next several years were a blur. I prayed intermittently, but in the way that someone might scratch off a lottery ticket they bought on a whim. Always asking, never thanking, briefly excited but never expecting anything. No surprise, I never found what I was looking for — and I never hit the jackpot.
If you ask anyone who knows me well, they can tell you that I struggle to admit fault. Mostly playfully, but sometimes I’m downright hard-headed. I can say with confidence that my stubborn attitude is what led me back to God. As it turns out, He had never left. He was there the entire time, perhaps exasperated at my inability to let Him take control, but He was still there. I felt God’s presence from time to time, but pushed Him away. One day, at a low point, I threw my hands up, literally, and said, “Okay. You want me? The misguided, broken, flawed disgrace that I am? You’ve got me.” In my obstinate mind, I was going to prove to God (it’s okay, you can laugh — I can laugh about it looking back) that I was a waste of time. Chalk it up to a loss. Move on. Go work elsewhere.
He didn’t move on. He wouldn’t let me go.
… and he hasn’t. He won’t.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
It has been a long journey of trust and healing. I had to learn to let go of all of the misconceptions I had about Christianity. I had to repent for sin, for all of the times I pushed God away. Most of all, I had to put Him back in control. I’m happy to say that now, with my amazing husband by my side and a fantastic church full of great people, I am finally a follower of Christ. My husband and I were recently baptized and the feeling was more real than anything I’ve felt in my life. I’m not leading my own life while gazing adoringly at Christ, or only involving Him when it is convenient. He has control and I have faith.
I recently read the book Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Christ by Kyle Idleman. From Google Books, the excerpt reads: If someone asked, “Are you a fan of Jesus?”, how would you answer? You attend every movie featuring a certain actor, you know the stats of your sports hero, and you can recite lyrics from your favorite songs. In short, you’re a huge fan. But are you treating Jesus the same as the other people you admire? The truth is Jesus wants more than the church attendance, occasional prayer, and the ability to recite Scripture—the fan response. He’s looking for people who are actually willing to sacrifice in order to follow him.
This resonated with me, as did the rest of the book, because there have been plenty of sacrifices. I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone more times than I can count. I’ve lost more friends than I care to admit. In fact, I’m sure there are readers who have known me for many years who are thinking, “Is this even the same woman I knew before?” The short answer is no, not really. I still have brown eyes, I’m still a citizen of the United States and I’m still the oldest sibling. Now, though, I’m a follower of Christ.