So as I promised, I'll now begin to tell my journey with Jesus.
Boring stuff first, well, okay, I shouldn't call it boring, but it doesn't feel unique:
I grew up in a Christian home, a solid Christian home and I am forever grateful for the foundation my parents laid in my life (THANK YOU, Mom and Dad!). At some point before ten years of age, I accepted Christ, prayed the prayer. But my understanding was limited, of course. As my understanding grew, I prayed the prayer a few more times, each time with a fuller knowledge of what I was doing. I spent a great week, each of three summers, at the best camp in the world (here's a shout out to Circle K Camp: you're the best!). There my heart grew in hunger for the Lord and desire to be fully devoted to Him in truth and purity.
However, during my early teenage years, my Christianity took on a strong legalism though I did not recognize it as such at the time. I also placed walls around my heart in an effort to protect it from pain and disappointment.
Legalism: it was born out of a desire to be pleasing to the Lord, but a misunderstanding of how to do this. I did the "right" things out of obligation and to uphold my reputation. I remember consciously "training" myself to walk through a store without moving to the beat of the music playing because it was secular (read: secular equaled bad). I would never say 'dumb' or 'stupid' because those were "bad" words. And I made other silly rules for myself. I was doing the "right" things, but from a heart of pride. Yes, I was trying to please the Lord, however there was no joy in it. And I was attempting to maintain a reputation of who I thought others thought I should be. It was very unrewarding! And in my heart, I felt the hypocrisy of it.
Walls: early in my teenage years, I experienced some relatively small disappointments. They hurt, more than I expected them to. And I began to question the goodness of God; specifically, the goodness of God towards me ... Could I truly trust Him? So I built walls around my heart to ward off further pain and disappointment. If I didn't have any expectations of God or others and if I held people at arms length (never sharing my heart, who I truly was), I would avoid pain, right?
I spent my adolescence striving to please God on my own strength, yet holding Him at arms length. Were it not for the grace of God on my life and His constant pursuit of me, I don't know where I'd be! Seriously ... God has been so good to me!
There were also precious times when God began to capture my heart and mark me as His own. I read a book called Extreme Godchasers by Tommy Tenney one summer. It ignited a desire to know and experience God. I spent hours every week that summer on my face before the Lord. In that time, I began to sense God's calling on my life though I could not yet verbalize it. I sensed incredible grace being poured out on me and a realization that I was being raised up for something.
Because of times like this, a strong hunger developed in my heart. This hunger kept me pushing forward, because I knew God had a plan for my life. And my heart hungered to experience more of Him. Through conversations, a cousin sensed this hunger in me and invited me to Doug and Becky's. But I will leave that for next time ...