Can I fumble my way through telling you this story of how I came to trust in Jesus?
I say ‘fumble’ because I have been asked on the spot how I became a Christian, and I often feel like a stumble through an answer.
There were no flashes from the heavens. No radical encounter.
But I believe my faith was formed by faithful prayers from my mother when I was in the womb and throughout my life. Many believers prayed for me before I was born. All I can say is how thankful I am for that.
It is God who changed my heart over the years. I remember when I was 12 years old, I was on a bike ride in rural Norfolk in the UK. I got off my bike at the side of a country road on a sunny day and professed my faith in God. It was just between me and Him. Then I got back on my bike and carried on riding.
I guess that’s a suitable metaphor for my early experiences of being a Christian. There were times when I’d be going through life like I was riding my bike. Just enjoying the ride with not much thought. Then I would get off from time to time, speak to God here and there, get back on my bike again and go on my merry little way. Sometimes life would throw a stick in the spokes and I’d come crashing down. The stick represented my own sinful, deliberate choices, or things outside of my control which hurt. In those moments, God felt distant and I was trying to cycle through life with me at the centre of it.
In my late teens, I sought to know God more. My first Christian friend invited me to come to church regularly. It was exciting to see more people who loved God! Worship songs drew me in with lyrics that pointed me to a Saviour who loved me enough to rescue me when I was dead in sin. I was lost in wonder at the beauty of creation when I travelled around the USA on my gap year as an 18 year old. I trusted the Lord with my life as I was diagnosed with blood cancer as a 19 year old.
I didn’t want to keep getting off the metaphorical bike. I wanted to be in sync with God through the whole journey – more like a tandem, if you will!
I started going to church regularly when I went to university. I met other Christians who opened up the Bible with me. I started to see Jesus throughout the pages of scripture. Jesus – the Son of God – who died for my sin and rose again. These truths began to open my eyes to understand more of what I professed to believe. The Lord was changing my heart to yearn for Him.
However, temptations abounded as a student. Living independently and the lure of all the world seemed to offer was strong. I discovered what temptation really looked like. I understood how easy it was to fall into sin. Even though I believed in Jesus, I chose to wilfully sin and I know now that it grieved God. But in all of this, my sin did not cut me off from God’s love. The cross was the place where my sin was nailed. Jesus died for me. It was His love and sacrifice that saved me, not my good works.
As I have grown as a Christian, I still fall into sin at times. I know it will always be a part of this life as a human being. But the difference now is my heart longs to serve and love God more than it has ever done. My desires have completely changed toward Him. I don’t want to sin. It’s taken me a long time to realise what repentance truly is. This is all God’s grace working through me by His power.
It’s only been within the last couple of years that I have really begun to see all that it cost Jesus to die for me. I feel the weight of my sin. Yet, I see Jesus who takes that sin off of my shoulders. His burden truly is light. His love is what has held and sustained me throughout my life. His Spirit is what transforms me. On my own, I am powerless, but it is Christ’s power that is changing my heart.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”Romans 1:16-17 (NIV)