Growing up, I had no faith. There was no God that I prayed to and no church community I was a part of. My understanding of the world solely involved believing that when we died, we went to heaven. The only times I encountered “religion,” as I would call it now, were when the stories of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection were mentioned during Easter and Christmas, or when I attended funerals. Even though I grew up around a few friends that attended church regularly, their religious practices seemed foreign to me.
My entire world changed when my mother got sent to jail. While it felt as if my entire world was closing in on me, wonderful changes were occurring in my life religiously. Although now, I give credit to God for this transformation in my life, I did not always see it in this way.
It started slowly through my new step family. My grandpa raised my stepmom in a Christian home, so my family and I started to attend holiday services. As time passed, I was drawn deeper into the Christian faith. While I did not necessarily identify myself as “Christian” yet, I knew that I wanted to learn more about what it meant to be a Christian.
I began to make it my weekly goal to attend church with my grandpa; we made it a deal that he would pick me up bright and early every Sunday morning. My involvement grew deeper when I became a regular volunteer in the Children’s Ministry, where I met some of my biggest mentors and supporters that I still have today. Eventually, my siblings started to join my grandpa and I, and it wasn’t long before my entire family was sitting in the pews beside me.
My grandpa, Bruce, and I attending an event together. He is the one who really introduced me to the church.
Even though I was now regularly attending church, I still struggled with what it meant to be a Christian. I could not figure out how to translate the words spoken by our pastor into my own life. I had the perfect example of what it meant to live life everyday as a devout Christian right beside me in my grandpa, but I felt as if I could never live up to that legacy.
It took time, many ups and downs, and dedication for me to finally call myself a Christian. It truly was one of the best things to ever happen to me. The loving community of believers surrounding me gave me hope. Growing up, I felt like I never knew what to expect or who to trust, but I was starting to find a group of people, and a God, that I could trust no matter what.
Despite the wonderful things that came from being a Christian, I faced many challenges as well. As a student, I found myself surrounded by peers and, in some cases, teachers, who thought my faith in God was ridiculous. At times, I would be asked questions about my beliefs. Sometimes, in extreme cases, people would point out the reasons why the things I believe in are utterly impossible. While I could not always answer these questions, I never gave up.
My amazing family and I right after my graduation. Landon (left), Maren, me, Carson, Andrea, and Zach.
In my eyes, there was no other explanation besides the grace of God for the remarkable things that continued to come my way. God blessed me with a wonderful family in place of the one I lost, He blessed me with my success in my education, and He guided me through the toughest parts of my high school career, including battling mental illness. This is only skimming the surface of the depths of wonders God has provided me since I started to have faith.
It would take me days to explain to someone all the nooks and crannies involving the beliefs I hold as a Christian. To put it simply, I believe there is a God who created the Heavens and the Earth. He sent his son Jesus to pay for our sins by being crucified on the cross, only to rise again three days later. There will be a day when Jesus returns to judge the Good from Evil. This is, once again, just the start of the many things we believe in. One of the most important beliefs we hold is that it is never too late; at any moment in our lives, no matter what we have done, we can turn our lives around by giving ourselves to Jesus.
Once I realized this, I knew I was ready to do just that; so, this past year I was baptized. There is one thing for sure: I will never stop striving to become more like Jesus each and every day of my life.
The moment right before my mentor, Annie Waterman, baptized me.
As a part of my freshman seminar class, I was able to provide insight into what it’s like to be completely devoted to the Christian faith and strongly believe in the words that are written in The Holy Bible. It’s immensely challenging for me to look at the Bible in a scholarly way, but, after doing so, I believe it’s a challenge I think everybody should take on. Looking at what is written in the Bible in a way separate from how I read it in church has only deepened my Christian faith.
My closest friends, Zoee and Danielle, attending my graduation party. These are two of my religious friends who inspire me each and every day.
Encountering people who do not believe in the same things I do, both inside and outside of the classroom, is inevitable, but I think it’s extremely important to be able to understand where everybody is coming from with their beliefs. Reading the Qur’an, and trying to understand what the people that identify as Muslim believe, is only one example of many possible ways to do this. It’s not fair to completely discard what others believe in if they hold different beliefs, and that is why, as a Christian, I will do everything in my power to be open to hearing what others believe in while continuing to walk humbly in my own faith.
While not everyone will understand why I choose to identify as Christian, I can proclaim with certainty that giving my life over to Jesus is the best decision I have ever made.