It’s been one year since I got my first tattoo. One year since I had that less-than-comfortable conversation with my parents about permanently inking my body. One year since I permanently released the pause button on my life and decided to press play. Here is the full story about my journey to finding Christ, and my journey thereafter.
The testimonies that have moved me the most have been ones where the individual had that one blinding epiphany of God’s existence and that one moment they truly recognized Christ as their savior and what he’s done for humanity. Folks, I hate to disappoint you, but my testimony is nothing like the ones you typically hear in sermons – but I hope you find it inspiring anyway.
I have always known God to exist my entire life. I was raised in a Catholic household, grew up going to Mass, went to Catholic school for ten years of my life, and went through the sacraments you typically go through as a Catholic child. I’ve always had a general understanding of who Jesus is and what he did for humanity, but I never really had a relationship with him. I didn’t come from a broken home and have never been a victim of circumstance. But looking back now, I realize I did grow up a broken person because of my lack of relationship with Jesus.
I would just like to preface this by saying that I am absolutely not ashamed of my Catholic upbringing, nor am I trying to shame anyone who decides to raise their children in a Catholic household. It was, after all, this upbringing that set the foundation of how I came to my faith today. In Catholic school, we did do things like read the Bible, learn about religion, and go to church during the week. However, my knowledge of the Bible came from a purely academic standpoint, i.e. reading several verses and then being tested on them at the end of the week. It was because of this approach, being made to feel like getting to know Jesus was more of an obligation than a want, that I had placed my faith in the back of my mind, never really giving it a second thought, for many years. I thought I had Jesus, but I didn’t, and I came to fully realize this many years later when I started college.
Looking back through the years, I now notice bits and pieces of my life where Jesus was definitely present in my life – I just didn’t want to see it. I was the type of person who was always trying to look for validation – whether it was in my friendships, academics, or whatever job I held. During my third year of college, I realized that I needed to stop relying on others to validate me as a person, and instead look within myself. I thought I was making a major breakthrough when I sought counseling for what I thought was developing into manic depression and anxiety. At the end of those therapy sessions, I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing, that I would emerge from this a changed person with a different outlook on life. And for awhile, it did work. I felt happier, I felt more at peace with myself and with my relationships for the most part. But eventually, that all went away, and I found myself back in the hole I had worked so hard to get myself out of, and I was again looking for fulfillment and satisfaction in something.
At the beginning of my fourth year of college, I was looking forward to another year of exciting responsibilities and possibilities, as I found myself the Vice President of two clubs and working a steady job on campus. I was representing one of my clubs at the club fair before the academic year started, and standing in front of my table was a friend of mine who I’ve known since our freshman year. She was handing out surveys for her club, and I was giving out information about mine. We spotted each other and began to chat and catch up on each other’s lives, since it had been awhile since we had last spoken. At the end of our conversation, she asked me if I wanted to fill out one of her surveys. I figured, why not, especially since the incentive of filling one out was a free bouncy ball. I gladly took one of her yellow index card-sized leaflets, filled it out, gave it back to her, and she was well on her way.
About a week later, I was at a concert, and during one of the songs, I received a phone call from a phone number I didn’t recognize. Seeing as how I wouldn’t have been able to hear a single word from the other end of the line, I just decided to ignore it and went back to enjoying the concert. Soon after, my phone began buzzing again as a string of text messages came through from the same number that had just called me. The person on the other end identified himself as Marco, and that he was calling asking if I wanted to join a Bible study with an organization on campus called Cru. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was “Who is this Jesus-person, why is he contacting me, and how did he get my number?” It turns out he got my number from the survey I filled out the week before, and was working on contacting everyone who filled out a survey from the club fair. I told him that due to the number of things I already had on my plate for the year – working 20 hours a week, taking a full course load of 16 units, and being Vice President of two clubs – that there was absolutely no way for me to fit in yet another thing into my already packed schedule. Pressing on, he asked me what day I would be available should I happen to decide to make time for a Bible study. I went through my schedule in my head and found that if I were to really squeeze in some extra time into my day, I would be free Thursday evenings after I got off work. Just as fate would have it, Thursday nights just so happened to be when his Bible study would meet. After that, I kind of left the conversation open ended, not really intending to respond to that message, and vowing never to respond to a number I didn’t recognize ever again. But the thing was that I could not get that conversation out of my head. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard I tried to focus on the concert that was still going on in front of me, I couldn’t not feel a weight being pressed down onto my shoulders if I didn’t respond. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and told Marco I’d meet them at their designated meeting spot.
And what a ride it has been since that September evening.
My involvement with Cru was a slow and steady process. I only went to Bible studies in the Fall of 2014. Then I decided to go to the hangouts that my Bible study leaders organized Winter quarter. Finally, I started going to Cru large group meetings in the Spring of my fourth year. This past year, I furthered myself even more into Cru by going to retreats, conferences, and now find myself leading a servant team next year. But my involvements within this organization hardly make up the tip of the iceberg of who I found myself to become over the past few years.
You see, as my tattoo suggests, my life was on pause for such a long time. I looked for satisfaction and fulfillment in all the wrong places, only to find myself craving something more at the end of all of it. But through going to Bible studies, weekly meetings, and just having conversations with the friends I’ve made in Cru, I found Jesus along the way, and he is what ultimately led me to lift my finger off the pause button and press play. Cru has provided me so much more than a place to hang out during my down time, and a way to get my daily Bible reading in. I’ve found a community that wholly accepted me, and group of people who are so much more to me than just friends – they are my brothers and sisters also. I’ve found people who are just as broken as I am and who are willing to walk alongside me as I continue to pursue Christ. I have found a community that has helped me find the fulfillment I’ve been craving for such a long time, the fulfillment I find in the love that God has for me.
I don’t let myself worry about tomorrow anymore because I know that God will take me there. When I used to pray to get a good grade on a test and for certain things to happen in my favor, I now instead pray for wisdom and motivation. Instead of praying for things to get better, I pray for strength and endurance. Over this past school year, I have seen God work on my life in the most amazing ways possible. As I fight tears of joy typing this post, I realize that I am so incredibly blessed to be living the life I’m living, despite the many twists and turns I’ve had to go through along the way, and despite the rough journey I know lies up ahead. I also recognize that I am not perfect, and I realize that I am the furthest from having everything figured out and having it together. But I know that I have Jesus, and with him, I’m not so afraid anymore.
Looking back, especially at the past few years of my life, I have come such a long way from being so lost and so confused, but I also know that I have such a way to go as I look up at the journey I have ahead of me. Now I know that God always has his hands on my shoulders and will continue to guide me along the path he needs me to.
I just want to let you all know that I see God working on my life every single day. Whether it’s incredibly overwhelming in-your-face and blinding, or in the most subtle of ways, his spirit is always there and always has been. God wants a relationship with you – you just have to call out to him. Once you do, it is going to be so good.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.