I grew up in a Christian home with parents who set an amazing foundation for my faith. For as long as I can remember, my family was in church whenever the doors were open and I absolutely loved it.
When I was in first grade, I realized just how much I was in need of a Savior. I know it’s hard to understand, but think about 7 year-olds, they don’t have to be trained to be bad, they just naturally are (in fact, parents have to train them how to be good). I tell you that because I want you to understand that at 7, I knew I was a sinful person in need of Jesus to pay the ultimate price for my sins so that I could be forgiven and live all eternity with Him.
From that point forward, God has given me a passion to tell others about what He has freely gifted to me. This gift of eternal life is something I want all people to come to know and understand for themselves so they also can not only experience eternal life, but feel the deep love that God has for them.
From elementary school on into middle school, I did whatever I could to bring my friends to church or try and teach them about what Jesus had so freely done on the cross. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle (every day) with sin. I am by no means a perfect person. But because of God’s great grace, I have experienced a deep unconditional love unlike any other that offers a forgiveness for all my sin.
The first time my faith was really tested was in 7th grade. I was experiencing some weird muscular symptoms, which led to a diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder: Myasthenia Gravis. Basically my thymus gland was overactive and needed to come out, but with that came a 50/50 chance of life or death. I remember talking to my parents about my faith and just knowing that God was in control of it all. I knew if I would die, I would be with Jesus, but on the other end if I lived, I would get to share my story of God’s faithfulness. To this day, December 17 is a celebration of the life that I literally have been given.
After going through this unplanned struggle (are struggles ever planned?), I was able to use my story to talk with teachers about who God is and even to my friends. I desperately wanted them to know God is a faithful God. In the meantime, I still went to church and was discipled really well by my youth pastor. He taught all of the students different ways of sharing the gospel and allowed us to practice sharing our faith with each other. In essence, he helped build up some confidence when it came to sharing the gospel with other people; which was exactly what I needed going into high school.
I made so many new friends by doing marching band. I absolutely hated it at first, but grew to love it. If you know anything about marching band, you know it takes up part of the summer and pretty much all of the fall semester. My freshman and sophomore years were fairly easy to keep the faith because of call that medical stuff that happened in middle school and I was perfectly comfortable talking to anyone about my “I love Jesus” t-shirts. Not even kidding, I was that kid who went to the flea market and had t-shirts made so I could wear them to band camp to literally witness to other students.
But let me just be super honest with you, I knew I should read the Bible. I knew that I should pray, but those things weren’t happening outside of church. I wanted them to, but my desire for other things the world had to offer (accomplishments, friends, busyness, jobs, what my friends thought about me, etc.) became more precedent. My junior year, I pretty much went through the motions and by senior year I lived by this mantra of “it’s all about what you do for Christ.”
Somewhere in the midst of high school my definition of the gospel was slanted. I lived a life of doing really good things. Those things weren’t bad, and I have no doubt that God still used them to give Himself glory, but my motivation for doing them wasn’t about giving God glory, but rather a “will this make me look good?” kind of attitude.
By the time I got into college, I was convinced I knew pretty much everything there was to know about the gospel. I knew all the Bible stories. I knew I should show love to others and live a good life. And that was my definition of the Gospel.
Then there was another switch. I was sitting on a hill talking to my dear friend Kalli (a woman literally living an all-about-Jesus kind of life). We were talking about the upcoming worship night and I asked if she knew who was speaking because I didn’t really want to go because all these “speakers” just kept telling me things I already knew (Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for my sins). I remember looking at her and point blank saying with some serious attitude and probably some eye rolls, “Are they R E A L L Y going to share the gospel again? I already know it!” She looked back at me with a tilted head and boldly stated, “Then you don’t know the gospel.” I was flabbergasted by what I thought was a big insult, but in reality that one bold statement was the switch I needed to jumpstart what happened when I was 7 years old.
It still wasn’t easy though. I think because I was ready to fully commit as an adult to Jesus my life started getting hard. Temptation became so real. Sin became so real. I literally began living this double life. I wanted to still be this accepted person by Christians, but I also wanted to be accepted by non-Christians. It was college. I tried playing both games, and grew exhausted.
I knew something had to change.
My junior year of college, I was about to be over a women’s discipleship ministry and knew I had to get my heart for sure in check. The leader that was over me was someone I respected so much. This girl radiated faith like no other and she had this undeniable thirst for God’s word (still has it). I remember when she talked about God, something in me desperately wanted what she had. I knew it was going to come down to my own quiet time.
Just a reminder, up until this point, I still did not connect with God on my own. I only was meeting with God at church or through our campus ministry. But I wanted junior year to be different.
My leader wanted to meet up for lunch to go over some details about my ministry and one of the first things she said was, “Rachel, how can I be praying for you to grow spiritually this year?” My heart sank. I knew instantly I needed to fess up, to this girl I respected so much, that I didn’t read my Bible or pray. I was so afraid she would look differently at me knowing this new information. I was afraid I had disappointed her. But she kindly looked at me and smiled and said, “I will definitely be praying for you.” That was all I needed. I needed someone to know I was struggling in this area.
Don’t hear me say that you have to be reading your Bible or praying every day in order to understand the gospel, you don’t. But for me in my walk with the Lord, I grew so complacent in my faith because I knew all these stories that I was actually missing what God wanted to teach me through them. I was caught up with just the knowledge forgetting God is a relational God. He wants me to know Him just as much as He wants to know me. I was only letting God be something I knew about rather than something I experienced. By getting into the word daily (at least really trying to make it a daily thing), I was able to really experience God’s grace in a new way other than just His salvation. It allowed me to experience the Gospel in a real and personal way.
Once I started reading and digging deeper trying to experience more of God, the Gospel became something I loved and cherished and wanted to hear every day. It wasn’t just something I knew, but something that gave me life. It was what life itself was about.
Now almost three years out of college, having a full time teaching job that God has been so gracious in providing; I am absolutely so in love with God’s Word that He’s given us. I can’t imagine not reading it every day. It literally is just as important to me as eating food (I was going to say drinking water, but there are days that I actually forget to drink water but I always remember food). He has taught me so much about His own character. He has spoken time and time again of His faithfulness, despite my unfaithfulness. He has led me through some of the darkest hours of my life. He has celebrated with me in the highest moments.
Again, every day is a battle with sin. Every day I wake up with the choice of living for myself and go back to that exhaustion of living a double life, or living a life with Christ where He alone gives rest. The two choices are literally complete opposites, but only Christ can provide that life.
God is still at work in me.
This is hopefully only the beginning of my story, but in the meantime–what’s your story? Let me know! I would love to read it! Click Here to tell me your Story!