1998. Prayed the prayer.
1999. Got dunked.
2005. Rebelled. Like, a lot.
2007. Went to Mexico and God totally changed my life. Like, for real.
2009. Married my awesome hubs.
2010. Graduated from UGA and became a middle school teacher.
2011. Began my Masters Degree in Christian Apologetics.
2014. Delivered my precious baby girl.
2015. Became an international missionary and delivered my precious son.
It's really normal for people to ask me when I became a Christian. What's not normal is that I often have no idea what to tell them.
I grew up knowing about God. And I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a Christian, so I "prayed the prayer" and was baptized when I was 10. But then I grew up and became totally hypocritical, totally rebellious, and totally two-faced in the way I lived my life on Sundays versus the rest of the week. Looking back, I know that the Holy Spirit was in my heart because I never felt good about my hypocrisy; it always nagged at me, and I always kept it hidden. But I wasn't ready to really give my life completely over to Him. When I had doubts and sought counsel from others, it went something like this:
"I have a lot of doubts."
"Yea, everyone has doubts. That's normal."
"But how do I know for sure that I'm a Christian?"
"Well, did you pray a prayer to accept Jesus?"
"Yes... When I was 10."
"Did you sincerely mean it when you prayed?"
"Yes... but I was a 10-year-old."
"As long as you prayed the prayer and meant it, then you're fine."
So while this conversation was always well-intentioned, it still left me guessing. Because nobody asked me if, while I claimed to be a Christ-follower (which is really all that "Christian" means), "are you actually following Christ?" Because I wasn't.
And I also had a lot of questions about whether Christianity was true-true - like, did it actually make sense for an intelligent person to believe it? Or did you necessarily have to suspend your intellect to follow Jesus? I felt like the answers I gave to questions in Sunday School class differed greatly from the answers I gave in college classes. So basically, in both my thought-life and my lifestyle, I was living compartmentalized in every way.
But then God called me to Mexico City, Mexico for a three-month mission trip during my sophomore year of college. I thought it would be cool. But that's when God really started to work on my heart. I had to face my doubts and my lifestyle because I was about to go on a trip to tell people about Jesus, yet I wasn't sure that I even totally understood his love. Through a series of circumstances and events, God broke my heart. And then he took me to Mexico, and for the first time I realized what it meant to really, truly, totally live for Jesus. And it was the best thing I had ever experienced and never wanted to let go of that!
I came back from Mexico a completely different person. I still struggled - and continue to do so - in many ways. "Changed" never has meant "perfected" for me. But I knew I wanted to live for Jesus, so my lifestyle finally changed.
And along the way, Christ showed me his love and forgiveness of my rebellion in a very tangible way through Derek's pursuit of me. I got to see how the choices I had made in my life hurt someone greatly; someone with whom I was falling in love. Yet Derek forgave me. And loved me. And cherished me. And continued to want me. And asked to make me his forever. And then I understood Jesus even more.
So now I want to share that love with others. That love that never gives up. That forgives. That cherishes. That makes you whole. That changes your life.
And since then God was even sweet enough to answer many of my intellectual doubts through a study of the Bible and apologetics as I got my Masters Degree in Christian Apologetics at BIOLA University. Do I still have questions? Absolutely. But I've gotten answers to so many of them that I'm able to rest with confidence in the questions I'm still figuring out.
So now I want to share those answers with others. The answers that give confidence. That help me better love God as I understand Him better. That help me live my life whole. That allows me to be intelligent and Christian.
So when did I become a Christian? Was it when I prayed a prayer as a ten-year-old? When God broke my heart about my sin? When he showed me how great it is to live for Him? When he helped me really grasp his love and forgiveness? When I became more bold in my faith because of my greater understanding?
I don't know.
But I do know this - I love Jesus. And I know how He has changed my life. And I want others to know about Him, too.