Sunday in church we sang one of my favorite songs. It’s a song I’ve been belting in my car for many weeks, that I’ve heard over and over again, but today one of the lyrics struck me like it hadn’t before.
“When death was arrested and my life began”
It’s the title line of the song and is repeated several times throughout, speaking about the moment of redemption and realization of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. “Your love made a way and let mercy come in…when death was arrested and my life began”. “My mourning grew quiet my feet rose to dance…when death was arrested and my life began”. It’s this amazing cause and effect. You were once held by death but when Jesus died on the cross and rose again he made a way for that hold to be broken. When you let that truth overcome your life, you are free and that is when your life truly begins. And that’s where my heart caught as the reality of this truth washed over me and filled up my soul. I began thinking about my own story and the stories I have encountered throughout my life.
As many of you might know if you’ve read or heard my story, I made the decision to follow Jesus when I was just 8 years old. That was 16 years ago and I barely remember the whole thing. I couldn’t tell you what pushed me to make the decision…a person or a Sunday school lesson, a song or a thought or a prayer. I simply don’t remember. I just remember knowing it was what I wanted and what I needed. I remember confidently telling my parents on my own that I wanted to be baptized. I don’t think I ever questioned or wavered or wondered or struggled. I knew that I loved Jesus and I knew that I wanted everyone else to know that too. And despite the fuzziness of the details, I truly believe that was the beginning of my walk with Jesus. That decision at 8 years old was when I committed my life to Christ, when the Holy Spirit entered my life, when I was saved from death and my life began. Never again have I felt the need to recommit, to get baptized again, or question that decision. It has always been my truth and I believe that it always will.
This confidence though is a more recent development in my life. I smiled as I sang in church thinking about how far God had brought me in owning my story and the beginning of life that God gave me.
Now I never really struggled with the legitimacy of my salvation, but the fact that it happened so long ago and so simply. I have so many friends with incredible stories of the journeys they were on to find truth and the pursuit of Jesus in the middle of that search. They have powerful testimonies filled with redemption from seemingly unsurmountable darkness. And of course they have these beautiful memories of the first time they were overcome by the love of Jesus and the exact moment that “death was arrested and their life began”. I once told someone I thought my story was “lame” in comparison to most. I thought I was too average to do much. The awesome thing is that God has graciously brought me to a place where I can confidently say I no longer believe that lie. I know that God gave me a unique story and it’s beautiful because no matter how young I was, a soul was redeemed that day and that’s reason to celebrate! And while there are still days that I wish I could remember that feeling of one moment being without God and the next moment knowing His love fully, I also have come to realize the power that walking with God for a life time has given me. Not many can say they don’t remember a time in their life that God wasn’t there.
So while I no longer struggle with the simplicity of my story and the fuzzy memories I wish were more clear, I have recently found myself asking God over and over again, “Why me?”. I struggle with the fact that I have been blessed the ways that I have and many more people have not. I see these college girls come to me just utterly broken and hopeless. With stories about abuse, trauma, and parents that have never said the words, “I love you”. I watch them run to the world to feel beautiful because no one ever told them that they already are. I meet with students regularly that have no concept of religion, much less Jesus and the gospel. They aren’t simply choosing not to believe, they’ve never heard a single word to teach them what to believe. So I wonder…why did I get all of those things and they didn’t? Why did I get the family that loves each other so much it hurts, the parents that take care of me even now and have been financially sound my entire life, and even more important, the chance to know Jesus since I was 8? Why has my life “begun” but so many have yet to even hear the name Jesus?
This struggle took over my heart as I sang about new beginnings and thanked God for mine in one breath and begged Him to give me answers in the next.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I can’t describe the feeling much better than that. Sometimes God gives me words or thoughts, never audible but always clear. This was bigger than a simple phrase though. My mind was filled with memories from my past. People I was friends with, prayers I had prayed, decisions I had made, and experiences from my last year in ministry flooded my heart and my mind.
I thought back to the time I shared the gospel with my entire 4th grade class as part of a presentation for a class project. One of my best friends in that class was a boy who had moved here from Jordan and was a devoted Muslim. I remember being worried about respecting his culture so I told him what my presentation was about before I did it and asked him about his religion as well. It wasn’t anything earth shattering, I haven’t even kept in touch with him since then, but I remember praying for him long after that day in elementary school. God can use a 9 year old who doesn’t know anything about other religions to plant seeds.
I remember one of my friends telling me quite proudly in middle school that she was an atheist and practiced witch craft. I was scared to death to talk to her about it honestly, but we stayed friends through high school. I’ve come across old journals of mine from all the way through high school with fervent prayers for her to know Jesus in them . Recently I found out those prayers had actually been answered. She accepted Christ in college and is married to a God-loving man. God can use the prayers of a dorky 13 year old who was afraid to speak up but wasn’t afraid to pray to move hearts.
My brain jumped to high school and all of the friends I had from so many different walks of life. I remember conversations I had with my science teacher about God and evolution. I remember the time I tried to explain to someone during Math class how people know if God is talking to them even though we can’t hear Him or see Him. My teacher heard the conversation and even joined in to help me. College basketball coaches started calling me as early as my sophomore year and I had multiple conversations about how important my faith was to me. I talked to so many coaches I don’t know what most of them believed, but I never hesitated to share the part it was playing in my decision making process. To this day I know it’s the only reason I chose Marquette. Only by putting my faith in God’s plan over my own could this quiet, home-body have made the decision to go to school 7 hours away. I have no idea that these small interactions resulted in anything, but I know God can use a faithful 16 year old to spread His word.
I even thought about all the times my parents came to visit me at Marquette. While I always took time to be with them myself, I also tried to share them as much as I could. Once again I was surrounded by people from all walks of life, with all kinds of families and all of use were far from home. Family time for all of us was rare, so my parents always loved on my teammates like they were their own. Whether it was a card from my dad when someone was having a hard time or going out to dinner some place fun with my mom, I knew even my family wasn’t mine to horde and I didn’t want to anyway. It was more fun that I got to laugh with them when my mom said funny things and to watch their eyes light up when they told me how much they loved my dad. All this happened in the middle of some of my darkest days and hardest years even. When my confidence was low and I questioned God’s plan. But love can make even the hardest times brighter and God can use an insecure 20 year old to love His children.
Lastly I thought about my time at Bowling Green. The girls I met because I was “just looking for friends and community”. The best friends I now have because I liked cooking dinner for people and inviting them over to spend time at my house. The community of people I met because I knew I needed support and people pointing me to Christ. The ministry I got to be a part of last year because I took a leap of faith when I felt God asking me to trust Him. I came to Bowling Green looking for a new beginning and hoping that God had something waiting for me there. There’s no way that I would know what that would include. Some of the most amazing people I know, some of the best friends I have ever had, I found in Bowling Green. I got to watch God use me to share the gospel with students who had never heard it before. I got to be a part of real life change as I watched other girls give their life completely over to God, letting Him heal their wounds and point them towards their own new beginning. Of course there were hard moments and lots of tears but in the midst of it all, I saw the power of God move across BGSU’s campus. I couldn’t help but follow His call when He asked me to stay for another year. God can use a first year intern to change lives even when she’s not quite sure what she’s doing because God is certain of His plan.
As all these memories flooded through me I realized in an instant that God hadn’t simply blessed me or gifted me with this life and this story…He had entrusted me with it. He gave me a family that I could share, He gave me finances that I could give, He gave me His love that I could spread, and He gave me a desire to follow Him early so I would do just that…follow Him to the places He wanted me to go. And not only has He given me the blessings, He gave me the opportunity to use them over and over again. From the time I came up out of the water at 8 years old, God has shown up over and over again, when I needed him most but when others did as well.
And that’s what hit me in the middle of church in the middle of this song that was rocking my world. There is a special kind of power that comes from 16+ years of watching God’s faithfulness, 16+ years of Him teaching me how to love, 16+ years of Him equipping me for the next step and the journey He is leading me on. I have a faith that isn’t easily shaken because I’ve had time to build a strong foundation. I have an arsenal of stories that give me hope because of all the people I have crossed paths with in life. I have felt the life changing effects of being best friends with Jesus time and time again and that is powerful. Not only that, God has used that power in me throughout my life, whether I realized it in the moment or not.
And I can’t claim or take any sort of credit for it either. It might be a bit of a cliche but God truly doesn’t call the qualify, He qualifies the called. There has been no point in my life that I would call myself “qualified”. Can any imperfect person really make that claim anyway? Instead God called me to follow Him and equipped me with power and faith along the way. It has never been flashy or movie script worthy but it’s been pretty solid and unwavering and that’s where the true power of my story lies. In the strength of my foundation and deepness of my relationship with Jesus.
Since that morning in church, since those words of new beginnings and Jesus’ redemption brought me this moment of revelation, the word entrusted has continued to echo in my mind. Grace is real, there is not doubt about that. And my new life and salvation came to me without any fine print, extra clauses, or expectations to earn my place or God’s approval. But the reality is there is a difference between being entrusted to care for something and being given something do whatever I want. And that’s where the answer to my “Why me?” struggles lie. My life and my story, they weren’t arbitrarily given to me, they were entrusted to me. God gave me His gospel, He equipped me with it young, to hold and carry and take care of it for the rest of my life. He entrusted me with the power of His word and His Spirit so that I would use it and continue to use it. Whether it was in my 4th grade classroom or at BGSU, He has continued to entrust me with His power and His children that need it the most.
At the end of this song the words say:
We’re free free
Forever we’re free
Come join the song
Of all the redeemed
Yes we’re free free
When death was arrested and my life began.
That is where I rest my heart. In the beautiful freedom that comes with new life in Christ but also in the invitation for more to join me. That is why despite all of the hard parts, I have followed God into this ministry with Cru. That is why I work crazy hours and late nights and why I’ve spent my summers raising support. Because I know that this momentary sacrifice from me could result in eternal reward for the students I get to meet. It’s why I let my heart break over and over again for every girl who’s told me she was sexually assaulted or abused or unloved. Because I know the healing and redemption that waits for them on the other side of that pain. And truly, it’s why I committed to another year with Cru, because I’ve been entrusted with something too beautiful and life changing to keep to myself.
I honestly don’t know what God has in store for me after this year. It could be Cru and it could be something else. Right now I’m choosing to stay focused on the present. I’ll go wherever God decides to lead though. Because this life is not my own, it’s only been entrusted to me to use for the glory of the One who gave it to me.
If my story is speaking to you or the adventures with my students are tugging on your heart, I’d love to give you the opportunity to partner with me in my ministry! I need people who feel called to give financial and prayerful support in order to do what I am doing at BGSU! Right now I’m less than 10 days away from my deadline of August 1st with about 32% of my total still left to raise. I am confident in God’s plans for next year and confident that He will provide! Will you consider being a part of that provision?
Click the link below if you want to give in this moment, but please reach out to me if you would like to hear more!