I grew up in a Christian family attending church each Sunday and being pretty involved in church events. I was generally a good kid that knew most of the bible stories and could answer questions that the Sunday school teachers would ask in class. I listened to my parents (most of the the time), did pretty well in school and my extra-curricular activities, tried my best to be polite to all my church aunties and uncles, etc. In my head, I thought of myself as a model kid and that was something I was proud of.
I loved going to church. Church meant I got to see my friends and go to my friend’s house afterwards. I remember for a period of a few years, the odd weekend after church where I wouldn’t be allowed to have a play date because I had a piano lesson or work to do, I’d be upset to the point of bawling my eyes out and being really mad at my parents. I completely missed the point of spending time in fellowship with other brothers and sisters and going to church.
Bible stories were interesting, but I found that I had a hard time believing they really happened. Some of them were kind of nuts. Every type of animal fitting onto a boat? A bunch of Israelites marching around a wall blowing trumpets and the wall crumpling down? The red sea, split in two for the Israelites to cross and then coming back down on the Egyptians? That’s pretty crazy. Thankfully, the Lord opened my eyes to believe these stories as having actually happened after a moment I had on top of the Delta Hotel in downtown Calgary during a Canada Chinese Christian Winter Conference. It was early in the morning and our leader had just started into a group prayer. For some reason I stared out of the window over the duration of the prayer and everything just clicked. Sitting a few hundred feet above ground and watching the sun climbing atop the skyscrapers downtown I was moved to think about the majesty of nature and all created things. God created the world and everything in the world, I had no problem believing that. So if he spoke everything in existence, what else could possibly be impossible for Him to do?
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” — Romans 1:20
Somehow through all this, I didn’t seem to have any trouble believing in the craziest story of all: that God loved me so much, He sent his one and only Son to die on the cross to cover my sins so that I, as a sinful, broken human being, could be reconciled with a perfect, holy God and experience an eternity with Him in heaven. By His grace, over the past few years God’s been opening up my eyes to the weight that this fact holds, but for most of my life I was extremely apathetic despite “believing” in the gospel. If anything, for a long period of time my reaction to hearing the gospel message was something along the lines of: “Oh cool, thanks Jesus. You da man.” It was evident through my reaction to the gospel that my eyes were blind to the overwhelming implications of what it meant that I had been purchased by the blood of the God’s own Son.
A brief aside — something that blows my mind is that God knows all of our sin before we even choose to commit them, yet He still lovingly calls us his children. In my case, God loves me despite all the times I’ve willingly disobeyed His commands and the actions that I’ve felt convicted to do but been too scared to carry out. God loves me despite all the times I’ve lusted over and stumbled because of things I’ve seen around me and on the internet; He loves me despite the disgusting secret sins I’ve committed in my thoughts and my heart. It’s a crazy love, it really is. Regardless of the bumps and curves we have encountered and will continue to encounter in our walk of faith, He offers forgiveness and is continually transforming the hearts of those who put their trust in Jesus to be more Christ-like.
“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” — Isaiah 53:4–6
My first term of university uprooted most of this spiritual complacency I had carried with me for so much of my life. 1A was rough. As circumstances took more and more away from me, it came to a point where I could no longer be apathetic about my faith. There was a lingering sadness from a relationship I had pursued that did not work out. There was a lot of loneliness from being away from family and friends. School was really, really hard. Finding a co-op job seemed impossible. CCF was scary when there were so many unfamiliar faces. I didn’t really connect with anyone in my residence and I struggled to get to know my classmates as well. This was a complete 180° flip from my previous life in Calgary where life was much, much more comfortable.
It was through these tough times in which grace was revealed to me. As I experienced the loss of many things that I had once taken for granted, God gave me clarity as to how they were actually gifts given to me by a good God; gifts which I hadn’t done anything to deserve. God also opened up my eyes to his constant presence in my life — in good or bad times, God is God and God is good. Joy in knowing Christ is not dependent on circumstance. Even if I had nothing else, I had Him. I would always have Him.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” — James 1:17
I am eternally thankful for UWCCF. I felt like God really used my earlier years in the fellowship to allow for the head knowledge of the gospel I had accumulated growing up in the church to flow deeper into a real heart knowledge of who God is. For the first time, I was surrounded by people in a similar life stage as me whose outward actions were a reflection of an inward reality which had been changed through encounters with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I saw how they desired to know more of the Lord through studying the Word, I witnessed their fervency of prayer in lifting up petitions to God, I saw the way they would sacrifice their time to be a part of God’s mission on campus and I saw their heart for those around them, desiring to encourage believers in truth and share the gospel with those who were lost. They weren’t perfect by any means, but I saw how God had so powerfully worked in many of their lives that they couldn’t help but strive to live for Him. I felt that God was at work and I wanted to be a part of it.
Being in my fourth year of university now, there’s still a ton to learn. Though God’s taught me so much throughout my time in Ontario and changed me in many ways, lots of the struggles I continue to face were the same struggles I faced in first year. School’s always been an idol for me, I’m really not loving towards some people, I have a ton of conscious/semi-conscious/unconscious pride that I face consequences for daily and in many ways I still feel like my life is a rollercoaster of spiritual highs and lows sometimes. However, I’ll trust that by God’s grace, as vast and unimaginable as it is, one day I’ll spend an eternity with Him in heaven because Jesus paid the price for my wretched sins by dying in my place on a Roman cross. Three days later, Jesus rose to life — just as Christians will be raised to life when Jesus comes again. Praise God — this is the hope we cling to during our time on earth.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16