“Religion says: God will love us if we change. The gospel says: God’s love changes us.”
I believe a testimony is a very personal thing, and people can be as vulnerable as they want to when it comes to sharing it. Given the fact that this is the world wide web, there are some details I’ll leave out for the sake of how personal it is, but if you ever want to meet in person or ask me about my experience growing in the Lord, please message me!
My testimony is not a dramatic one that calls for an epic story of doing horrible, unspeakable things and then finding Jesus. But regardless of what my story is, it’s still important to share it. Regardless of how you came to know Jesus, epic story or not, we were all standing on the same cliff between heaven and hell. It’s important to share how the Lord has shaped my life and is continuing to shape it. I am on mission wherever I am…not just on a mission trip.
With that being said, I grew up in Olton, Texas. It’s a small town with a lot of heart, and I don’t regret growing up there…but like many small towns, it is filled with cliques, gossip, and hypocrites. I’m not saying this to demean Olton, it really is a solid community with amazing people, but in a world full of sinners you have to recognize that no town is perfect.
I can tell you I grew up in church, but I don’t think I necessarily grew up in Christ. Going to church was more of an obligation than a desire. In a town like Olton, it was definitely noticed if you were involved in church or not and generally frowned upon if you weren’t.
Ever since I learned who Jesus was when I was little, I knew He was there. There was never a “whaza” moment of when Jesus entered into my life—he had always been a part of my life. Whether I recognized Him there daily is a different story.
I felt like I had “accepted Jesus into my heart” at an early age, but I didn’t “make it official” until I was at an all girls church camp around eleven years old or so. I didn’t get baptized until I was twelve because I was embarrassed that I was older than my other friends who had already been baptized at seven or eight.
Baptism didn’t transform or change me. I lived my life knowing I should never cuss or treat people badly because I was a Christian, but prayer was never a big part of my life nor was reading scripture. Jesus was only thought about on Sunday. If anyone asked, I claimed to be a Christian. But looking back now, I was not pursuing Jesus. I was just going through the motions and living a very legalistic lifestyle. A lifestyle of do’s and don’ts for reasons that I didn’t understand. A life when Jesus never really crossed my mind.
My hometown church is a good church filled with sweet people, but I just felt like I didn’t have a strong community there. It was mainly due to my peers. I constantly felt judged and left out. I felt like everyone was friends with each other, and I was just the girl that showed up. No one bothered to pursue me. No one bothered to reach out to me. It was because if this lack of community that I eventually stopped going to church and youth altogether.
At school, I was close friends with people that avoided talking about spirituality. None of them went to my church, and some didn’t go to church at all. I didn’t hang out with the friends that went to my church at school. I was not in their friend circle. But after awhile I noticed that these Godly, perfect students at church were not who they were in school. They were hypocrites that did exactly the opposite of Christianity. (Of course, I can’t say that I wasn’t a hypocrite either). I came to the conclusion that there was no such thing as a true, solid Christian that could be my age. I was convinced the last people that truly loved Jesus were the ones in my grandparent’s generation.
I do want to point out that I still thankful for the “outside of church” friends that I had because I know that being a Christian does not mean to only surround yourself with other Christians. It’s important to pursue people beyond your Christian bubble. I just I didn’t have any Christian friends that heavily invested in me spiritually, prayed for me, and held me accountable at the time.
Throughout junior high and high school my biggest struggle was dealing with being left out and not fitting in. You’re probably thinking, “Wow, how cliche. Sounds like a Disney channel original movie.” Well yes, being left out is a struggle for anybody at any age, but it’s especially hard when you’re a teenager trying to discover who you are. I tried to convince myself I would be popular if I were ___. I was never truly proud of who I was. I always felt like I was lacking in something someone else had.
Here were my reasonings:
I was terrible at sports in a town where sports define you.
I was a half white, half Asian chick in a school filled predominately with Hispanic and white students.
My dad didn’t make enough money for me to be friends with the “rich” kids and too much money to be friends with the “poor” kids.
I was too skinny.
I wasn’t pretty like the other girls.
To top it off for amusement, I wore glasses and braces at the same time; and in high school, I wore a back brace because of my scoliosis! (Har, har, har)
I remember sobbing in the garage when I got home from school, and looking out the window at school wishing I could get out of “prison.”
Since my flaws were all I could focus on, I decided to find my identity in academics and in music. My identity was not found in Christ. It was found in the things I accomplished. This allowed for my struggle with pride to start emerging.
This kind of mindset went on all the way until I left for college. When you grow up in a small-town, you can’t really change your reputation. Everyone knows your past. When I finally left to go to Texas Tech (a university I was at first reluctant about because of how close to Olton it was), I was determined to make a new identity for myself: to be super popular.
Well, that turned out to be another life lesson.
While at Tech, I decided I didn’t want to be one of those kids that left home for college and never went to church. So I decided to go to First Baptist Lubbock. Not for the sake of growing in the Lord, but for my pride reasons. I went alone that first Sunday, but over time I started to make friends—real Christian friends. A group of girls invited me to have lunch with them…no one had ever done that to me before. After getting to know people in the church and seeing how much they genuinely cared about me, I came to the realization that not all Christian people my age were hypocrites. That there really are Godly men and women my age that love Jesus.
Getting involved in the college ministry at First Baptist Lubbock is what really kicked off my spiritual journey to new heights. I made friends with people in my life group, I got involved in Sigma Phi Lambda (a national Christian sorority), I went on mission trips, I attended bible studies and I sought discipleship. Being surrounded by amazing Christians both young and old, having people pursue me and pour into me, and absorbing spiritual wisdom led to a spike in my spiritual walk. I had never had so much spiritual growth in my life.
It was finally instilled in me that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus, and not just about following the do’s and don’ts. I finally realized that you are transformed as a Christian to where you don’t want to do sinful things. Not because you can’t, but because you don’t desire to. My heart began to desire God more than the world. I finally realized what being a Christian truly meant. What pursuing Jesus truly meant.
Over the course of this spiritual growth, I’ve had the opportunity to lead college students and youth, and it’s crazy to see how my previous life struggles helped me connect to these students in a way that I never expected. It’s funny how God will have you go through something that you don’t understand at the time, and to see it used as a way to further His kingdom.
So here I am, a girl trying to adult in this post-college life. A girl still struggling with insecurity, jealousy, anxiousness, and pride. But I’m a lot better than I used to be, and I’m growing every day.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” – Proverbs 3:5-6