This week is really special for me. Every April, Cadence Student Ministries (a ministry who specifically works with military students stationed overseas) goes on a high school youth retreat with American military high schools from all across Europe. At this retreat last year, I lead worship and gave my testimony and a call to commitment in front of over 500 students and staff. The previous year, I was just another kid in crowd… and I didn’t believe in God.
. I know I talk about “the hour I first believed” a lot. Even outside this blog I bring it up in almost every faith conversation I have. Call me obsessive, but this single night in my life was the moment. The only one that really matters. In a single moment, I was saved from much-deserved eternal damnation and brought into a life of light and hope. So yeah, this moment is pretty much on the forefront of my mind. I’ll never stop being thankful for that night or telling people about it. It blows my mind. And it happened two years ago at this CSM retreat. I wrote a short description of this moment a few months later (tucked in the middle of a larger piece of writing) before I had a church or really had anything but a bible and some raw faith. What I like about this writing is that it’s so… human. If I wrote about this moment now, it would be saturated with Christian lingo, theological terms and evangelical imagery. But I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t want any of it. I just wrote what I saw. So here you go:
The Hour I First Believed
“I left for the spring break retreat with my youth group, just to spend some time with my friends and get away from stress at home, but God had much bigger plans than I did. Although the trip was fun and packed with events and new friends, I found myself often feeling alone and feeling as if there was something else tugging at me. The messages were eerily relevant to my circumstances and the speaker’s honesty and fresh perspective were cutting. I continued to try to resist what I now know as the Holy Spirit, until one night during worship, I couldn’t any more. I have no other way to honestly describe the moment that I felt God than with an image: His powerful hand, reaching inside of my chest, taking hold of my dead, shattered and rotting human heart and clutching it suddenly. My spirit violently jerked to life for the first time in my sixteen years on this earth, gasping for air. The connection was immediate, electric and incredible; if you’ve felt it, you know. In that moment nothing else in the world mattered, not my pride, not anyone around me, not my past, future or even my life itself. I realized that nothing else on earth could fulfill me like He could and I was completely and totally His.
Later that night, as I sat praying for hours, I tried and tried to stutter out an apology for everything I had done and for not listening to Him. I knew that I should repent, but I was terrified, ashamed and I didn’t even know how. And then I again felt Him; this time He brought me the understanding that I could never apologize sufficiently. He reminded me that He already knows everything about me and He loves me anyway. So I spent the rest of the night praising Him, instead of mourning for myself. When I went home, people told me that my “camp-high” would go away and I would go back to normal life. It wasn’t a camp high; it was my Savior and my life completely changed.”
Another version I found in a draft for a college application essay:
. “In that moment, I realized that I thought I was just too far gone to be a Christian: that big faith was for other people and that I could never follow Christ. I was ashamed of my past, and rightfully so. In a panic, I began to turn away, trying to hide my shame. I wasn’t good enough for Him; I had nothing to offer to Him… But He rushed to catch these thoughts replying, “You can never be good enough, but I love you. I need nothing from you, but I have everything to give you.” So I gave Him my life: an unworthy reply to a righteous and perfect love. The only thing I had to give. I was so ready for something in life to be fulfilling and worthwhile and He swiftly revealed the fact that He is the only one that can provide true satisfaction. I always thought that big faith and full surrender were for missionaries and monks; everyone else could go to church on Sunday and be nice to poor people and that was okay by Jesus. With the Lord’s righteous sword, my first task was defeating that image of mediocrity. My life became a spiritual battlefield, and I will never regret it.”
I just can’t help but get excited when I read these. Not because they’re revolutionary or extraordinary passages of writing… but just because… well, it’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s just plain transcendent. I don’t know if I can ever actually explain what I mean, but I hope I’m getting across something.
So, Happy Birthday to me. Time to live my life in celebration.
Rooted and Established in Love,
[[Also, Cadence Student Ministries is an awesome organization who does so much for us military youth! The dedication and love of their servants changed my life and helped me grow in my faith daily. I am thankful beyond words for the role they have played in my walk with God!]