My earliest childhood memories come attached to a childlike faith that God was real. He was the creator, and I knew I had sinned – at least a time or two. Or 724. Something like that. This God had a son, Jesus, that died on a cross a long time ago so I could go to heaven one day. That was the Christian narrative from my perspective, and I vaguely remember wanting so badly to be saved mostly because hell sounded awfully painful, and it seemed to be the obvious choice to avoid it.
“If you openly declare that Jesus is LORD and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” -Romans 10:9-10
I did it. At the age of 7, after having the pastor come to my house to make sure I understood what I was doing, I publicly professed Jesus Christ as my LORD and savior and was baptized. I wanted with everything in me to sin as little as possible from that point forward and to make God proud of me…because that is what it’s all about right? Seemed like a good plan to me. I had decided to follow Jesus. That’s what I said, and I think it’s what I wanted I just had no idea how.
Fast forward 9 years. I’m a Junior in high school and one moment I’m in class and the next I wake up confused about why I’m in a hospital puking charcoal and seeing some pretty wicked hallucinations. How did I even get there? A drug overdose. Really? What a curveball! My parents had me involved in all the things. I did every sport and extra-curricular. I went to all the church summer camps, FCA morning prayer meetings. YoungLife. You name it, I did it. This didn’t make sense. Surely these ministries were to blame for not getting through to me! Or maybe it was my parent’s fault.
To this day I could not tell you what I was thinking. I’ve tried to replay the months that led up to that week and the hours leading up to that day. Most of it is muddy or my brain has blocked it. What I do vividly remember is being at a camp just months before and hearing a sermon that shook me. The speaker made it clear that if you were living the way I was living, you needed to repent and turn away from your sins. I thought, “I need to do that. But I really don’t want to yet.”
I spent years blaming everyone except myself for the way my high school crash-and-burn story played out. It wasn’t my church or a ministry that missed the mark. Not my parents that dropped the ball. I can’t blame the ones who gave me drugs. IT WAS ME. That was a hard pill to swallow. Pun intended.
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” – Jeremiah 29:13
I knew one thing: I WAS NEEDY. I needed to figure out on a practical level how to follow Jesus and live the way God wanted me to...and I wanted to start over. The logical option was to apply to the Christian University my pastor had attended. Yep. Not sure how much I prayed about it but that was my goal. So I went to Carson-Newman University.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, For the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3
I believed a fairy-tale version of happily-ever-after was awaiting me the moment I enrolled in my new Christian university. In reality, I fluctuated between hot mess and hot pursuit of holiness. I had no idea who I was or what I was doing. I had never read my bible on my own and rarely prayed, but I picked up on the trend that “good” girls had a “quiet time,” which involved reading their bibles, all by themselves. That was brand new. So I tried it out…Ecclesiastes. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t exactly transformational seeing as how I cheated in my Old and New Testament classes on the regular.
God used the Navigators bible study I began to attend to really get me in the word. He used the leaders, Twana and Tracy Mullins, to share life with me. Twana called me at 6 in the morning every morning for months just to say, “Good morning! Time to get in the word.” I looked forward to her calls and felt loved. I was consistently reading the bible for the first time ever and praying more.
Twana was the first person I could think of to talk to when I reached a breaking point with my cycle of failures. There was a lack of love for Jesus in my life and I told her I wanted to feel love for Jesus but I just didn’t. Her response? Scripture:
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” -John 14:21
Twana reassured me: Read the word; trust that what I read is true and obey what I learn. That’s how I love Jesus! Deal. I was all in! The promise in that verse, that Jesus will love me and reveal himself to me, penetrated my heart and mind in a way I couldn’t describe. Thankfully, Paul could in Philippians 2:12-13. He says we should “work out” our salvation or work hard to show the results of it FOR IT IS GOD WORKING IN US GIVING US THE DESIRE AND POWER TO DO WHAT PLEASES HIM. Mic drop. Thanks Paul for summing up what I wrestled through in college, and again 3 years ago, and again last week!
The Journey There is a children’s book by R.C. Sproul, “The Knight’s Map” based on Jesus’ parables about the in Matthew 13:45-46. The knight, Sir Charles, heard rumors about the Great King but had not actually laid eyes on Him. Then he received a letter from the Great King inviting him on a
journey to follow his map to find a wonderful treasure – the Pearl of Great Price. I highly recommend this book for both children and adults as it beautifully illustrates that the “treasure” can only be found if we trust in what God has revealed to us through his word. Jesus Christ alone is the treasure.
As I have been on my own “Knights Journey,” Jesus has been faithful to reveal Himself to me. What Twana did was called discipleship. She was just trusting the Great King’s map (the bible) which led her on a path of going and making disciples of all nations…and teaching the new disciples to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20 ). The word is my map, God is my king, and Jesus is my treasure and it has been a blood, sweat, and tears kind of journey to even make sense of it all.
After wanderings and dead ends, Sir Charles finally trusted the map from the Great King. It forced him to go down a narrow road with a small gate and a steep difficult slope, but then he encountered the Prince:
“The map led you to me. I am the Pearl of Great Price,’ the prince said.
‘I don’t understand,’ said the knight.
‘Sir Charles, my father and I want you to know us. That is why we have called you. Come with me, and I will take you to my father. His kingdom is just beyond this mountain. There, you will dwell with us, and we will dwell with you.’’
When I was young I had accepted the invitation from the King, but disregarded the map part! God used that time of wandering to eventually bring Twana into my life. Now I constantly look for other wanderers and beg them to read the map! I have found the pearl of great price and my heart is to share it with any and all who will listen.
Will you do the same?
Do you read the map?
Trust the king. Read the map and share it – JESUS – with others.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6