Hi, I’m Kristen and I’m 31 years old. I go to Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA, with my husband. Today we heard a sermon from Pastor Bryan Wilkerson, the lead pastor, about “Needing Jesus.” He talked about how challenging it can be to convince people who aren’t Christians, or don’t ascribe to “needing Jesus,” that Jesus is the King.
Yup. I was raised as an Episcopalian, and while I have always been spiritual and prayed to God throughout my life on a regular basis, it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I started a relationship with Jesus and joined a non-denominational Christian church (Grace Chapel).
In the past, I had a very biased view about people who referred to Jesus like he was a friend. I had experiences in my past where I felt like someone was trying to “force” me to believe in Jesus, which felt fake and turned me away from the idea altogether. The choice to have a relationship with Christ must be one a person makes from his or her own heart. I think every person should be free to choose the path in life, including faith, that resonates most with their heart. Do I believe that following Jesus is the best path? Yes, but I don’t hold it against someone if they choose differently than I do.
In the liberal, progressive context (family, town, region of the country, college, etc.) that I was raised in, and the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I lived for most of my twenties, it was not often that I met followers of Jesus. Though there seems to be a strong connection between conservatism and Christianity, I am marching to the beat of my own drum, because I believe Jesus is God but I am also socially open-minded and would call myself a moderate when it comes to politics.
My path to finding Jesus was a winding one, with many factors contributing along the way. But I will say that undergoing hardship was a form of daily surrender that led me to truly and fully rely on God, because I realized that I couldn’t survive by figuring out everything on my own. It is so hard to give up that desire for complete control!
What a wonderful, relieving, and peaceful feeling it has been to surrender to God, and to Jesus. It is a letting-go, a freedom. It is a relief, knowing that I co-create with my Creator, rather than believing that any success or failure in my life is 100% up to me to control and navigate. If we are in the hardest moment of our life and we think “only I can pull myself out of this,” or “only my spouse” can pull me out of this, than we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed. Yes, it’s important to believe in and develop one’s own capabilities, and to love oneself fully and entirely, the good and the bad. Yes, a spouse or a friend should be dependable and loving! And yes, it’s healthy and important to have support from family, friends, and other positive people in one’s life. But everyone is human, and people fall short sometimes. Including me, including ourselves. In those dark moments, it has been so important to me to have God–and Jesus–there with me. I am not alone.
I’ve been through some difficult challenges in the past two years in my personal life, as well as some incredible joys and milestones. The reason I started to develop a relationship with Jesus is because he represents love and strength, and works hand-in-hand with God to bring His message to people on Earth. If you’re not sure about this, just read the Bible. Or, talk to someone who’s life has been changed in a positive way because they came to Christ.
Is there anyone else in history who has lived his entire life without sin, performed miracles, came to deliver Mankind from death and sin, and inspired millions upon millions of people to live a better life? No. There is only one such teacher, and He is Jesus Christ, Son of God.
I understand that me saying this can make a lot of people uncomfortable. We don’t like feeling like we “need” anything, or that we should do something just because someone tells us to. We want to feel that our choice resonates with our values and our heart. I get that and I respect that. I’m just saying that following Jesus and depending on God, bringing God into my daily life and activities, has been one of the most strengthening, honest, and wonderful choices I’ve ever made.
Now…back to the Church service my husband and I went to today. After Pastor Bryan’s sermon on “Needing Jesus,” we heard a testimonial from a man who talked about finding Jesus. He told us that as a young man he started a family, but drugs, addiction, and a feeling of emptiness inside took over his life. Through friends he was introduced to the idea of having a personal relationship with Jesus. Fastforward to his life now, as a devout Christian. He said that his old life was filled with unhappiness, anger, resentment, sin and feeling empty. He said when he surrendered his life to God, Jesus’ helping hand was there for him immediately. He said that now his life as a Christian is characterized by love, forgiveness, hope, a sense of belonging, a mending of relationships (he paused here in his story, unable to speak and on the brink of crying), and not feeling empty inside anymore.
I would agree. Carrying around the love of God, having an awareness that God loves me purely and unconditionally woven into the fabric of my being, and being able to pray or talk to Jesus during moments of anxiety or fear, is life-changing. It is wonderful to walk around and to know that what you carry inside is pure love, and that with God’s pure love, anything and everything is possible. When in need, I ask, “God please be with me.” And the answers flow from there.
Today, I cried when I listened to this man’s testimonial. My husband was sitting next to me, and we were holding hands. It was a very tender and strengthening moment. I knew, at that moment, that I am ready to be baptized. I filled out a card to indicate that I’m ready, and dropped it into a collection basket on my way out. I will let you know what happens next.