No matter who you talk to, everyone has some sort of story to tell. It could be how silly the kids are, the adventure they recently had or some sort of drama in their personal or work life. And people love to get the opportunity to tell those stories to captive audiences. Often overlooked and not nearly shared enough however, is our Jesus story.
The Jesus story is unique to each person. There are a few sort of general outlines for it, and some stories can be quite similar, but each person has their own. I gave my Jesus story in my first post and-so-the-journey-begins, but I’ll give a bit of a brief summary here in case you don’t have time to read that one.
I grew up in church. My dad is/was a choir director and organist and my grandfather was a pastor. I attended church each Sunday from the time I was born up until a bit after graduating high school. I grew up in a youth group and went on mission trips, did local community service and played guitar in the praise band. I had strong faith, or so I thought. Eventually, I left the church and just never really found one where I felt at home. I’m quite shy, so it’s difficult for me to meet people and become a part of things, so it’s probably just as much my fault as it was the fault of the cliques that most social groups have, including churches.
I spent years not really doing anything about faith. I just believed that being a good person was enough. I didn’t pray or read the Bible and I had stopped doing community service. I was just going on day by day, believing that being good was good enough. I felt empty inside and couldn’t figure it out. I also got into partying and drinking and looking for ways to feel better, but nothing really seemed to fill that void.
I met my wife and moved to Indiana. She attended a church and had been for several years, so I went with her each week. I enjoyed the music and sermons, but it was just kind of a Sunday thing for me. I didn’t really do much with it outside of attending each week. We had some marital problems and were in a rough spot when for a few weeks, there were some guys from a men’s group that would go up and give some of their story and how the group was really helping them. I began attending and loved it. I started to feel that fire inside that fresh faith will build. After about a year or so, the group kind of fizzled out.
Then it was back to just the Sunday morning thing and not really doing much else. With my work schedule, it was hard to attend church functions, they always seemed to happen when I was unavailable. Eventually, we stopped attending as regularly as we had, often looking for an excuse to stay home. It was a bit of a drive and out in the country, so when winter rolled around, that was an easy excuse for us to stay home. And then we just stopped completely.
After a few months, we both decided that we needed to be attending a church and discussed where we would start our search. We agreed to one and went the next Sunday. The people were so kind and friendly, the music was great and the pastor, way younger than me, was absolutely on fire for Jesus and delivered a great sermon. We went back the next week. And the next. And we are still there several years later.
This church was beginning a community group program and having not been plugged in too much at our previous church, we decided we needed to sign up for it, regardless of how apprehensive I felt about having to be in a group of people and actually talk. It was a bit strange at first, but I really enjoyed myself and we made some friends pretty quick. My wife had surgery just a couple of months after this began and immediately, our group rallied together and got some help from the church to provide meals for a bit while she was recovering. People were regularly checking up on us and asking what else we needed. We had never really had that kind of connection in our previous church (though I’m sure if we had mentioned a need, it would have been taken care of).
Then just a few months later, I had a heart attack and ended up needing major heart surgery. Our church family again rallied and constantly checked in and had the prayer chain going in no time. I had my surgery and some complications leading to needing a second one before they ever woke me up. That’s when they had trouble getting me to wake back up, finding that my lungs had partially collapsed and I was left in a coma for several days while they tried to get them back to normal. While I was out, I remember having a truly terrifying vision of hell and having the devil tell me that he would see me soon.
That occurred, as best as I can tell, as I was being woken back up. Naturally, the waking up didn’t go so well having been in a nightmare like that. For several months, I really struggled with that nightmare each time I closed my eyes. About 2 months after surgery I decided that I needed to be baptized and I gave myself over to Jesus. I was once again on fire with my renewed faith. I thought that everything was going to be so much better now that I had done that, but anyone who has given themselves over knows that makes you a big target for the enemy.
I continued to struggle with PTSD and my inability to share my feelings and emotions and soon, I had an evening with way too much alcohol and a handful of my painkillers. I just wanted whatever I was feeling to stop. Soon after, my wife convinced me to start counseling and I joined the worship team at church. I began feeling much better emotionally and had been steadily doing more and more to grow my faith.
A year to the day after surgery, the marital problems struck again and we were in a pretty bad way. It seemed like it was over and the situation was hopeless. But we were able to begin counseling and had a couple from our community group sit down with us and mentor us on what a Christ centered marriage looked like. We struggled for a while (and still do from time to time) but things really began to improve and in many ways, our marriage is so much better than it has ever been, with us putting a focus on our faith as individuals and as a couple.
At some point, my faith just exploded and I really began searching for what a relationship with Jesus really looks like. Who is Jesus? Why would He choose me? What do I need to do? And that leads us to today. There have been multiple times in my life where Jesus stood in front of me to bring me to Him, and I strayed off of the path that He set before me each time. Regardless, He never gave up and kept on watching over me, stepping in my way when needed, trying to show me that He was there all along.
You may know who Paul is in the Bible. Do you know who Saul of Tarsus is? It’s literally the same dude. Saul was a devout man of faith. He studied under the best rabbis and intimately knew each word of Mosaic Law. He followed the law religiously (pun intended). When he saw the Christ followers, he knew that they were blasphemers! And the punishment of blasphemy was death. He was (cue Elwood Blues) “on a mission from God” to silence the Christ followers before they could turn other good Jews away from God. It’s likely that he was responsible for the deaths of many of the early church. So how did Saul of Tarsus become one of the most prolific authors of the New Testament? His Jesus story!
Saul was on his way to Damascus to track down some more Christ followers, but on the way something crazy happened! Saul was struck down by a blinding light and was actually blinded. That’s when Jesus approached him and asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) He then told Saul to go to Damascus and wait to hear what he was to do. Saul sat blind for 3 days when Jesus appeared to Ananias and told him to go to Saul. After some apprehension, he obeyed Jesus’ command and healed Saul and Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit! That’s when he changed his name to Paul.
He would start up numerous churches, be imprisoned repeatedly for his faith and would write some of the most important books of the Bible that were letters to churches to help teach and encourage them. Jesus normally isn’t quite so bold when He appears to someone to turn them around, but because Saul obeyed, his life was completely changed forever. A man on a mission to murder Christ followers became one of the leading apostles trying to bring the Good News to the entire world!
So what’s your Jesus story? It doesn’t have to have all of the action and excitement of the latest Marvel movie. Nor does it have to be anything as crazy as being blinded on a road trip. For some, it’s as simple as them having always gone to church and just not knowing that there was a possibility of life without Jesus. Others may have lived their lives in the gutter because of addictions and poor choices, one day having that moment where Jesus stood in front of them and refused to let them continue on. There may be some who were turned off by the church because of an abusive relationship with someone close to them who claimed to be a christian, only to live the complete opposite of what they proclaim, and are one day are shown what true love is and can finally see Jesus.
It’s important to look back and see our story. Often times, the changes in our lives are so drastic that it’s hard to believe the person that we once were. That’s why we need to know what our story is. To see just how much Jesus has changed us and to see how far our journey has taken us from what we once were. And when we know our story, we can share it with others who may be blessed hearing that they have hope! That they too can know our Savior and King and be welcomed into His arms as a child of God!