Does the question, “Who am I?” ever come to your mind. That became and has remained an important question for me as I’ve lived my life. Going back to the beginning, I had quite a unique childhood. My parents were missionaries to Brazil where my dad was a pilot. I was born and lived there until my family moved to California when I was 10 years old. One of the greatest privileges I had growing up was parents who modeled real faith in God. They taught me about God using stories in the Bible and one January, just after my 5th birthday, I prayed and asked God to come into my life. That day I became a Christian when I realized that I needed a savior from my sin. You see I had been freaked out by the story of Noah and the flood. If God hated sin enough to destroy the sinner, then I was in big trouble because I had a sin problem. I just couldn’t keep from doing things that I didn’t want to do. I’ve watched my own kids come to this realization around the same age. When my parents told me that I didn’t have to be afraid, that God had taken care of the sin problem forever through the death of Jesus, I took their offer to pray with them for God to forgive my sin and come into my life. I don’t remember being afraid of God after that.
The great thing about my parents is that all through junior high and high school they were solid role models of what it meant to be a Christ follower. I never had cause to walk away from the faith of my parents because it was obviously very real and backed by real evidence. But, a kid still has to be confronted with the choice to either follow Jesus, or reject him. That’s where I found myself the summer between 8th and 9th grade. I was hanging with bad company and found myself one day stealing alcohol from a grocery store and then drinking it with these friends. It happened more than once. Around the same time, I was exposed to pornography by my neighbor. I confessed to my true best friend, and he said something I will never forget. “That’s not who you are!” That moment, I decided that he was right. I belonged to God and wanted to live my life for him. Walking away from those friends was a life-changing moment, deciding to follow Jesus with all of my heart. You could say that I gave him full control of my life. Not long after that, at 16 years old, I was baptized, and from that point there was no turning back for me. My friend and I chose a verse from the Bible to be the basis of our lives. It says this, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer up yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, his good and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1,2) This verse was and still is very influential in my worldview and in devoting my life to the worship of God.
It was in college, confronted with the freedom of the beginning of adulthood, distanced from my parents, that I struggled with doubts. I began to question the truth of the Bible, and some of the big questions like the problem of evil, the brutality of the Old Testament in the Bible, the presence of other religious beliefs about God and other world views, and the bad example of many who claim to be Christians. Along the way, through some philosophy classes that I took during my junior year, I became convinced that the Christian world view made the most sense.
Around the same time, the summer before my senior year, I discovered how weak and needy I was. I was 21 years old, alone in Montana, working at a gas station, and playing piano on Sundays for a small church. Again the issue became, “Who am I?” Would I hang out in the bars and drink with the people my age, or would I be content to spend my weekends alone? Would I cave under the ridicule I was facing from my employer for being a Christian? After wrestling with these critical decisions, this time God’s grace and love for me gave me the strength to choose right. I grew very close to God that year, because I needed him. I was in awe of not only the beauty of creation, but the beauty of God himself.
Since then, I have devoted myself to following Jesus, living all of my life for his glory. My identity as a child of God, through believing and receiving Jesus as Lord, is what helps me navigate life. My knowledge of his unfailing love and experience of his amazing grace keeps me growing. Knowing that I belong to God gives me great confidence, joy and hope in this life, and it is my greatest privilege to offer up myself daily as a living sacrifice to him. That’s who I am, and it’s all because of God in my life.