In my walk with Christ there have been hills and valleys. I’ve faded in and out of understanding the gospel, or of living like I understand the gospel. I struggle with sin, keeping up with spiritual disciplines, and maintaining and eternal perspective. But I do know that I feel most alive when I can see God working, get a glimpse of His design, or simply take a minute to breathe and in reaching the end of myself… I find Him.
I grew up in a Christian home, with parents who would bring our family to church. I can remember looking up and being drawn to the lights on the ceiling when we would worship and I remember accepting God into my life at some point. I considered myself to be a Christian, but I think it was more of a familiarity than a choice.
The summer before my freshman year of High School my parents got divorced and the church I had grown up in finally disbanded after years of relocating and dwindling membership. I dealt with my parents divorce by throwing myself into my schoolwork, and running from my family. My faith had never been tested, and so it weakened. I stopped going to church. I still went to youth group occasionally, but I never felt truly included and so eventually I stopped going there too. I prioritized school, extracurriculars, and friends over God, creating a distance. I had doubts but I wasn’t pursuing answers. I wasn’t seeking God.
The summer leading up to my senior year God started to ripen me. I had put so much of my identity into school and accolades and I was starting to wonder what those things really meant. That summer, I was asked at a RYLA camp in Estes Park what my most valuable achievements were. I spent days thinking through this and my heart started to change. I began to realize that so much of what I had worked for in high school didn’t really matter to me. I got home and boxed up all of my trophies and awards with a new idea of what my values were. Then, I met someone who seemed be really strong in his faith. I was intrigued. I spend the whole first semester of my Senior year thinking about God, but not quite ready to hand my life over.
On December 12th, 2013 everything changed. It was a typical Thursday and I was in the library when my friend approached me. She started talking about Jesus, saying that He was my best friend. I had never talked about faith or religion with this friend before, and the gears in my mind started to slowly turn. As I got into my car heading to an internship, I started to see the ways that God was faithfully pursuing me. I was passing an exit on the highway when I had what I can only describe as an epiphany that had been building for months. Light was shining through the window, tears streaming down my face, and I was overwhelmed by Gods grace. I was overcome by God’s unfailing love for me and reassured that He was there for me. It became clear to me that God had been preparing me the whole time to meet Him. Just as I was reaching a pivotal moment in my life, changing the way I thought about school and success, I met a Christian who directed me to God.
Less than 24 hours later, tragedy struck and I clung to the truth that had been revealed to me. My fellow classmate brought a shotgun to school. Another classmate of mine was killed that day, our library was left destroyed, and the shooter took his own life. My foundation cracked, and my whole world turned upside down. Suddenly I was scared of the dark. Suddenly I couldn’t sleep alone. Suddenly I was forced to face the hard truth that so much in this world is out of my control.
Not only did it seem like my life was spiraling out of control, I was also confronted head on with how real death is. Going to Karl’s funeral pushed me outside the comfort of living day to day and into the prospect of something greater. I could no longer accept agnosticism, reverting back to “I don’t know” constantly. I stopped thinking about trivial things because now there were bigger questions to ask. Why did the shooter do it? Where are my classmates now? What I truly believe to my core was revealed, that there is absolutely something greater and that something greater is Jesus.
I spent the week following the shooting reading a book that called the Shack that addresses the classic apologetic topic of God and tragedy. In reading it, I learned that evil, suffering, and tragedy are the absence of God. He does not create these things, they occur because we live in a broken and sinful world where people choose not to follow God. With my whole heart, I believe that if the shooter had better-known God and His unfailing love, he wouldn’t have made the unfortunate decisions he did that day. As 1st John 4:8 states, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God supported me in my time of need, gave me clarity in a time of chaos, and lead me to salvation.