Why I Love Jesus and How that Came About
A year ago I was in Colombia, South America.
Sometime early in 2013 my grandma Jean was over and she said that she was putting together a team of ladies to go to Colombia to teach some Indian ladies how to knit and crochet and she thought I should go. What?! I was so surprised. Me, go to Colombia?! Crazy! I was more surprised when my parents agreed so soon. All right. So I was going to Colombia! I didn’t know anything about Colombia before I went. I didn’t even know how to spell it (It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia!). I was terrified of going. I didn’t think I would like it. (I was dead wrong!)
Me with Grandma Jean
I could never understand my sister. Adalia, how she could want to leave our home and family and go to New Zealand. I was perfectly happy with my life. I loved my home, and my friends, and my family. I couldn’t imagine how anyone would want to leave the comfort of their home and go off somewhere else to live. I would have been perfectly happy with living a boring, mundane, self-centered life.
Adalia, me, and Judah several years ago
Because I was. I mean, my life’s pretty great. But it could be so much better! First of all, I didn’t really care that much about God. Yeah, my family’s Christian and I’ve grown up in an awesome Christian home. I was a Christian and I’d been baptized. But I didn’t fully understand it. I knew I was missing something, and I even knew what. But I didn’t care. I knew I was only thinking of myself and I wasn’t letting God have control of my life. But I was fine with that. I was having fun doing my own thing. I thought, I’ll just wait till I go on a mission trip to get all ‘spiritual.‘ Well.
That is what happened, though. I went on a mission trip and ‘got all spiritual’. Why? Because I finally realized how big God is and how real and serious this whole ‘God thing’ is. I realized that God isn’t just something that we hold onto to get us to heaven. God is real and loving and he cares about us all in a personal way.
The Indians we were teaching how to knit and crochet were from the Paez tribe. Several of the Paez had been persecuted for their faith. I didn’t know that still happened. I mean, sure, I’d read Richard Wurmbrand’s book, but those things haven’t happened for a long time, right? Wrong. Christians are being persecuted all over the world. I didn’t even know that! But it was my own fault, because I didn’t care, so why would I know? This realization really impacted me. Obviously, I decided, if these Christians are being persecuted like this and they are still strong in their faith, this is real, and God must be worth it.
Two of the Paez ladies wearing their traditional dress
I was still afraid of Colombia all the way up until we were preparing to land in Bogotá and I looked out the window and saw Colombia. I saw this beautiful, amazing country, and all my fears simply vanished and were replaced with an open, accepting, mindset ready for anything that would be thrown at me. I was hardly afraid at all. And Colombia is dangerous. I think the reason I felt so safe is because I knew that I was there for God- if he didn’t want me there, it wouldn’t have happened. I had followed God’s calling and I was doing his work. This doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing bad could happen, of course. But I realized that whatever did happen was God’s plan. He took me to Colombia for a specific reason, and if part of his plan included scary or ‘bad’ things, well, I’m okay with that. Because God knows everything and he wants what’s best for us. Whatever happens, I thought, is fine. I just want to go along with God’s plan. I know I’ll be safe even if something terrible happens. Even though I could be in physical danger, God’s still in control; he always is. If I die, well, hey, I get to see Jesus sooner, so that’s awesome!
It’s weird, being in another country. But not in the ways you would think. For me, the strangest thing was the normalcy of it all. It’s not really something I can explain. But you’re just there. And it’s amazing.
When I was in Colombia I learned so much. I learned about Colombia, for one thing. But I learned about God and about myself more than I could have imagined. Our project was to teach Indian women how to knit and crochet, and they were so happy about it. They thanked us for helping them knowing they had nothing to give us in return. But I got so much out of that trip, I really did. I never could have imagined that a mere two weeks would be so life-changing for me.
When I got home, well, it was just awful. I love Colombia so much, not just the country; but the people and the ministry. It’s so amazing. And then you just have to go home and return to your normal life as if nothing happened. Because for everyone else, nothing has really happened. Yeah, right. I didn’t do that. First of all, I spent about two weeks moping around doing nothing and getting behind on schoolwork. Correction: I wasn’t doing nothing. I was reading my Bible and books about Colombia and missing people. But it took me a while to realize that I had to get up and do things again. I couldn’t just stay in my room forever. So I did. I caught up on my schoolwork and I started doing things again and it was sort of okay.
Throughout this whole time I was really thinking a lot about Jesus. What he did for us (he died!) and why. What that means for us. How much he loves us. And I realized that God really loves us for who we are. We don’t need to put on a show and try to be perfect for God. Just the opposite, in fact; we can go to God when we are really happy and doing good and looking fantastic, but we can also go to him when we’re stuck in a rut, have no idea what to do, and are a total mess. That won’t change his love for us. His love for us will never change. He loves us so much that he sent his only son to die for us. Think about that long and hard! He’s God, he can do whatever he wants, and anything, and whatever, and yet he chose to become one of us, live like us, with us, as one of us, and then die like us; so that we don’t have to die. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. We all deserve to die(Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God). But we don’t have to. God took care of that for us. We only need to accept his gift of life and give him control of our lives. I had already done that first part. I accepted his gift of life. But I didn’t give him control of my life. Now I realize that was so crazy. I think about my life without Jesus in charge and I think about my life now and I wonder how I ever thought there was a choice. It is so much better to have God in control.
We try to plan out our lives ourselves, and then we get into a huge mess and blame God for something that’s our fault! The whole situation could have been avoided if we asked God what he wanted rather than focus on our own desires. People ask all the time, ‘why does God let bad things happen?’ And of course ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ I don’t know why bad things happen. Sometimes we bring them about ourselves. God knows everything so of course he knows what’s best for us. If we put God in charge of our lives and obey him, we’ll have much better lives than we would if we just followed our own emotions and thoughts. God tells us no for a reason, and sometimes the reason is because whatever that is could be harmful to us. God doesn’t want to see us hurt. We disobey God, don’t listen to him, block him out, and those things that God knew would harm us do happen because we didn’t know. We could have known if we listened to God, but we didn’t. I’m not at all saying that bad things never happen to Christians. That’s stupid. Bad things happen to everyone and they’re not always or usually because we disobeyed God or because he’s not happy with us. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. You are not going to guarantee your spot in heaven or hell by how good or bad you are. Bad things happen all the time and we don’t always know why.
The second question, ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ That’s a simple one. God doesn’t send people to hell! People choose that path. God doesn’t send anyone anywhere. We all have free will, the ability to choose. God gives us two options. Accept his free gift of eternal life or don’t accept it, try to get into heaven on your own, and fail. You have to be perfect to get into heaven. Why? Well, I’m not really sure. But I don’t think God can allow evil into his realm. Although I couldn’t tell you exactly why, it still makes sense to me. So now you’re probably wondering, what’s the whole point of this? You just said we can all go to heaven and then you said we have to be perfect which no one is. Yeah, I’m getting there. Jesus was perfect. He lived on earth as a human and he never sinned; because he’s God, so he has that ability. He had to live a sinless life. He died on the cross, and as he took all our sins on him and God’s wrath was satisfied, his perfection was made available for us. When we accept Jesus’ gift of free life, his pure sinlessness covers our sin and God sees his perfection in us. That’s how we get into heaven. Not by anything we can ever do; but by Jesus. So there is a choice. Accept this gift or don’t. It’s so simple. So then why is it such a hard choice for us to make? (I don’t know that answer to that question. I’m putting that out there for you to think on)
So when you realize that someone loves you so much as to die for you, a horrible, painful, agonizing death, how can you not be affected by that? God loves you and he’ll never stop loving you. He wants to spend eternity with you. He does. He wants that so much that he gave his son to die so that you can spend eternity with him. That’s a huge sacrifice. He did it just for you. He did it for all of us, really. For each of us.
I’m so small, so insignificant. One of seven billion people on earth right now. Yet God cares about me specifically. He cares about you! He cares about everyone, yet somehow he loves each person in an individual way. And hey, do you know just how much God loves you? Psalm 139:17-18 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. That’s so crazy to think about. I couldn’t love seven billion people, each separately, for who they are, hear their every prayer and cry and praise. But God does that. How? We can’t understand God and so we try to make sense of the universe by sticking labels on everything. Time. Space. But God’s not limited by those things. Just like he wasn’t conquered by death when Jesus died and then rose from the dead. God’s amazing.
And there’s a book telling us all that I just told you (how do you think I knew that?!) and so much more. It details God’s love for us, Jesus’s life on earth, his teachings and his miracles, his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, his victory over death, and so much more. It’s called the Bible. There is so much encouragement and instruction and love packed into that book. And history too. But hey, give it a try. If you’ve read the Bible before, read it again, and try to really understand it. Really think about it. If you’ve never read it, go ahead. You can start out with a chapter or two and see if you like it. You don’t have to make a commitment; just get into it enough to see if it interests you. You might want to begin in Psalms or just dive right into the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Maybe you’ll begin with the apostle Paul’s letters or some of the Old Testament prophecy. Romans really goes into what God did for us and what it means, and Genesis is a great start too.
So that’s why I love Jesus.