Nevertheless, after the crash I longed for direction and tried going back to church. The adults were surprisingly nice to me, even knowing what I had done. Encouraged by their kindness, I decided to go to youth group but was quickly turned off by the goofy games. And my peers turned out to be far less welcoming than their parents.
At this point I entered an extremely frustrating season that lasted for months. I struggled with many questions about the Bible. I would listen to the sermon at church and wonder if God would accept me, let alone love me, after what I had done. There weren't many people my age with whom I could discuss my concerns. So I resolved to read through the New Testament of a student Bible that my mother had given me. I began reading about Jesus every night.
When I did, I bounced back and forth between self-condemnation and false hope in my good behavior. It was exhausting, to say the least. The more I tried to be a Christian, the emptier I felt. The more I tried to figure faith out, the more confused I became. There were many times that I wanted to wash my hands of the whole thing, but there was a gnawing in my heart drawing me back to the Jesus I was reading about. I could not get him out of my mind.
During the spring of my senior year, Sugar Land First United Methodist hosted a revival weekend featuring a guest preacher from a Methodist church in Tennessee.
The preacher recounted the biblical story of a man who had been paralyzed for a long time, lying by a pool of water in Jerusalem. His community believed that when the water of the pool was stirred, whoever could get into the water first would be healed. For a man who hadn't moved for 38 years, this proved to be a challenge.
Jesus asked the man a question: "Do you want to be well?" It seemed to me like a strange question. The man answered that he did, but began making excuses about why he couldn't get into the water. Jesus then healed him on the spot.
The preacher turned to us in the crowd and asked the same question. "Do you want to be well?"
All my life I had been paralyzed by fear, by depression, by pride. And I always had an excuse for why I did what I did. The preacher cut through all of that by repeating the question that Jesus asked the man. I remember vividly thinking, If Jesus will heal me, I want to be well.
That night, I didn't pray a special prayer or speak in tongues or fill out a card or even cry. But I did ask Jesus to make me well. It was a quiet moment between the Lord and me, but that day he began to open my eyes, open my ears, and soften my heart. He made me his own.
Old sins die hard, and without much discipleship early on, my first years as a believer were a little unstable. But the God who justifies us also sanctifies us, and at the right time, he brought into my life wise and faithful men to correct me and disciple me. Over the next few years I began to realize that my sins were forgiven, not because of anything I had done but because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. I learned that I was called to live for him day in and day out, not just when I found it convenient. God had purchased me completely, not just partially, and because of that my life was no longer my own. I belonged to him.