As a young girl growing up, I had no idea my home was faithless. Sundays were a day to play just like any other, having no significance except to signal the start of a new week. Periodically, there was a prayer at the dinner table, and my dad would make a silly sing-songy rhyme in a larger-than-life voice, sending my brother and me into a fit of giggles. Although I never thought twice about it, I didn’t have a clue as to why we were praying, as it merely seemed to be a formality before we could get to the business of eating.
Despite the lack of faith in my home, my mom enrolled me in a Lutheran preschool. Kiddie College was where I met Mrs. Schmidt, my first teacher of godly influence. I fondly remember her warm eyes, all-encompassing hugs and words of gentle affirmation as she encouraged me in a multitude of ways. Her presence gave me a sense of safety, comfort and peace that my young soul longed for, and I imagine it’s because she was a beacon of Christ’s light.
At preschool, I learned prayers, read Bible stories and sang songs about Jesus, which I wholeheartedly embraced. Despite this, I came to understand my school environment was quite different than my home life. There were many a times when my family would pile into our old sky-blue Honda hatchback, and my dad would look over at our neighbor’s house and launch into a rant about “those Christians.” His disdain-filled tone of voice gave me the impression that the term Christian was a dirty word.
When my preschool years came to an end, so did my exposure to God and Jesus. Sadly, I don’t recall any significant memories surrounding faith until my middle school years.
In seventh grade, I regularly visited a neighborhood Methodist church with my closest friends. Together, we attended the Sunday morning service, religiously sitting in the back of the church in hopes of avoiding any adults. On this particular Sunday, I sensed the service was coming to a close. I was eager to bolt out of the church doors and make a beeline to the local pizzeria. But as my friend’s dad would remark from time to time, the preacher was longwinded. I tried to remain respectful and not let my mind drift into teenage angst over my desire for freshly baked garlic sticks stuffed with mounds of mozzarella cheese.
The pastor’s face spoke of seriousness, so I refocused. “John 3:16 tells that God so loved the world that he sent his only son. That whoever shall believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” He continued, “I know there are some of you here today who do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. We want to invite you to come forward to the front of the church and have someone pray a simple prayer with you. In doing so, you can take hold of the free gift of salvation offered to all who confess they are sinners in need of a Savior.”
Cue the dramatic music because the next few minutes gave way to a spiritual wrestling match deep within my soul. My heart started to race as my stomach commenced to doing flip flops. Timewise, everything seemed to shift to slow motion. I studied the scene as two individuals made their way from the crowded pews to the center aisle, embarking on what seemed like a mile-long journey to the front of the church. Upon arrival, several men greeted them as they exchanged inaudible words and then bowed their heads to pray.
The pastor continued, “I know there is someone out there that the Lord is calling you to Him. Please come up to the alter and let us pray with you.”
I knew deep down to the core of my being he was talking to me. I wanted to go up to the front of the church, but I was paralyzed with fear. My legs seemed to weigh 50 pounds apiece, and my anxiety skyrocketed.
As the internal battle ensued, I kept feeling a call to “Go!” to which I blatantly ignored, firmly replying in my head with a resounding “No, I can’t!”. In the background, the church organ kindly beckoned me forth; but I didn’t budge.
In fact, I didn’t budge from that spiritual stance of prideful fear for many years thereafter.
I had a come to Jesus moment, and I didn’t come.
By the time I had arrived in my young adult years, I was lost and broken. Chaos ruled the day, and I had a nagging sense of being unfulfilled, often questioning whether there wasn’t more to life than just getting through each day only to do it all over the next. I was hungry for something but had no idea for what. At times my life seemed depleted of joy, and I felt dread mingled with anxiety much of the time.
One day I opened my mailbox and pulled out a flyer for a local church. I studied the pictures of couples and families who looked genuinely happy. Intrigued, I flipped the mailer over to reveal an invitation to join an upcoming marriage series. My husband and I were newly married and needed some help in the marriage department. For a brief moment, I felt a surge of hope. Unfortunately, my brevity of hope came crashing down when my husband emphatically opposed. So, I threw the mailer and my optimism into the trash.
One year later, I opened the mailbox to find the same mailer advocating the same topic at the same church. This time I knew I was going, even if solo. After debating back and forth, my husband reluctantly agreed.
Attending the first service was a sensational experience. I truly felt welcomed and found it refreshing to see people casually dressed. There was a café for coffee and breakfast snacks, and the worship setting was void of pews, hymnals and Bibles, which was vastly different from the traditional churches I visited in my youth. But the music sang to my soul, and the pastor’s message was Monday-morning relevant. By the time the service came to an end, I knew I was home!
What I did not know was that this was an outreach church, meaning their primary mission was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and lead people to salvation. Within the first few visits, the pastor invited those of us who did not know Christ to change the course of our lives both here and in eternity by saying a simple prayer while sitting in our seats. He said, “If you are ready to decide to give your life to Christ, please pray these words with me.” My heart raced; I knew it was my time to join the family of God. I sat there quietly while boldly repeating his words. “Today I ask Jesus into my heart to live as my Lord and Savior. I confess I am a sinner and ask for forgiveness of my sins. I believe Jesus died on the cross for me and was resurrected so that I may have eternal life with Him. Amen.”
After the words came forth, I felt something shift internally. The Scriptures say the heavens rejoice when one person is saved (Luke 15:10 NIV), and although I did not know God’s Word or that truth, I do believe that what I felt was a wave of joy wash over my spirit. After feeling empty for so long, I felt fulfilled in Christ. I felt His love, mercy, grace and goodness welcome me like a long-lost child who had just come home.
I feel humbled and amazed that at any age or stage of my life, Jesus Christ has relentlessly pursued me.
He pursued me as a young child when I was innocent and easily impressionable.
He pursued me as a braced faced, defiant teenage girl, fearful of becoming a Christian.
He pursued me as a young adult woman who looked to the world for validation and acceptance.
Even when I fought, said no or walked away, the God of the Universe, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords came for me! I was wanted, sought after and a grace bearer of His unfailing love.
It took me years to say “Yes” to God and Jesus. Praise the Father for being a patient, gentle, kind and merciful God who knows no boundaries or constrictions due to time. Praise the Lord whose arms were always outstretched and wide open, providing me with an invitation to come anytime.
When I was ready, I ran at warp speed, diving headfirst into a security and assuredness that can only come from the Savior. He swooped me up into His loving embrace and has taught me how to walk hand in hand with Him to live the abundant life. As John 15:16 says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (NIV).
Thank you, Lord, for choosing me! It’s by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me this side of eternity, and I will sing of your praises all the days of my life!
Miranda Jo Davis
Chosen and pursued? Find out for yourself this winter in the Gospel of John. Our women’s and men’s Bible studies will be back with studies all about Jesus that you can be part of online. The Gospel of John tells the stories of Jesus’ personal friendships and counter-cultural conversations, His prayers with God the Father, His fierce love for the world and the miracles He performed. Learn more about the studies and sign up today with the links below.