I met Jesus in the fourth grade.
I was a shy kid, going to a church youth service with my friend, totally unexpectant of what was to come. I remember what I was wearing, but I couldn’t tell you what day it was. I just remember being in a building full of (pre)adolescents, staying within an arm’s reach of my friend in fear of being separated and consumed by the pack of friendly strangers. I counted the minutes until it was time to leave. We soon gathered in a different room where we sat, stood, sang, sat some more and listened to a man I didn’t know talk about another man I didn’t know. I can’t tell you what I heard that night, I just know that I liked what I heard. I know that when the music started back up, my heart was overwhelmed with love for a stranger; I didn’t want him to be a stranger anymore. I walked up to a girl named Deana, one of the few details I remember from that night, and spilled my heart to her. She helped me make sense of what was happening, asked me if I wanted to take hold of the opportunity, and taught me how to pray right there in the front of the room. I met Jesus and knew his love, God’s love, for me. I was forever changed, yet had no idea the change that He had planned for me.
I met Jesus in the tenth grade.
Years of visiting churches with friends and various family members. Years of labeling myself Christian without fully knowing what that meant. Years of internally longing for more of this Jesus I had met as a young girl. I was finally 16, had a friend who plugged me in with a church I loved, and I was ready. I was overwhelmed, my heart was full. I hadn’t felt this feeling since I stood in that one building as a 10-year-old, and I didn’t know what to do next. I joined youth group and allowed the leadership of the church to pour into me in ways I would’ve never expected to have the impact they did. I learned what it meant to be a Christian, to follow Christ in word and deed, to be part of a community. I met with my friend Jesus to talk it all over and I saw him in a new way. I joined the church by baptism and knew that I had come to know Jesus fully.
I met Jesus at the BCM.
Over the past three years, I had grown exponentially in my walk with Jesus. I had come to desire to get into God’s word, to love being in community with my church family, to yearn to know more of Jesus and his character. Part of me longed to stay home after graduation to remain close-knit with my church family, but I felt the tug to start my college journey at the University of Alabama. Over the summer I’d heard of and signed up for UA’s Baptist Campus Ministries’ kickoff event. Days before the first day of class, I made the trek from my dorm to a building of which I didn’t even know the location–my stomach turned with anxiousness and I considered turning back multiple times. An ignorant freshman convinced a soft-hearted bus driver to stop off-schedule–I had arrived at the BCM, mostly on time. After awkward stops at a name tag table and photo booth, a journey to the chapel and a confusing transition period, I wandered to my small group and met a total stranger, thinking little of it. That stranger proceeded to become not only my best friend, but one of the most spiritually impacting people in my life. Once again, I had come face-to-face with my pal Jesus and saw that I actually hadn’t known that much about him at all. Through my new best-bud, the Lord called me closer to his heart, instilled in me a deeper desire to learn about him through His word, taught me the power of prayer, and molded me into a disciple who generates more disciples. I felt spiritually full, yet had gained enough wisdom to realize there was more to learn.
I met Jesus in Baton Rouge.
A last-minute decision brought me to the post-flood home of one of my school’s biggest rivals. Leading up to the 6-hour drive, I was most excited to see the LSU campus (check) and attempt to make my way into Tiger Stadium (check). I knew that we’d be doing hard work, that life had been turned upside down for thousands of people, but that wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I’d spent months praying for a servant’s heart, to become more like Christ in my actions and intentions, yet here I was, more concerned about exploring our rival school. I fell asleep Friday night with the prayer to become more like Him on my heart. Reveal more of Your character to me, help me to become more like You. How faithful is the Lord to answer prayers! I saw 36 UA BCM students join a number of students from AUM and the University of Florida, all together with LSU’s own, sacrifice a weekend to spend their Saturday serving a community wholly impacted by floods. In that moment I learned a lesson that I would’ve said I knew before, but had never experienced until then: the overwhelming love of Jesus that is the foundation of the Christian Church overcomes all rivalries, all bias, all other affiliations. Because when you meet Jesus, he completely overturns everything. He becomes your best friend, your life, your everything. In Him, you gain infinite amounts of knowledge, which leaves you thirsting for more–we can never learn it all.
The more I grow in God’s love, in my relationship with Christ, the more I realize I lack, because the closer I get to him, the more I yearn to be like him and the more work I see that needs to be done in me. Every time I meet him, I leave the encounter impacted in a way I had never imagined before, challenged to grow beyond what I’m capable of on my own. Meeting Jesus has transformed me from sinner to daughter to family member to disciple to servant. I can’t wait to see what he’ll make me when we have another one of these meetings.