Twenty Years

Twenty years ago on December 28, 2000, as a 14 year old high school freshman, I sat at Carrabba’s across from a 24 year old Young Life leader (who I thought was a lifetime ahead of me), and I told her, in halting and hesitant but holy words, that I’d decided to “give my life to Christ” and that I just wanted her to know.

I keep a lot to myself until I’m sure about it, and that was no different. I’d known Jesus was God my whole life it seemed, and I’d been pretty naively sure that God loved me since I could remember. But I didn’t realize that He meant for me to actually live my life with Him until that first semester of high school. I don’t know how salvation and free will and God’s sovereignty and all of that fit together—but I know this:

The Lord had been lovingly and perfectly faithful to me for those first 14 years of my life, but 20 years ago to the day, when I essentially mumbled my “bold” proclamation of faith, something changed in my relationship with Him. Where He had been present and engaged all my life, suddenly I realized that I was invited to be present and engaged with Him too.

He saved me from sin, for sure (and for that I am grateful), but there is more: He saved me to Himself too. He offers forgiveness not that just makes us “good” or “clean.” He offers forgiveness that lets us come to Him in the way were created to come.

I knew my need of forgiveness that day. I know I needed salvation—but looking back, it was my need of that Savior Himself that caused my heart to cry out to Him, that keeps pulling me back year after year.

We wouldn’t need His forgiveness and salvation, I guess, if we were content to live apart from Him.

I believe that our creative Creator God creates aspects of our personality in such a way that He can use them to draw us to Himself. For me, two of those things are babies and books. I have adored babies since I practically was one, so Baby Jesus was the most fascinating character to me. In a mysterious but childlike way, I loved Him long before I knew I could actually know Him.

So it’s only fitting, I suppose that our “anniversary” falls right beside the manger every year.

And the love He gave me of the written word—the obsession with reading and the nearly desperate desire to get my thoughts on paper—caused that 14 year old girl to fearlessly open up a Bible and just start reading it. And as I read His Words, I wrote my own to Him, grabbing a pen and a journal and telling Him all my thoughts and fears and feelings.

He had caught my eye, and when He did, I knew (in a way only He could have assured me) that He had had His eye on me for as long as I had lived.

Twenty years is a long time. I have changed. My faith has shifted. I have stiff-armed Jesus for months on end. I have blatantly disobeyed Him, chosen myself and my ways over Him and His ways more times than I could confess. I have wanted to walk away from Him, and there have been seasons when the only thing that kept me near Him was my fear of life without Him. I have felt apathetic and annoyed, indifferent and uninspired, and I have let those things keep me from Him.

Thankfully, my faithfulness over these 20 years is not what has brought us here. 

What has brought us—me and Jesus—here to December 28, 2020 is just one thing: His faithfulness, even (and perhaps especially) when I doubted it.

He has done every single thing He has promised. He has loved me. He has provided for me. He has met my every need. He has held me when I didn’t know it and shown up for me when I couldn’t see it until I looked back years later. He has healed me. He has watched me be broken, and He has held the pieces until I would let Him repair them. He has comforted and encouraged and astonished me at times. He has surprised me with laughter and silenced me with awe in a thousand different circumstances.

My life hasn’t looked the way I imagined. But my God is far better than any God I could have dreamed up for myself. He may not have done everything I thought He “should,” but He has done every single thing He said He would.

And not just for everybody else—for me too.

And I guess I just needed to declare it, in the simplest words I know:

that Jesus loves me, and He let me know it, and I love Him back (imperfectly but sincerely), and that has made all the difference in this woman’s world for the past twenty years.

He really is faithful. And He really is good. To me.

And, if to me, then to you too.

I don’t know where you find yourself as 2020 ends, but I have lived enough to know that some (or many) of you may be in a season where He doesn’t feel so near, and I guess what I want to tell you is that (if my life is any indication) that’s okay, that He’s still there, that He hasn’t forsaken you and that He’s holding onto you far more faithfully than you can cling to Him. You haven’t slipped from His hand even if your faith feels like it has slipped from your hand. You can rest. His faithfulness far outweighs your doubts.

And if you don’t yet know Him, know this: He offers forgiveness of every single sin, not just so that you can be “good”—He offers it so that you can be with Him, today and tomorrow and every day after that. And, for what it’s worth, in my opinion, He’s worth being near.

I wonder, wherever you are as this year ends, if you would take a moment to look back on the life you’ve lived, this year or the last 20 or the last 50… I wonder how He has surprised you as you look back. I wonder what miracles or surprises have built your faith in Him. I wonder what disappointments have grown your longing for Him. I wonder what parts of your personality and loves has God created in you that He has used and will continue to use to draw you to Himself. Let Him show you.

I’m praying for our years going forward, that we would find Him faithful, that we would know that we are loved and that we might love Him back tomorrow more than we have today.

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