When I was 11, my youth group attended an event at the local roller skating rink. This event was for youth groups around the area to bring kids and allow them to have fun skating, and additionally for a Christian leader to be able to speak with us during a break and share with us about God’s love. During this sharing time, the speaker invited us to invite Jesus live in our hearts (sorry if this is too churchy). I was eager to raise my hand and take this step even though I really had no idea what any of it meant. After this prayer, nothing happened–at least nothing visibly. No one knew I had made such an important decision. Therefore, I didn’t think it was such a big deal. Over the next couple years being involved in the church youth group, I attended larger regional conferences in the fall and spring where passionate Jesus loving speakers would seem to be speaking directly to me and my heart, issues like the difference in my behavior during the week at school versus at home and on Sundays at church. I remember making recommitment decisions for God and promising to be better. Tears would flow and I would feel renewed, but no one ever talked to me about these decisions. It felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster; I never thought to change my weekday behavior or start praying and seeking what actually happened during the decisions I made.
It wasn’t until four years after I first raised my hand for Jesus that things really became real. I was almost 16, and I got myself into some trouble. It was the most trouble I had ever been in and I didn’t know what to do. I was so upset and so desperate for help to get out of this situation that, for the first time in my life, I cried out to God and asked him, “What have I done?” But I knew as I asked that this question wasn’t just about what I had done that night but what I had been doing to Jesus for the past four years. Why had I not ever prayed? Why had I ignored Him and chosen to obey my desires to be the person I wanted to be? Why had I not thanked him for what I had? And now, there in that bean field, I saw myself crying out to Him full of shame and humiliation. And the next few hours were tough, but I felt peace. I was able to pray and feel sustained by Him. I knew things would be okay, but I understood that they would also be tough. I knew that my life was already changing, and I knew that this was just the beginning.