I have always known that God created the earth in seven days, that Noah brought two of every animal species aboard his ark, and that Samson got his strength from his long hair. These stories were second nature to me, told and retold in the form of hushed bedtime stories and long days at Sunday school. I attended a Catholic elementary school and prayed before cafeteria lunches, attended Friday and Sunday masses, and was incessantly told to tuck my uniform shirt in. I knew God loved me, I knew he created everything my eyes could see and more, and I knew he sent Jesus to save us.
But I didn't know God. Not really.
My Catholic faith was always more of an afterthought. I knew it was important because I had grown up being told it should be important. But I didn't really know why. I was a good girl who grew up in a nice home with a great family. I dressed nice, had wonderful friends, and even had a cute little bulldog puppy. It didn't really feel like I needed God. I was doing just fine on my own. My distant and relatively detached version of Christianity was enough for me.
It wasn't until I was 16 that one of my best friends invited me to church with her. At this point, I still identified as Catholic, but I barely ever attended mass and would hardly say that God was a prominent part of my life. But somehow, by fate, I agreed to come along. Imagine the shock on a predominantly Catholic girl's face when she walked into a Christian church complete with blaring lights, a live band, a fog machine, and 600 people raising up their arms in passionate unison.
I had never in my life entered a place of worship that looked anything like this. These people seemed almost insane to me. Rocking and shaking, shouting Jesus' name into the sky and falling to their knees in front of the stage. It was hard for me to understand their passion. But at the same time, it was the most beautiful and real thing my eyes had ever seen.
I was cut to the heart when the pastor uttered the simplest of questions over a hushed crowd. The words hung in the air and tore straight through me in a way I could not deny or ignore.
"What are you living for?"
At that moment, I truly didn't know. Maybe success, recognition, approval, acceptance, fame, praise. None of it was right. None of it would ever be fulfilling.
The sermon explained that Jesus Christ is the only real and true thing that will ever fulfill us. He is the one person who will never let us down or forsake us, the only concrete thing in existence that we can be sure of. Without him, we have no real purpose at all.
That's why I made the decision that night to start living for something that actually mattered. The only thing that will ever matter. That's why I shot out of my seat when our pastor asked us to stand in recognition that we would like to give our lives to Christ.
I know what I live for now, and it is such a blessing to know. The truth is, I always needed Jesus, whether my life was going well or not. We all desperately need him so much more than we know. Without him, we are just flesh and bones, products of this word that will continually mess up and misstep. Without him, we are lost.
After wandering for almost 16 years, I am finally home.