Nearly 14 years have passed since I became a believer. I’m still here. I’ve seen many leave or lose the faith. I’ve seen people who were raised in church with all the right religious upbringing wilt because they had no roots of their own. I’ve heard it said you can’t go to heaven on your grandma’s apron strings. I’ve seen people be grafted in who come from all walks of life, often rough backgrounds where they found themselves crying out for God in the midst of their darkness. Even ministers and leaders have dried up and disappeared. I’ve seen devout Christians become atheist. And here I am: the atheist turned Christian. Why? Why am I still here despite all the problems within Christianity? Quite simply, Jesus.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
That’s why I’m here. I’m here because of who he is. I’m here because of who I am in him and the way I’ve grown in him. I’m here because he’s been good to me. His people aren’t always good to others, but He is.
I’m here because I crave his presence. I crave the peace that comes from being near him. I crave understanding his word. I crave Him. It’s not a casual love. I love him deeply.
God is always there for me. That might sound silly or cliché, but he is the one I reach out to in the middle of my rough times. And he is the one I praise in the good times. And he is the one I put my trust in, knowing that things may not turn out the way I want them to but he is with me no matter what.
I’ve felt his presence. I can never walk away from that.
I’ve seen his power.
I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen God do the impossible. I've seen lives be transformed. I’ve seen healings that science can’t explain. I myself have had healing in my body several times in ways that no logical explanation can cover. My church has an abundance of testimonies of healings. They are real. They aren’t just stories. I know many of these people. God still heals.
He is my healer.
He is my comforter.
It’s his name I cry out when I am in despair. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. To be vulnerable, it’s his name I literally cry out when I have panic attacks. Jesus. JESUS. Jesus. Come here. Come to me. Stay with me. Don’t leave me. I need to feel your presence. I need your peace. It’s his name I cling to when my anxiety is bad. It’s him who I fall at the feet of when depression takes hold of me. I’ve known darkness. I’ve known the depths of suffocation. I’ve had more than my share of demons. I’ve battled tremendous anxiety that made me suicidal. For years I battled, and He kept me going. He was always with me in the fire. It’s so different than darkness was when I was atheist or agnostic. That darkness had a coldness to it that words can’t utter. Struggling with dark things like depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, heartache, hopelessness….. it’s very different as a Christian. The darkness is there, but the light is always with me. I may feel surrounded, but he comes into those spaces and wraps his arms around me. I do believe he fights for me. I absolutely believe he protects me. I am his. He brings his light into even the darkest of nights. That doesn’t mean that real Christians don’t go through dark places in life. It means that we won’t be alone when we do. He’s not afraid to come into whatever your darkness is. He’ll walk with you through fire. He’ll protect you from the flames.
He is my Jehovah Jireh. He is my Way Maker. When he hasn’t made a way yet, he’s with me in the waiting room.
He loves me despite my imperfections, my brokenness, my darkness, my flaws, my sin, my shortcomings. He knows my scars and every wound and the depths of my darkest times; yet he still wants me. That’s a powerful love.
I know him and I want to be with him. Sometimes it’s really that simple. Through the good times and the bad times and the hurt times and the hopefulness and the brokenness and the blessings, I want to be connected to God. Through the frustration with his people, I still want to follow him. Through the heartaches of life, I still talk to him.
We all have seasons of growth. Some seasons I am closer to him. Other seasons he seems far. I am not a perfect follower. I am sassy and stubborn. I can be rebellious. I question everything. But my love for God has never faded. My understanding has evolved. I’ve gone through times of confusion. I’ve traveled through deep forests of seeking truth in the fog. I’ve had revelations and breakthroughs. I’ve had stumbling blocks. At times I am more of an ambitious student of the scriptures than at other times. But my roots in Christ are so deep nothing can tear me away.
In a way, it’s much like family. It’s a choice to believe in God. It’s a choice to follow Jesus. It’s a choice to want to be connected to Him. It’s a choice to be dedicated. And I choose it daily. No regrets. Not once have I ever regretted being a Jesus follower.
I want to know him. I want to be with him. I want to learn from him. I want to understand his word and his will. I want to walk with him. I want to be in his presence. I want to stay in the light. I want to be like him. I simply and deeply and truly want Jesus. I love Jesus. And that is why I’m still Christian.
That may sound like an overly simple answer, but love is a powerful force. I love Jesus, and I’m not walking away from him no matter how hard the Christian walk gets. I’m here to stay.