Well, I was thinking about doing an introduction post, but I had no idea what to do with it; so I thought it would be fitting for this first post to be my testimony. And in defiance of my first draft, I’ll try to do it briefly.
I trusted Christ at five years old, and like a lot of kids who were raised in the church and saved at a young age I struggled with my salvation for quite a while. It started when I was about twelve, and I asked maybe every question in the book. I went all the way back to the basics – for a while I questioned whether God was even real. But the question that I couldn’t escape for at least a year, probably more, was, Am I really saved? What kept coming back to haunt me was the knowledge that I didn’t love God like I should. I knew I should long for His word, “more than my necessary food,” but reading the Bible was more of a chore. I knew I should have a burning passion for God that excelled all other loves, but all I could ever really muster was a weak excitement.
I didn’t tell anyone, either. I had always been the “perfect child,” the one who never got in trouble, who always had the right answer in Sunday school. How could I tell anyone that I wasn’t even sure of my own faith? So I kept asking the questions I already knew the answers to, crying to God for help though I wasn’t sure I had a right to pray, fighting for a faith I couldn’t give up but didn’t know how to keep.
And then I made Nationals again. I’d started the Bible Bee in 2009, and somehow qualified for Nationals that first year, but I didn’t make it again until three years later. I came to Nationals in 2012 with all kinds of questions running around in my mind, and for various reasons I really had no peace the entire weekend. I had memorized over 600 verses, I’d studied the book as well as I knew how, and I finished both my oral and written rounds, but it wasn’t enough; and when the names were called for semifinals, mine wasn’t among them.
In 2013 my goal was to make the semis. It was my last year in the Junior division, my last chance before I moved up to the far more challenging Senior division. I studied and studied, applying everything I’d learned the last year about how to memorize and what was most likely to be on the test. My mom and I reviewed for hours on end until I could recite every passage perfectly. And on Thursday night at Nationals, for the first time ever, as I sat on the edge of my seat listening to the list of names being read “in no particular order,” I heard my own. I had made my goal. But in His incomprehensible love and sovereignty, God didn’t let me stop with the semis. Somehow, two days after that first night, I found myself on a stage with five other people, accepting the first place trophy.
Over that summer we had studied the book of 1 John. I learned more that summer than I even have time to tell here, but one verse that I’ll never forget is 1 John 5:13. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
For the fall we studied Ephesians, and it quickly became one of my favorite books. When I studied the first chapter, with its descriptions of how God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, I was struck with thankfulness and awe. I didn’t realize it then, but I was slowly coming to know that joy I had tried in vain to make myself feel.
The more I came to know God, the more I came to love Him. In all my struggling and doubting, I had never even thought of that. It was a while before I really understood that you can’t rely on your emotions; they will change. But God doesn’t. My salvation doesn’t depend on how much I love God at any given moment, but on what He has done for me by His death and resurrection. “Therefore He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). As I’ve studied and memorized the Bible, He has taught me more about Himself, and the more I learn about Him, the more I love Him. I can’t “make” myself love God; then it would all depend on me. Instead, He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. When we fix our eyes on Him and delight in the truth of who He is, He gives us more joy than this world could ever deliver.