As I was growing up, I learned about Jesus from my mother, my grandmother, and our church. I soon came to admire him as the strong yet gentle Shepherd spoken of in the 23rd Psalm. This became especially true as I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Doctors told my parents that I would be blind and crippled by the age of ten. Lying in the hospital bed with my eyes bandaged, my grandmother sat next to me praying. Over the years, I was steadily healed. Today, I see and walk unhindered, healthy, and strong.
Though God’s love and power were near to me at an early age, sin and its effects were painfully near to me as well. My parents divorced when I was very young, which caused continual sorrow in my heart. Both of my parents remarried, but neither family served God, and neither household was at peace. By the time I was fifteen, I had grown arrogant and hard-hearted. I fought bitterly with my family, sought new expressions of immorality, and cared little for God.
In the spring of 1998, however, as a freshman in high school, I went on a trip to Mexico with my cousin, Kathy, and her college friends. They showed me the kind of love that I had been yearning for. When I realized that the source of their love was faith in God, I began to consider the message that they had been sharing with me about Jesus and the Cross.
The Cross presented two overwhelming ideas. First, if it is true that God sent Jesus to die in my place, then I must be drastically sinful. As I considered the condition of my own heart, this fact I could not deny. But second, if God really sent Jesus to die in my place, then I must also be loved more deeply than I could ever hope.
These thoughts and events drew me to prayer. I knelt, listened, and sensed God speak to my heart. He revealed its hardness and drew me to relinquish it to him once and for all. With much trembling, I did as he commanded. From that moment onward, I was a different person. I returned home with the weight of sin removed and with the fellowship of God firmly established in my life.
My life as a Christian has been a wonderful adventure with the Lord. Whether beside still waters or through dark valleys, Jesus has led me and been with me. He truly is the strong yet gentle Shepherd spoken of throughout the Bible, the one who rescued me from sin and brought me to salvation.