I claimed to be a Christian my entire life.  I had accepted Jesus at a young age as my Savior, but what did that really mean?  How was I to make and keep Christ, a man that I had never met, the leader of my life?  Was it really possible to love my neighbor as much as I love myself?  Could I mold relationships to models of Christ’s love for us that I had neglected for so long?  How was I going to apply the love I had found in Jesus to my everyday life?  Seven months ago I decided to give my life to Christ, to hand everything over, to acknowledge that I needed him.  That is when life really began.

Christ calls all of us to him differently; for me, it was through heartbreak.  Hopeless romantic that I am, every time I would find despair after a failed relationship, I would also find God.  I would pursue him until I felt better, and then I would forget about him once I did.  One day I remember I woke up feeling significantly better, I had just started taking classes at Church in my city.  I wasn’t heartbroken anymore, so I said to myself, “I don’t think I’ll pray or read the Bible today.” Then the thought occurred that maybe that was my problem, the reason that I kept straying and falling.  I decided to pick up the Bible even though I wasn’t in the mood and to say a prayer of thanks even though I just wanted to fall asleep.

My decision to pursue God through Christ even when I didn’t feel like it was the springboard for the relationship that I now have with him that I experience every day.  While Christ is always calling us to him, we have to make the decision to meet him, to open our heart’s door to him.  What has God shown me since I began to make a determined effort towards him?  He has shown me that my failures are of no use to measure who I am in Christ and that my life in his Hands will be exponentially better than anything I could hope to do with it on my own.  He has shown me that I was created out of love and that he wants to love me through blessings, but I have to be ready to receive them.

Christianity is not all sunshine and happiness.  While we find more true joy in our Savior as he continues to show us his love with and in every day, we must also contemplate darkness and death, misery and torment.  The fact that not everyone will open their hearts to Christ is much cause for pain as we think of them never knowing God’s splendor, mercy, or limitless grace.

In one of my favorite Katy Perry songs she sings, “It’s never easy to be chosen, never easy to be called.”  I don’t know what her intention was in the song, but it speaks clearly to me the idea that God chooses all of us to be his children, but not everyone will answer the call.  I know when I gave my life to Christ by putting him in control of everything, life didn’t get easier, it got harder.  We are no longer able to do whatever we want when we want for fear of injuring our relationship with God, from which all true joy comes.  I realized that nothing is mine; not my body or my soul, and that because they do not belong to me, but rather to my Maker, I have a great responsibility to take care of them.  I saw how long I had been taking for granted all of the countless gifts God has given us here on earth.  He gave us these gifts with the freedom to cultivate our lives as we wish.  But I learned quickly that my life would have no true beauty or meaning without cultivating it for him and with him as the leader.

How do we apply our love in Christ to our everyday lives?  I start every morning with thanks and with prayer for Christ to be with me through the day, holding my hand in every moment.  While we experience this freedom from sin in our faith, we do not experience freedom from temptation.  My biggest struggle with sin has been in regards to sexual immorality.  It is a long and winding road that always ends in suffering.  But in fighting temptation, we are able to lean even more on God through prayer and knowledge of His word.  We find strength and courage in Christ to turn away from what will ultimately cause him and ourselves pain.  Matthew says that, “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). In Christ, how could I believe that I’m not strong enough to walk away from a boy that wants nothing more from me than what my body has to offer?

And we mustn’t forget the other, somewhat smaller, challenges.  Some people are easier to love than others, but we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Firstly, we have to love ourselves.  Secondly, it is our duty to show patience and kindness to everyone, even people that persecute us for being Christians.  If that means walking away from taunts at work or school, turn the other cheek to prevent yourself from saying something unloving or that you will regret.  However, always be ready to defend your faith and to share the Gospel with those that do not know or that claim to know but do not practice.

Another personal struggle was in the relationship with my mother.  We have fought about the same things for seemingly years on end.  Things changed when I began respecting her in the way Christ commands, when I began showing her love through action rather than just telling her I loved her at the end of phone conversations.  If that meant bringing her home a latte after work or helping her pick up her car from the shop or taking her to breakfast on Saturday morning, not only was I loving her, but I was loving Christ in her, and with time these things felt less like work and more like fun.  I also began showing others love through buying gifts or treating them to dinner when before I had been so stingy with my money out of selfishness.  I couldn’t believe how much joy I began to get out of spending my money on other people or the love that I began to receive in return.

Christ died so that we could have a loving and personal relationship with God, so that we could call him Abba, Father.  How wonderful that we can address the Creator of the universe as Dad.  I’ve met other Christians that about the only thing we can agree on is that Christ is our Savior.  It can be very disheartening at times, but that comes from my eagerness to see heaven, to see the face of God in all of its beauty, here on earth.  I cannot expect earth to be anything like heaven; life is full of disappointments, dead ends, trials, and dissension.  We all have our own crosses to bear.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t recognize the little slices of heaven available to us here on earth.  Time spent in good company and fellowship, the sun on your face, a favorite song on the radio; the joy and peace and love that we find in these things are all a foretaste of eternal life to come in Christ.

I ask you to trust God with everything you have and are, to love Christ above all and determine to give him your life as a prayer of thanks for all that he is and has done and continues to do.  Appreciate every small moment because he is present in everything.  The earth bears witness to His supreme creativity, the night sky and all of its stars to His vastness, the flavor of your grandmother’s cooking to His goodness, and Christ’s life and sacrifice to His love.

My life is a testament to how much God is able and willing to love.  I am going back to school, with my tuition fully reimbursed by the company that I work for.  Every day I have food to eat and every night a warm bed to sleep in, money to pay my bills and time to spend with friends and family.  Even more I have the resources to help others in need of the basic necessities I once took for granted.  He blesses me in countless ways, the way that he works in my life reminds me of a verse from John, “There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Let us pray every day that Christ would accept the remainder of our lives, by choosing to live in him and for him, as a prayer of thanks for what he did on the cross, as prayer of praise for how good he is.