Taking a step in Faith
Today I would like to share a story with you. Last December when I was attending my home church, we went on a big convention called “Follow” in Indiana. This is where God captured my attention and I gave Him my word that I was done trying to do things my way. I like to say I converted from a fan to a follower of that day.
I have been in church my whole life and knew all the stories. I had seen what a good and faithful relationship was and I knew our house would serve the Lord. My parents embedded Christianity into our daily life.
Even though my parents embedded this church life into my head I went astray. It may have been in my head, but it was not in my heart. To this day I still don’t know how we lose our childlike faith.
I can remember back when I was seven telling all my friends on the playground and lunch table about Jesus and what I had learned at church. What changed? Why do we go from being so hopeful and bold to ashamed to talk about our struggles and our faith?
It is like we have this mentality that if we don’t share how we really feel no one will like us or want to be around us. That is not true. Christians need fellow Christians to help and encourage and to stay grounded in the word even when times are hard.
What changes within us that we go from believing God can move mountains to us questioning everything He has to offer? I think it is this world and the more we live in this world and its culture we go astray. We soon become fixated on what others think and fixated on what will make us look better.
Leading up to this convention God had already been doing big things in my life. I was praying and reading my bible more, but that wasn’t enough. I needed to go deeper. At the convention I remember the distinct presence of God. I can’t even describe the feeling. All I can say is… instant goosebumps.
At the end of the service one night, during prayer I lifted my hands to God and told him, “Okay Lord it’s just you and me. Let’s do this thing.”
See I was ready. I was tired of being this worldly Christian. I wanted to be a true Christ follower. Well let me just tell you, Jesus put me to the test not even an hour after I had said that statement.
I went on this convention as a chaperone because I am technically classified as an adult. In my room I had four high school juniors. Which is crazy! How was I the adult? I was only two years ahead of them. They were the ones who kept me in line.
Anyway, after the service that night I was walking with two of the girls down to this huge conference room with late night games, snacks, concerts, etc. As I was walking I noticed this young man sitting by himself. I didn’t think too much about it at first.
He was tall and scary looking. I noticed him because he looked out of place. This was a youth convention where there were thousands of kids running around. I passed him at least two more times until this presence came over me.
My heart was pounding and I knew I was supposed to go pray with him. Needless to say, I was freaking out. “No way Lord not me. I am not ready to share my faith. I can’t go pray with a stranger.” The presence was not going away and it only grew stronger the harder I tried to shake the feeling.
I told the girls I was “watching” that I knew I had to go pray with that guy. They looked at me like I was crazy. They were like Lily are you sure he looks scary. I tried fighting it and asked God why. Why now? Why me? Why him?
As I walked with the girls one said, “Okay just stay here with us and when we walk back to our hotel room if he is still there then you know you are supposed to pray with him.” The whole time I was chaperoning them I was fighting God in my head. Instead of me asking God for His words and strength to ease my uncomfortableness, I was saying God please don’t make me do this. Flee him.
Well what do you know, we walked back by and sure enough the guy was still sitting there. It made me think back to the service when the speaker said, “I am afraid I am going to get to heaven and God will show me a list of all my accomplishments and things I achieved for him and say Good job my well and faithful servant. But then He will show me another list and say but these are all the things you could have done for me if you had only chosen to be obedient in the moment.”
That thought kept going through my mind. I knew I would miss out on something God had planned if I chose to not respond to the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to come from praying with this guy but let me tell you it was amazing.
When I dropped the girls off at their room, I went and got the youth pastor and his wife. I told them what God was telling me, but I wanted a man there as I talked to this guy.
As I approached the young man on the bench I told him, “Hello, I’m Lily and this is my youth pastor and his wife. I’ve walked past here several times and God was telling me I needed to come pray with you. Can we do that for you?” He just looked up at me and said sure in a low quite voice.
Once I prayed with him I thought okay cool that’s it. That’s all I needed to do. But I was wrong. I got to sit there and talk to him and hear his story.
His name was TJ. He had been homeless since he was 13 years old. He decided to leave home because his mother was a drug abuser. The things he was sharing with me were gut wrenching.
He had just got out of jail himself because during those times on the street he turned to gangs, alcohol, and drugs. The things he was sharing with me were things I thought only happened on shows like criminal minds. To sit there and take in all the death this guy had seen and all the things he had experienced was amazing because at the same time he had so much hope.
I encouraged him that this was his story and God was keeping him here alive having lived through it all to share. I told him “God made you a very strong person because I can’t even imagine seeing some of the things you have.” Throughout our conversation his demeanor changed.
He began to talk about church and he told me he had been drug and alcohol free for about 3 years now. He was trying. He really was. Hearing his story opened my eyes. Here was this man who was filled with so much hope even through all the bad. He knew the Lord was working on him. Then there I was… someone who gets worked up when things don’t necessarily go my way. Wow. It was quite humbling.
Then as I was leaving, TJ said something to me that forever changed my life. He said, “I just have to tell you I have been coming to this hotel for about 6 months now to try and stay warm and you are the first person to notice me, encourage me, and pray for me.” THAT WAS IT. That is what I would have missed if I chose to be disobedient to Gods calling. I would have missed out on a humbling experience and seeing what obedience can do, but more importantly I would have missed out on encouraging this young man and sharing God’s word.
See the Lord uses us as His hands, feet, and voice. It is all about Him. We are just His messengers. I can’t even begin to imagine how lonely I would feel if no one even acknowledged me in 6 months.
It still gives me chills because TJ helped to change my life as I impacted his. God is so good. I still pray for TJ and pray that somehow the Lord will reunite us down the road.
I would love to see and hear all the Lord has done in his life. So TJ, if you are out there and reading this thank you. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story with me. Thank you for reminding me to never lose hope. God is so good!