I ran into Maddie a few years ago when she was a college student. I had the great privilege of having front row seats to watch Jesus run into her life and radically change her! Read her story.
Hokey Pokey with God by Maddie N.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home – neither of my parents are religious. Oddly enough, my parents sent me to Catholic school from 1st through 7th grades. Pretty quickly I developed my own set of beliefs that differed from my parents’ and spent a lot of my time learning Bible stories and attending mass. I believed there was a God but I didn’t feel any real personal connection with Him. In my mind, God was this big guy in the sky who watched my every move and got mad when I lied to my parents.
When I moved across the country and left my sheltered Catholic school, I left God in the dust.
In the spring of my freshman year in high school, I had just gotten a boyfriend and thought that dating him would fill a void that I felt in my life. He had grown up going to church but he stopped going and stopped caring. I remember one day he asked me if I would go to church with him. I didn’t really think much of it so I said, “sure.” Before I knew it I was standing in a church singing worship songs and watching what looked like a light show – very different from my Catholic church of yesteryear. Somehow in that experience I must have signed up for a small group because I remember the next week going to some random girl’s house with a bunch of other random girls I’d never met before talking about some guy named Jesus. I remember telling some lame joke about a woodpecker drilling a hole in Noah’s ark and no one laughed so I was no longer interested. I stopped going and so did my boyfriend. It was like Gone in 60 seconds: Christian edition.
Fast forward four years to my freshman year. I was so excited to be in college and to have the “true college experience.” I didn’t
really know what that looked like but I assumed it involved making tons of friends, partying, and boys. After all, that’s what they show in the movies. I started going down a path headed straight for this “true college experience” and when I look back I see faded memories of parties, kissing random boys I didn’t know, and prioritizing my social calendar over anything academic. I never really enjoyed these experiences but I kept going because I thought I was supposed to – I thought “this is what college is for – a time to experiment and have fun.”
One night when I was applying my makeup, getting ready to head out to another party, I heard a voice in my head say, “This isn’t you. This isn’t the life for you. You deserve better than this.”
I didn’t know this then but I know that was God meeting me in one of my darkest and messiest places saying – “come and follow me.”
In the midst of this brokenness my freshman year of college, some girls on my floor in my dorm would, without fail, invite me to a Christian college ministry. I decided to join them one week and was more focused on looking the part and looking like I’d been a Christian my whole life than actually being present and open to what was happening. I thought I was so sly being a pretend-lifelong-Christian but the only person I was fooling was myself.
Throughout my sophomore and junior years I continued to go to the college ministry every once in awhile, started going to church
sometimes, and went to small group every week. I loved the friends I had made and the community I was beginning to become a part of, but I still had remnants of my “other life” on the side. I remember having a conversation with one of my non-Christian friends about the fact that I went to church. She asked, “So you’re not one of those Christian people are you?” I didn’t really know what she meant by that but I knew that if I said I was she would think differently of me so I said “Nope. I just go to hang out with some of my other friends.” I was basically doing the hokey-pokey with God where I put my left foot in and then pulled my left foot out, and then put my right foot in and then pulled my right foot out – and then out of nowhere God pushed my whole self in and shook my life all about.
Eventually, I was faced with a decision: which life will I pursue? I could no longer have one foot in each life – I needed to choose. I
chose Jesus. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I surrounded myself with amazing and supportive friends. I immersed myself in the Bible and became really excited about learning more about Jesus. I read books, went to church and started really wrestling with my questions and my doubts. And through all of this I began forming a deep personal relationship with God. I always thought that choosing to follow Jesus and choosing to make Him the center of my life would mean that I wouldn’t be able to have any fun and would have a boring life. Oh how I was wrong. Pursing Christ has provided me with such complete joy and fulfillment. It was like I had been legally blind my whole life, seeing the world blurred and distorted and then God restored my vision to view the world anew. I was seeing people and situations differently, I felt more patient, I felt more kind, I felt more loving, I felt more ME than I’d ever felt before.
I realized that partying and boys can’t fill the void I felt in my heart and in my life – only Jesus can fill that. And I realized that as I
was pursuing Jesus, my desires to be accepted through partying and boys had significantly decreased. All of this is to say: Jesus completely transformed my life. He walked up to me in the middle of my brokenness and offered me hope and a new life in Him. I started to cultivate a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus – something that I’d never had before. I realized that throughout all of my experiences, God didn’t change. I changed. God remained the same through it all. Most amazingly of all, I realized that God wanted ME. I learned that God doesn’t just pursue those that are put-together, that have all the right answers, and have been Christian their whole life. God tracked me down just how I was – broken and messy – and led me toward a life with him, whole and restored. His beloved daughter.