Drawing Near

Did you know that your life isn’t random? “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us…” (Ephesians 1:4a). He knew you before you knew you… That’s crazy! The beautiful thing is that He not only knew us before we knew ourselves but He also loved us before we loved Him.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

I lived most of my life ignoring this and doing my own thing. You can find my whole story here, but I used to go to church and feel like the people there had much more knowledge, experience and “holiness” than me. This is probably why I lived a double-life for so long. With my school friends I was one person, and with my church friends I was another. I was scared to lose either side, so I remained in both. Sometimes this meant extreme hangovers at church the next day, and sometimes it meant hiding as people made Snapchat stories so my Christian friends wouldn’t know that I was drinking at a frat party.

Living a double life is exhausting. I got sick of it one day, and I prayed something like, “God, I think You have a plan for my life, but I don’t think this is it. Because this is awful. Please help.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

My sorority sister joined a bible study at our campus ministry (CSF), so I joined her group. As intimidating as it is to show up to something alone or without knowing many people, do it; I promise it’s worth it. That same girl invited me to a conference that winter break, and I heard author/speaker Marian Jordan Ellis talk about Jesus for the first time there. As she shared her story on stage she was in tears because of His love for us. She literally cried because of how good Jesus is and how much He had changed her life. “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38). I had never seen people who loved Him so much they could cry. Jesus was never that real to me. I realized okay, you guys have something that I don’t have, and I want it. So I kept seeking Him. I cracked open my dusty bible and prayed God, help me understand these words.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)

As I read scripture, I kept getting hungrier for more of Him. I think this is because if you truly know Him, it’s impossible not to love Him. He is so good. He loves us so much that He died for it. He knew I would ignore Him for so long and go my own way, yet He still did it. He’s incredible.

At that time my desire to fit in, to go to parties, and for hot guys to like me was greater than my desire for God, so I prayed that He would give me new desires; I prayed God, break my heart for what breaks Yours, and help my heart want more of You. I need You more, Jesus.

He will never say no to this prayer for more of Him. He answered yes quickly.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees…” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

I love this verse. It sums up what happened to me that year; He gave me a new heart. As I prayed to know Him, I noticed things shift in my life. God so gracefully led me to friends, mentors, and prayer warriors that I desperately needed. They taught me that I didn’t need religion; I needed a relationship with the real, living man, Jesus Christ. Did you know that when He raised from the dead, He didn’t die again? Literally Jesus is alive. Right now. And He loves us right now, no matter how lost we feel. He’s knocking on the door of your heart, waiting for You to open up to Him. Say yes; He is so good.

As I began to know Jesus, soon enough I stopped caring about the parties and the boys. The things that once held me back so tightly now seemed so insignificant to me.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

I went to a worship service that summer, and my friend came with a broken foot in a boot. The doctor told him that he was going to have to get surgery, but even with surgery this injury could likely end his college soccer career. After worship, a girl came up to Mark and asked to pray for his foot. She so confidently said, “Oh, you wont have to get surgery.” A few people laid their hands on Mark’s foot and prayed for healing. “For I am the LORD, who heals you.”(Exodus 15:26b). I didn’t know that God healed or even cared about something so small like a broken foot. They prayed once, and Mark started wiggling his toes, which he couldn’t do before. They prayed once more, and his face lit up as he said the pain went down significantly. He then stood up, with his medical boot in his hand, and started running around the room! He jumped up and down, moved and ran around as he realized that his foot was completely healed! We were so excited! I was like WOW, thank You Lord for letting me witness this with my friend! It was such a victorious moment as I dropped him off at his house with no boot…just a sock on J. Mark got to play soccer again. God is so good.

God never fails to bring me closer to Him and show me more of His love. I pray that You would open your heart, open your bible, and live in His extravagant love.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 13-14b)

By: Baylee Willett

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