Finding the Lost Sheep
“So wherever you are in life, no matter how near or far you may feel from God, trust me, He will come after you. Our Jesus is the shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine to find the one,” says Christina. Even though she was a sheep trying to run away from the church, Jesus loved her too much to let her get away. Through Christ, Christina has found tremendous healing, dramatically transforming the way she saw herself and community.”
I was raised in the church my entire life and by the time I was a teen, I thought the whole world was right or wrong, black or white. I served as a worship leader, Bible study leader, and basically every type of service leader for my church’s high school ministry. Even though I was embedded in the church, I never felt like I fit. I would spend all my time serving and then ask God why I never felt accepted, why it was such a struggle to be a ‘Christian’. A lot of Asian values ended up getting intertwined with Christian values and it created this ‘church culture’ of perfectionism, gossiping, and judgment. I heard so much about who I supposedly was from church members. By the time I was headed to college, I thought, “Well, everyone’s going to say I’m wild and crazy anyways so I’m going to do whatever I want and find satisfaction wherever I want.” I didn’t see a point in ‘doing the right thing’ in order to claim perfection –after all, what good is a church if you can only belong to it if you’re perfect? When I walked away from the church in the beginning of college, I was angry and hurt. I was also laden with shame and condemnation.
In college, I partied, drank, and had a plethora of relationships. In the quiet moments that I rarely allowed myself, I questioned if this was it, if this was how the rest of my life was going to go, and if I would ever feel at home. In my heart, there was always this inexplicable longing for God that I couldn’t squash. Thus, our conversations either ended in self-pitying tears or an angry explosion of accusation. I asked God why religion couldn’t just be easy for me, why there was so much judgment and anger between the two of us, and why I had to be different.
I was introduced to a church called the Ark during my sophomore year in college and even though I usually left as fast as I could after service, there was something about this community that made me keep coming back for more. I would show up at the Ark with my arms crossed and my judgments already formed, but each time I arrived, there wasn’t anyone to attack me; thus, there was nothing to defend against. Still, I was always alert for signs of religiousness and I had no qualms about fleeing the community at the first sign of legalism. The Ark completely baffled me. People actually loved God, and not in that perfect, Christian media way, but in a way that made me wonder if I could love God too. I remember showing up to an Ark retreat once and saw how all the Ark pastor couples interacted and I was completely blown away by their relationships. It seemed like a mystery that the people in this community actually loved each other and encouraged individuality. Although I still came to the Ark inconsistently through college, the Ark was a consistent community and God used those years of exposure to convince me that Christians could be genuine and trustworthy.
Fast forwarding to post-college life, I had gotten the only job I ever wanted, I had a boyfriend that other women constantly desired, and I was about to move to San Francisco with two of my college friends. Everyone, from family to friends to co-workers, constantly told me that I had it all and that I was living the dream life. People kept telling me how lucky I was and how much they envied my life, but the more praise I received, the emptier I felt inside. I couldn’t understand how I achieved the “American Dream”, but felt so lost and unfulfilled. I didn’t know who I was because everything that everyone was associating me with, wasn’t me, but just things I’ve done. If that stuff went away (like if I lost my job, my boyfriend, or my friends), then who was I? In the midst of all this confusion, I showed up at the Ark after an approximate ten month hiatus and for some reason that night, God totally met me. It was the first time I confessed out loud that I was unsatisfied by my life and when my pastor prayed for me, something shifted in the spirit. The realization that I was not my career, my education, or my body blew me away and I was left dumbfounded for days, but I was dumbfounded by the possibility of hope! Hope that there was more than what the world called success and that God had bigger plans for my life than I had. For reasons still unknown to me, my heart began to change in ways that I had always tried to force on it before, but had been unsuccessful. God began to romance me, teaching me what it was like to pray and spend time with Him, showing me how beloved I was. The barriers I had before, the anger and hurt from the church and Christians, they all evaporated. Really, for no apparent reason, they were just gone! It was amazing! One day, I just realized that I was willingly coming to church and participating in community and that I didn’t feel like it was a fight anymore. It wasn’t just the physical expressions of faith aligning, but I was also being established in my identity and value as a daughter of God.
God continued to speak so much into my life after that, about how He made me exactly this way to fulfill a precise purpose. I was always confused and hurt by how my main community was always non-Christians, but God showed me that I was put in that position so I could understand that community and contend for them because they are my people. God healed me from my past relationships with men; and He even started working in my family!
God is so good! A year ago, I never would have thought I’d be here –whole or healed. Jesus could have let me live my life recklessly for the rest of my life and I would have been fine with it, but instead He captured me and showed me that there is so much more possibility, hope, and love in my life. I was a hard-partying hedonist, and now I’m training to be a missionary. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is, and thank God for His grace. So wherever you are in life, no matter how near or far you may feel from God, trust me, He will come after you. Our Jesus is the shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine to find the one.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’”(Luke 15:1-7)
Christina Young will be going on the World Race, a missions trip to 11 countries in 11 months. If you would like to support her or learn more about her journey, check out her blog at http://christinayoung.theworldrace.org/. She can also be found at Ark Ministries which meets Saturday evenings at 2138 Cedar Street at 6:30 pm at Christ Church Berkeley. The Ark culture is simple: they want to meet God. Every meeting, their goal is to welcome His amazing presence and encounter the living God. Please join them for worship some time, they would love to host you!