Jimmy – My Journey to Christ

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Jimmy's photo at 2-12 event

What is God?

God is the redemption in my life. God is the forgiveness in my heart. God is the beauty that I see. God is the hope that fills my life. God is the truth I operate with and the wisdom I use for making decisions. God is the love that overflows. God is my inspiration and my purpose for living. And it is only through my own brokenness and imperfection that I got to know God.

I was first introduced to the concept of God and religion when I was a freshman in high school. A few of my friends that came from Christian families took me to youth group. At that time, I had no idea nor cared too much to understand the purpose of youth group or who Jesus was. All I knew was that if I went to youth group, I got free food and access to the basketball gym at the church. Eventually I did become something like a passive believer. My belief usually took place on exam days for classes I had been ditching or on nights when I had stayed out past my curfew. But on February 12th, 2000, my already lacking faith became even more so.

February 12th, 2000 was a sunny Saturday. Although winters are generally harsh in Chicago, on that particular day the sun felt warm, the birds were chirping, and it felt like the first day of spring. I had just arrived at a friend’s house feeling care-free. A number of us were catching part of the NBA all-star weekend and getting ready to host a big party for later that evening. Then my pager buzzed and it read 911… I immediately called the number and across the phone came the message, “Jimmy, I am not messing with you, but Kevin is dead”.

February 12th, 2000, at an indoor conference track meet held at Evanston Township High School, Kevin Dean Richard, a junior track star at Evanston Township High collapsed after just finishing the mile race. After he collapsed, emergency personal rushed to the scene and Kevin was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Kevin had an enlarged heart which caused him to have a seizure after the race. Kevin was my best friend.

Kevin was always the better friend. He was always the one who gave, the one who smiled, the one who forgave, the one to talk smack, the one that loved. He was a person of strong character, had great fortitude, lived with discipline, and loved confidently. He showed my parents through his integrity and love that black people are not to be feared. His passing inspired me to quit dealing marijuana and eventually quit smoking all together. His passing instilled in me to never take a friendship for granted. His passing opened my eyes to how unfair this world can be. His passing caused me to question everything I’ve ever known. His passing led me to believe that there was no God because if God was a loving God, He would not rob this world of someone like Kevin.

Fast forward 5 years and I was graduating college. At the time, I was a cocky, bitter, self-absorbed individual who thought of nothing but myself. I was determined to leave everything behind, including the girl that stuck with me for the last 2 years. She was beautiful, gracious, giving, inspiring, and understanding. But I was a stupid boy. I broke her heart, time after time. My heart was filled with so much anger and bitterness that all I did was take from her. I was abusive and I belittled all of her dreams and accomplishment so I could build myself up by putting her down. And then one day she had enough and she left me for someone else. The breakup crushed me. I lost the only person that had ever made me feel that I can fly.

I couldn’t stand the pain. There was an empty hollowness buried deep in my chest. I stopped eating. I barely slept. It seemed the only place I could go was the dark corner of my closet, where I lay in a pool of tears. During this time I moved to a new city and decided to move in with a friend and his mother. The idea of having a parent under the same roof was not ideal, but I was desperate for love and understanding, so I jumped at the opportunity.

I will never forget the first time I met Mrs. Chien. She was warm, but stern. She laid down the law of the house and for the first time since high school, I was given a curfew again. She asked that I pay rent and eat breakfast and dinner at the house because everyone living under her roof was family. It was through these meals she began to nurse me back to health. Not only was her food delicious, she provided me with an audience to pour out all of the sorrow I was experiencing. She never judged me. She just listened and loved me. It took a long time for me to understand why she would make such a huge effort for someone she barely knew. She did it because Jesus had loved her like that once and through her, He was showing His love to me.

A few months went by and I decided to move out and into an apartment by myself. Soon after, loneliness crept back into my heart. The burden of grief and regrets had become so overwhelming that I was crippled to feel joy. Finally one day, I couldn’t stand life anymore. I had nowhere to turn, so I turned to God. I sank down to my knees and I murmured, “Lord, may you forgive me for all my sins”. As soon as I finished my first prayer in 6 years, I knew God was there. He lifted the weight of the world off my shoulders. He lifted the burden off my heart. I promptly jumped up and couldn’t believe what happened and what I had done. I even tried to take back my prayer. I was a sworn atheist. I prayed because I had nowhere else to turn. No matter how hard I tried to go to back to my old ways, the seed was planted in my heart and I began my journey to seek out my savior.

The journey to Christ has not been easy. Since the moment God came back into my life, I continue to struggle with my insecurities and my human desires. However, I stuck with it. I stuck with it because for the first time in my life, my heart is complete. I finally understood the meaning of pure love and joy. God’s grace has freed me from my regrets and burdens. Now that I got to know God, I want God to know me too, by the fruit of my labor.

It has all led me to WitnessSF. 

Originally posted on WitnessSF.org on March 11, 2011 at 9:57am

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