Jon, USA, Age 29
I could feel that weight of death on my shoulders. It wasn’t coming from the open casket a few paces in front of me. It was the thought of my own mortality that burdened my conscience.
In my seventeen years of life, I had never experienced death so closely. This death did not take the life of a well-aged man satisfied with the fruits of a good, long life. The image before me was a pale but perfect teenage body. Its only visible defect was the absence of hair as a result of chemotherapy. Keith had died of Leukemia at the age of fourteen. Why? Life wasn’t fair.
The emotion I felt was very different from the atmosphere in the church. Of course there were tears and the passing of tissues in the rows around me, but there was something more. Something that I could only describe as joy. Person after person stepped forward to share of the impact this young man had made on them. Many tear stained cheeks were lifted in smile and even laughter at the memories that Keith had given them. They mentioned Jesus as often as they spoke about Keith. It was hard to understand, and I turned in my seat at the mention of Christ.
Throughout the whole service, I could not stop looking at Keith’s family. I had expected anger in their speech or frustration in their tears but all that was visible was a peace. A peace I did not know and could not comprehend.
After the final prayers were given, my family mingled in the lobby. As I stood by the coat rack, anxious to leave, the conversations around me silenced, the images of people blurred and a clear voice questioned my heart:
“Is this Jesus real? Can he make a difference in my life… and death?”
Up to that point in my life I had studied Jesus, like any good church going boy would. Sure, He was the Son of God. Yeah, He died for my sins. Accept Him into your heart, and you’ll go to heaven. They say the streets are paved with gold. “Mom, can we go home now.”
Though I had gone through the motions and “accepted Jesus into my heart”, He was not visible in my mind or my life. My interests had changed from pleasing my parents to satisfying my sex drive. Somehow, I had come to accomplish both but only on the surface.
I still got good grades and was involved in all the extra-curricular activities that would keep an honest parent believing that his child was on the straight and narrow road with Jesus. Yet, I replaced any belief or desire for God with girls. I lived and breathed for my relationships… I was in love, or at least I was making it.
Keith’s death shook me up something fierce. I had some candid conversations about God with my youth pastor and did some serious soul searching. I realize now that it was God who led me to this crossroad in my life.
I knew my sexual activity grieved God and broke His law, but I found a brief escape from my guilty conscience in each sexual experience. I was truly miserable, and I had a decision to make. I could turn my life over to the God who brings peace in the face of death and cleanses His followers from all of their sin and wrongs, OR I could find temporary satisfaction in the arms of a girl I knew I wouldn’t be with for the rest of my life.
God’s pursuit paid off, and I began to look for Him for strength. Upon asking for forgiveness for my shallow hypocrisy and sinful pleasure seeking, I knew His peace for the first time. I now knew the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Not only did Jesus take the punishment that I deserved for my disobedience to Him, saving me from eternity in Hell, but He defeated death so that He could give me life–eternal life now & after the grave!
The first year or two of truly following Jesus wasn’t easy, and I was tempted to revert back to some of my old sinful habits. However, I had read the words of the apostle Peter, and I often said them to myself when I was tempted to abandon my relationship with God:
“Jesus knew within himself that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see me, the Son of Man, return to heaven again? It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.But some of you don’t believe me.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Then he said, ‘That is what I meant when I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father brings them to me.’
“At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave, too?”
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:61-69 (NLT)
Though I studied English during my time at the University, much of my time was spent learning more about God and encouraging others to know Him and grow in their relationship with Him. My second year I attended a missions conference that burned into my mind a question that will stay with me for the rest of my life: “How will my life make a difference for eternity?”
I have chosen to devote my life to serve Jesus Christ. Today my wife and I are missionaries at a Christian school for deaf children in Baja California, Mexico. Though I don’t know what God has planned for us five years from now, I do know that He is faithful, and it is my reasonable service to worship Him by offering my life: Jesus died for me, that I might truly live for Him!