Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong. The melody of this common Christian song has been with me for longer than I can recall. As a child I grew up going to church every Sunday, saying a table prayer before meals and reciting another prayer before going to sleep at night. I lived a fairly sheltered life growing up in an affluent suburb of Chicago, Illinois. I played sports, I went to school, and church was just another thing that I did. I knew it was important to be nice to people, to treat people as I would like to be treated, and all that "jazz," but besides that I was just happy being a kid. Not until high school did spiritual things start to become more important to me.
I spent a lot of time with the high school youth group at my church during freshmen and sophomore year. The November of my freshmen year, I was invited to attend a weekend campout with my church. During the retreat I heard many upperclassmen tell stories about how they came to "know" Jesus Christ personally. I grew up learning about Jesus, but in a different way. At this point in my life I believed that he was the Son of God and that he died as a sacrifice for all the people of the world. I also knew I could pray to him and that he would listen to me. This idea however, of knowing Jesus personally like I know my Dad or my best friend was amazing to me. That weekend, at the campout retreat, I got a glimpse of the magnitude of my beliefs. I found that there was more to Christianity than going to church and being a good person. I began to understand that I really needed Jesus in my life.
The summer before my sophomore year I discovered my need for Jesus in a very real way. Every summer our youth group spent a week in an underprivileged community of the U.S., helping to fix peoples houses and talk to the people there about Jesus. On the last day of the week a paint chip fell into my eye while I was painting the top of a high arch on the roof of our resident's house. I thought nothing of it at first, but after a horribly painful 5-6 hour car ride home I went to the hospital to learn that my eye had been infected with a bacteria. If I had not received medical treatment that night, I would have lost my left eye. Through a long, meticulous healing period of over two months (which included a relapse of the bacteria, proving to be worse than the original outbreak) my eye was healed. I was told I would certainly need a cornea transplant if I ever wanted to see normally out of my left eye again. To everyone's surprise, my eye continued to heal to a point where my vision was almost completely restored. Throughout these two months many people at my church had prayed me, and my family and I prayed every day for healing. Throughout this ordeal, I continually felt a peace in my heart that everything would turn out for the best. Normally, I would be upset with God that I would suffer this injury at a Christian camp, but looking back, I had peace and trusted in Jesus. I now know that this is the peace Jesus speaks about in John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus alone gave me the strength and peace to get through my pain and suffering. Jesus really sparked my interest during my senior year of high school as I spent more time reading the Bible and going to youth group at my church and a Bible study with friends from school. I knew I wanted to learn more and more about following Christ. I finally began to get the picture during my freshman year of college at the University of Illinois. I spent the fall semester learning about relating to Jesus from my friend Shaun. He contacted me after I filled out a survey in the beginning of the year, and he began visiting me to ask how Jesus and I were doing. As the year went on, I really started to see changes in my relationship with God. In relating to the person of Jesus, I actually had something to visualize when I prayed. Also, I began to see the Bible in a different way. I went from reading the Bible like a history book and trying to simply learn about Jesus, to interacting with Him in a very real way. I began to experience the truth of Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Jesus began to help me make decisions through his Word and even began speaking to me with various verses throughout the day.
I now experience the presence of the creator of the universe on a daily basis. I grew tired of doing things apart from God, and I have decided that I want to be fruitful in life. Living with Jesus Christ as my center has brought me peace of mind, wisdom, confidence, and most of all joy. I know that I will face temptation and suffering the rest of my life, we all do, but with Jesus Christ in my life, I can have joy through my difficulties. This joy, unlike happiness that can come and go, sustains me and carries me through the struggles of life. I am certain that this joy comes only through knowing Jesus Christ.