By Amanda Detweiler
Have you ever experienced one of those moments where you knew your life would never be the same again? There are the moments you hope will never touch your life like your family finding out devastating news that shakes your reality, losing a loved one or never getting to hold the one you longed for, the crushing of a dream, or being violated in a way that leaves you voiceless and afraid. Then, there are the moments that we live for, hope for, and dream of. Like meeting a person you instantly connect with and it births a friendship that will last a lifetime, getting an acceptance letter to the college of your dreams, saying ‘I do’ to your very best friend, or welcoming a new little life into your family. Our lives are compiled of a variety of moments like these, but nothing compares to the moments you didn’t even know you were looking for.
For me, that moment took place when I was just 15 years old. It was Easter morning and my mom, brother, sister, and I were heading to church for the first time I can ever remember going to church on Easter. I didn’t grow up in a home where we regularly attended church, though my parents did make it a priority at Christmas and Easter to read to us from the Bible about what was truly being celebrated during those holidays.
The few memories I had of visiting church as a child were positive and, in some cases, even comical. I remember dressing up and going to my grandparent’s church when we would get to visit them and being greeted with a hug by the sweetest little girl with Down Syndrome who I will never forget, because looking back I realized she gave me one of my first glimpses of Jesus’ love.
There was also the time when I was about seven, I had slept over at my friend’s house and the next morning we got on her church’s bus and spent what felt like an entire day at church. We went to Sunday School, then Children’s Church, and then I was pulled into a line where I was nearly baptized in front of a congregation of adults which did not include my parents. I was so terrified, my friend told me that they were going to dunk me in water and I did not know any of these people. Thank the Lord while I waited in line a kind gentleman saw the fear in my eyes, placed several Tootsie Rolls into my hand and sent me back to class with my friend. I booked it back to that classroom.
This church visit was very different though. This was the first time I saw my mom choose to go to church because she wanted to. I adore my mom, so the very fact that she was making this decision piqued an interest in me. I was a lot older at this time and many of those, please don’t let that happen to me moments, had touched my life at this point leaving me a terribly anxious, insecure, fearful, and untrusting teenager. My mom asked me if I wanted to go with her and because she was one of the very few people I trusted completely, I said yes.
Getting ready that morning was nerve-wracking as anxious thoughts filled my mind, is my outfit nice enough for where we are going? Will people know that we weren’t “church people” and exclude us? Were they going to try and baptize me again, whatever that means? I don’t think we even have a Bible, will we be let in the door? Will anyone like me?
I decided no matter what, I was going to stick with my mom the whole time and she was my biggest advocate, so no one would be able to make me do anything I didn’t want to.
As we pulled into the church parking lot it wasn’t this big beautiful building like I had expected, instead it was a simple building with a sign for a business out front. The only clue that it was ‘church’ as I expected were the people in the parking lot dressed up and greeting each other heading into the building. I was encouraged to see people of all ages walking in, even teenagers like me and felt hopeful that at least maybe I could make some friends, which wasn’t super easy for me, because church people are nice, right? I breathed a little easier still as I saw amongst those dressed up in their “Sunday best” others walking in beside them with jeans and t-shirts on. Before we even got out of our van I felt like as long as I smiled I could at least blend in with the crowd.
I stuck very close to my mom’s side, the very safest place on earth, as we walked into the building and the very first thing I heard even over the roar of conversation taking place in the foyer, was the sound of drums being played. I turned to my mom and squealed, “they have drums here and like exciting music?” Still nervous I was now anxious to get to where the music was being played. We walked together down the ramp and walked through the doorway into the sanctuary where we were handed a sheet of paper with the lyrics of all the songs for that day printed out. Music has always been one of my greatest loves and if I can sing along I am in my happy place so to be new and get to join right in, I was thrilled. People were clapping and singing loudly and as I joined along I felt my fears being swept away by a feeling of peace and joy deep inside that I couldn’t explain and couldn’t remember ever feeling.
After the music time, different people went to the front introducing themselves and sharing about various classes and events going on at the church throughout the week. Last to introduce himself was the pastor and with my experience I didn’t have many expectations for him other than the guy who would stand up front and read the Bible to everyone, and I probably wouldn’t understand, and it would probably be boring. I kind of hoped that after he was done, we might get to sing again.
But it wasn’t like that at all. To be honest I don’t remember many of the details of what he shared, but I do remember that he told us about what we were celebrating that day. He told us about the love Father God had for us that was revealed through the sacrifice of His one and only Son. He told us that while that sacrifice was painful it was a triumphant one because the Son didn’t stay dead, no He rose again and because He had risen He was very much alive and could now give us all new life. He told us about who each of us is in the eyes of the Father. And the one detail I remember the most clearly was the simplest illustration that pierced the heart of this anxious, insecure, fearful, and untrusting girl. He held up a piece of poster board with a funky-shaped hole cut out of it and said, “This poster board represents each of us from the moment we are born.” He then went on to talk about how because of the sin in the world we all have this void in us that needs to be filled, but there is only one thing that can fill it. He talked about the many ways people try to fill it, many of which I related too, but revealed to us that there is only One who can fill that void and make us whole, and His name is Jesus.
As He spoke the name of Jesus revealing Him as the One who could fill this void, my skin became covered in goosebumps, I was very cold and very hot at the same time, and my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. Deep inside I screamed, “THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR! HOW DO I GET JESUS?” Then in a calm, gentle voice he asked if there were any who wanted Jesus to come and fill that void and I was ready to do whatever was necessary to make that happen even if it meant getting dunked in the water. What he had us do was so much simpler than that. We raised our hands and he led us together through a prayer to invite Jesus into our lives. It felt like every word I spoke I was handing to Jesus as a gift of gratitude for what He had done for me and wanted to do in my life. Afterward we were invited to stand and sing again and this time I sang with every fiber of my being my first offering of worship.
In that moment my heart met the One who made me and truly knew me. In that moment I met the One who forgives me, rescues me, redeems me, and restores me. In that moment I met the One who fights for me, who comforts me, who hears me, who sees me. In that moment I met the One who gives me life, purpose, value, worth, and a voice. In that moment I met the One who cheers for me, who encourages me, who pursues me, and who loves me unconditionally. In that moment I found everything I never knew I was looking for and my life changed forever.
Since that moment, 17 years ago, my life has not been perfect or easy because I still live in an imperfect world. But God has brought joy into some of the darkest moments of my life that you would never think possible. He has made richer the most joyful moments of my life as I’ve learned through His Word how valuable every day we are given truly is. Perhaps the most amazing thing that God, my Father, my Daddy did for me was take me back to the moments before I met Him and show me that He had been there even then. He has set me free of my anxiety by filling me with peace every time I turn to Him (Phil. 4:6). He has wiped away my insecurity by revealing to me that I was carefully handcrafted, by my Father (Psalm 139:14). I no longer live in fear because I know how unconditionally loved I am and there’s nothing to fear when you are that perfectly loved (1 John 4:18). He has taught me to trust again because He has given me the tools to do so with love and caution (Phil. 1:9-10).
John 3:16-17 summarizes this moment so well in God’s Word. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
We all have moments that change our lives forever. This moment in John, is the moment that each one of us was created for. I want to encourage you that if you have experienced this moment in your life to reflect on it and remember it today. What led you there? How did you feel? What has changed since?
If you haven’t yet had this moment, I want to invite you to make today your day. The Bible has been described as a love letter from Father God to each of us His children. So, I would like to have you read John 3:16-17 one more time as though it were written directly to you. I pray that your value, worth, purpose in this world, and how greatly you are loved will be revealed as you read and that in this moment your life will become the fulfilled life God intended for you from the very beginning.
John 3:16-17 edited “For God so loved you that he gave his one and only Son, that in the moment you believe in Him you will no longer be dead, but be given the eternal life you were meant for. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn you, but to save you from every lie, shame, fear, and darkness through Him.”
This column is being published to Pandora’s Box Gazette on Easter Sunday and I can think of no better way to celebrate here, than to share the moment God changed your life forever. Whether that moment was a long time ago for you or it happened today, I would love to read your story. Please share in the comment box below so we can all be encouraged and celebrate with you!
About the Author
Amanda is happily married to her wonderful husband, Josh, and is a mother to two amazing little boys. Together, Josh and she pastor a campus of Morningstar Fellowship in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and love being a part of that community. This is Amanda’s first venture in writing, but it has been a desire of her heart for a long time so, she is thrilled to have this opportunity. When she’s not writing, Amanda enjoys listening to various messages to grow her relationship with the Lord and spending time with her family and friends.
You can read Amanda's "Sunday Inspiration" column on the 1st Sunday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette.