After my cousin passed away, I thought about death a lot. And eventually I began to have a repetitive dream of my own funeral. For a suicidal teen, the dreams were somewhat satisfying to me, as morbid as that sounds. I began to tell my best friend that I thought I was going to die soon because of the dreams I was having.
Around that time I began visiting a local church’s youth group as well as a weekly Bible study. I mostly went because I enjoyed getting out of the house and spending time with friends. At the time, I thought simply believing in a god or deity made a person a Christian.
I believed in God my creator. I read all the children’s Bibles as a child – at least, the first few chapters about creation. I knew about the God who created the Heavens and the Earth and the God who created Adam and Eve, but anything past that I had no knowledge of.
I had heard of the name Jesus and that He was the son of God. I took that information at face value and I guess I believed it, but that still didn’t mean much to me.
The summer after my freshman year of high school finally arrived, and the church I had been attending was having a youth camp that June. I wanted one thing that summer, and it was change. I wanted to be different and to feel different than I was. I didn’t want to feel depressed and have a cloud of shame and guilt floating over me. I didn’t know if that was possible or if it would happen, but I hoped.
On my way to the youth camp, as I rode with my best friend and Bible study teacher, I began to tell them about the dreams I had been having. I told them I thought the dreams were weird, and that I thought I would die soon.
My small group leader’s response baffled me. Instead of playing along with my morbid view of my dream, she instead believed the dream was symbolic and that the dream represented my old self dying and my new self being born. I had no idea what that meant, but her response somehow gave me the assurance I needed.
On the first night of camp, we were shown clips of The Passion of the Christ. In the clips, men beat Jesus beyond recognition. They continuously yelled at him and showed no empathy for the pain inflicted upon him. Before this moment, I did not know anything about what Jesus had done on the cross or what His blood represented. I suddenly began to weep like never before. Goosebumps filled my arms and legs, and the blinders finally fell off my eyes.
In that moment, I experienced peace for the first time. After the clips, the pastor gave a quick message about salvation. He told us Jesus died on the cross and took the punishment for all our sin. And that He did this so we could all be forgiven of our sin and have eternal life in Heaven with Him.
That night, light shined on the emptiness I had held onto for years. I realized I no longer had to live a life full of depression and rebellion. When the pastor gave an invitation to receive Christ as Savior and Lord, I didn’t just walk. I ran to the altar.
It was in that moment I realized life is worth living. There is life after death, that Heaven and Hell were no longer things I read about in a story book or just places I heard about, but they were real. And I now knew through Jesus I could have eternal life in Heaven.
Romans 5:6-8 ESV
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person— though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”