For much of my High School years, I walked the quarter-mile to school with two friends, Annie and Annette. Our morning walks halted in my last year of High School as I became gravely ill and spent several months in bed. Their loyal friendship continued, and they often stopped on their way to school to ask my mother for a progress report.
Once I was cleared to return to school, I no longer had the muscle strength to walk more than a few blocks, so I rode City Transit. However, every time I passed Annie in the hallways, we’d stop and talk, and I sensed a definite change in her. Annie was blossoming from the inside out. Although she had always been kind, there was something more, a something more that I just couldn’t put my finger on.
She confessed to asking some of her new friends to pray for me during my long illness. I secretly marvelled that they prayed for someone they didn’t even know. I couldn’t fathom anything as dull as praying boring old prayers for a stranger.
If Annie’s friends saw me walking down the hall between classes, they’d wave a cheery hello. If they saw me in the cafeteria, they’d coax me to join them at their table. As I had been severely bullied for years, I was cautious. However, their warmth won me over. Their overtures of friendship seemed natural. I sat at their table most school days but didn’t say much. I listened in.
Intermixed with their conversations about classes, heartaches, triumphs, sports, and clothes, they’d bring up the name of Jesus. The way they talked about Him puzzled me. It was almost as if Jesus was a real friend to them all. He just wasn’t some distant God they worshipped from afar. My new friends’ eyes lit up at the mention of His name.
My friends not only believed that God was interested in their lives, they believed He offered practical solutions! These teenagers genuinely liked God. He wasn’t just someone they needed to appease with perfect behaviour. No. My friends loved Him, and they believed they were loved in return. He was as real to them as the people who sat around our lunch table. It was enough to make a girl think.
One day, Annie waved me down just outside our school and nervously pulled a card out of her pocket. It was an invitation to a three-day retreat taking place at my High School. Armed with much curiosity and even more trepidation, I willingly walked back into my high school’s front doors on a Friday night, knowing I would not be released until late Sunday afternoon.
Throughout that weekend, I was told of a loving and compassionate God. However, it was not the gifted speakers, Bible studies, and presentations that won me over. The heart of Jesus that shone through my classmates captured my heart.
Your authentic, transparent love is the lamp glass that reveals the burning heart of God to others.
At one point in the weekend, I slipped into an empty classroom designated as a temporary chapel. As I gazed upon a massive pencil sketch of Jesus that someone taped on a wall, I became aware of the presence of an unseen Someone in the room. I wasn’t alone. That Someone had always been there, walking beside me. He had been trying to get my attention for months through a group of everyday teenagers who loved well.
That Someone had a name, His name was Jesus, and He asked me to trust Him with my life. I cautiously reached out to that Presence, and as the old chorus goes, “He touched me and made me whole.” For the first time in my life, I felt safe and protected.
God became real to me through the lives of everyday teenagers who had problems but trusted Him with them. It wasn’t their oratory skills that drew me to Christ. It was their passionate, reckless, and all-consuming love for Him. Their transformed lives fueled a hunger in me. Their fiery love for Jesus and me drew me into Christ’s loving embrace. Their light shone bright, and that light beckoned me home.
“Let your words be the genuine picture of your heart.” John Wesley
Until Next Week
©2023 Katherine Walden