three years ago on this exact day, july 5 2009, my life was forever changed and to this day i will never be the same.
it was the summer after my high school senior year, and i was preparing to enter into college. i was invited to do this program called Summer Bridge at UCI, which was going to be fully paid for by the school and the government. I was hesitant and even adamant about not attending summer school, because this was my last summer to be with all my highschool and church friends. i didnt want to be weighed down by more academics and therefore add to the stress; instead, i wanted to rest, spend time with my family and friends, and spend more time with god. during this time, my mom strongly advised me to go into the summer program, which would prepare me for college—and after much wrestling, i eventually consented.
summer bridge was a 6-week long program, but unlike any regular summer school, this program could be more closely equated with a prisoner boot camp. we were put into the most stringent rules i had ever known, such as : absolutely no cell phones, laptops, or ipods. there were even boundaries set up for us at UCI; we could only venture up to a certain parameter in the school, and the rest of the school was forbidden to us. If we ever wanted to go anywhere outside of our set scheldule, we were required to go with a partner, and we had to sign in and out whenever we would go out somewhere. we had a 10 o’clock curfew, and if anyone broke any of the rules or disobeyed, we would then get a curfew cut. there were times i remember going straight to my room after dinner at 6:00 pm. we couldnt even go home on the weekends to visit our family; we were required to stay on the parameters and have minimal outside contact.
what followed the first few weeks of this program was one of the hardest, barrenest, and most depressing times of my entire life. i was so hopelessly lonely; i remember going to god every night and praying and praying, not knowing why i was there or what my purpose for being there was, or even if i was supposed to be there. i remember being extremely hurt by betrayal and friendships that i had made, and the drama that happened in my suite that i was living in. i remember being overly stressed because of the amount of homework, tests, and the workload that was increasing my anxiety and stress. i remember loathing and hating myself so much, feeling as if i was so incapable, so unintelligent,so disgusting, and so unlovable. but most of all, i remember being so spiritually barren because i was displaced from my regular church community back at home, and i wasnt able to find a spiritual home at that time in irvine; i desperately missed going to church and fellowshipping with my fellow brothers and sisters in christ.
one night i came to god, broken on my knees, desperately crying out to him. alone in my room i just needed him so much, for the overwhelming pressures that i was facing seemed too much for me to bear at that time. i remember this prayer that i prayed as if it was just yesterday.
God…lord, i feel so, so lonely. are you really here with me?
oh lord jesus, are you truly real?
if you are, can you show me that you love me, and that you are with me??
not long after i prayed this prayer, actually only a few days after, the lord answered my cries in the most miraculous and overwhelming way. it was sunday july 5, 2009, and this was the only weekend i was allowed to go home since it was a holiday (independence day). i was so happy to be able to be back at church and i was walking around, wanting to see some of my friends. suddenly, a man approaches me— and says, “can i pray for you?”
surprised and bewildered, i looked at him. i dont even really know you, you dont even come to this church! why would you want to pray for me? you dont even know what im going through! curious, i ask him, “why do you want to pray for me?”
he replies, “the lord told me to pray for you. this morning when i woke up, god told me that there was a girl i needed to pray for and he told me to come here. when i saw you walking by, the lord showed me that that girl was you.”
my attention fully captured now, i wanted to know what god had “told” this person about me. “so…what are you going to pray for me for??”
suddenly, he starts praying, and the words he spoke into my life completely changed my life forever.
“god says, do not worry about school. do not worry about your tests.”
as this man started to speak, a thousand thoughts flooded into my mind. at first, i didnt know what to believe. is god really speaking to me? is this really you god? he probably didnt even know i was in school, since its summertime. the crazy thing was, right before i came back home for the weekend, i had taken my midterms—and i had completely failed all my tests. i got the 2nd to lowest score on my math exam, and i got a D- on my computer midterm; it was the absolutely worst i had ever done in my history of academics. i was so devastated.
“god says, ‘i know you feel very lonely, but i am always with you and i love you. have faith in me, for i will never leave you or forsake you; i am with you always. submit to me in everything you do, and i will bless you always. desire me above all else, and your joy will be complete. most importantly, trust me and have faith in me, for i am with you.’ ”
i melted. time stopped. tears came pouring down from my eyes, streaming down my entire face, dripping off the corners of my mouth and down my chin. my heart was rapidly racing,pounding, and overflooding with so much love; there was no longer any traces of doubt in my heart that god was speaking to me and that he was so,oh so real. only god could have seen me praying in my room that one night as i implored him to show me that he was real, that he loved me, and that he was with me. and god— he knew! oh, how god knows me so well that nothing, no detail in my life would ever escape his notice! he saw me in my utter distress and in his love and compassion, he came and revealed his love to me in such an astounding and unmistakable way!! he loves me so much that he wanted to do everything he could to reassure me of his unending passion for me, and his presence in my life. jesus had utterly captivated my entire being so completely, so entirely, and in that moment, all the sorrow i had previously felt melted away and was replaced by an overpowering, superseding joy like nothing i had experienced ever before.
everything that i had encountered at that moment seemed so foreign to what i knew growing up in the church. puzzled, i asked the man who prayed for me, “how did you know? how do you hear god speaking to you?”
he explained to me that god speaks to him in an audible voice, and that god had commissioned him to be the mouthpiece of god, to speak into other people’s lives just as he did mine. god still speaks to people in miraculous ways today, just as he did in the past. he invited me to come to his church, where hearing from god was the norm and where miracles and supernatural occurences was as natural as everyday life. captivated, curious, excited, and hungry for more, i eagerly responded and told him i wanted to visit his church. what happened after this brought me though the most breathtaking journey into rediscovering god and encountering him in miraculous ways that i was not even aware existed before. going to his church was like revisiting the book of ACTS all over again, where the power and love of god was so evident through the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit. this was a completely different side of god that i had never heard of or seen, and i was wholly enamored and captivated by god’s magnitude and the depths of his Spirit.
during one of these church gatherings, god had imparted onto me the gift of speaking in tongues; i was almost unaware of what was going on. people laid their hands on me to pray for me, and as they prayed for me, my stomach began to burn and grow hot and shivers went up and down my spine. as i began praying, i could no longer pray in english and i was trying so hard to speak properly, but my tongue felt heavy and ladden; i no longer had control over it anymore. suddenly, i found myself speaking in a foreign language and i realized at that moment that god had graciously gave me the gift of tongues to expand my prayer language so that i could become more intimate with him. the holy spirit was praying through me, deepening my connection with god and expanding my expression to him! during this time i realized, wow, truly, anything is possible!! god is so much bigger than i had ever dreamed of, hoped for, or imagined!! god is so absolutely AMAZING!! this was the life and this was the god that i had always dreamed of since i was a child because i knew that there was so much more, and coming to this church was like a dream come true.
since that day, i am no longer the same person— god has transformed my life so completely, and i will never be the same. my journey with god since then has been the most unbelievable three years of my entire life. he’s taken me through so much and has revealed so much of himself to me. over and over again, god continues to amaze me, he continues to expand my understanding of who he is, he continues to defy any limits that i place on him. and most of all, be continues to reveal to me his infinite, unconditional, zealous, passionate, and gentle love— a love that i am so undeserving of, and i am forever indebted to him for all that hes done for me. knowing jesus has been the most rewarding, the most satisfying, the most fulfilling thing of my life, and i would not trade his love for all the riches in the world combined. he has given me a joy that is indescribable and a hope that is unshakable. i love him so much, and my only desire is that i may encounter his love more and more each day, that i may grow in my understanding of his love so that i may in turn love him back so much more and love others as much as he loves me.
oh jesus, that i would fall deeper and deeper in love with you!!