20 Mar Alex’s Story: Satisfaction for the Soul
When people hear that I’m from New Jersey, without fail, they ask if I know Snooki or wonder why I don’t talk like the guys from Jersey Shore. (I’ve never even watched that junk!) But while MTV’s depiction of the Garden State is far from accurate, maybe it’s not so far off base.
Throughout my thirteen years in public school, I was never aware of a single classmate that professed to believe in Jesus Christ. I began elementary school as a perfectly behaved Christian kid, but I underwent an incredibly gradual process in which I rejected everything I had once believed for the sake of popularity. Eventually, I was an all-state cross country and track runner, I was drunk at parties every weekend, and I was getting high almost every day. Once my best friend and I got tired of spending so much money on marijuana, we decided to start selling it to everyone at school. Once I tasted popularity and notoriety, I gave up everything in pursuit of it. And it worked.
But after I graduated high school, I began to realize that continuing on this path in college would take me somewhere I didn’t want to go. As someone so engrossed in drugs and alcohol, I couldn’t have come to this conclusion on my own. You would think that I would have been psyched for college; all my friends were. It’s so clear now that this was God leading me to what my soul was truly seeking.
During freshman year, I isolated myself within a campus ministry to avoid temptation and get back on track. Much like I had abandoned my beliefs in high school to get the approval of others, I abandoned my high school lifestyle to try to get the approval of God. Yet, I found myself lonelier than ever. I had great difficulty meeting new people and I spent most weekends alone in my room.
I was frustrated that God allowed this to happen when I had sacrificed so much to set myself right with him! But that was the issue: I had tried to eliminate my sinful habits in order to return to good standing with God. That’s not how it works! I had forgotten the truth of the gospel – God’s acceptance doesn’t come only if I can clean myself up, but is a salvation by grace, through faith, and not a result of my own work.
As a sophomore, I looked back and realized that something was different about my relationship with God. There was no “aha” moment, but steadily I became profoundly invested in reading the Bible and deepening with my relationship with God. I sought out a spiritual mentor, which led to many of the strongest friendships I have today. No, everything didn’t fall into place right away, and everything wasn’t easy. For another year, I continued to beat myself up when I fell into old habits at home – but God showed his faithfulness to me and has continued to sanctify me, so that many of the behaviors I once favored are now distant memories.
The greatest encouragement I’ve had in all this is that when I persistently moved away from God for personal gain, God moved toward me, using that time to open my eyes to see my wickedness and my need for him. When I thought God had forsaken me in that dorm room freshman year, he was as present as ever. When I called in my time of need, he answered. And when we were still sinners, deserving of death, God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross in our stead. The pleasures of this life can never truly satisfy a soul created to glorify God, and I found that out the hard way. However, the Lord showed me that no matter who you are or what you’ve done, his forgiveness is greater still, and nothing that this world offers can compare to the joy and hope that we have in Christ Jesus.
Alex Parker is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the Summit College Leadership Team.