Justin found the freedom to live for Jesus
God had been calling my name for years, and it felt crazy to finally accept and follow Him.
When I met Jesus at 17 years old, the next two years were spent on me trying to get it right.
However, the Lord was slowly working on me; showing me what true freedom is, and telling me that I don’t have to fix my broken bones to come to Him. He tells me to come to Him, and He will fix them for me. I don’t have to get it right or live up to the standard. I can just come to the Lord and be authentic with him.
I grew up going to my family’s church, and when I was 8 or 9 years old, I was baptized. A lot of my cousins wanted to do it, so I did it with them. But looking back on it now, I don’t think I accepted Jesus at that moment. I think that I met Jesus when I was 17 years old at a youth conference.
I was wrecked because I had been running from the Lord for so long and didn’t even realize it. It was wild when the light bulb went off in my head. God had been calling my name for years, and it felt crazy to finally accept and follow Him.
Up until this point, I had been living a double life. I would be one way with my family and church, but be a completely different way with my friends. I always made an excuse for myself by finding a middle ground. My friends would be doing something like smoking weed and I would justify my actions by saying, “At least I’m not doing that.”
I was not deliberately ignoring God. It’s not like I would hear Him speak and decide not to listen. I had no idea He was even trying to talk to me. It was a “wow!” moment when I realized that God knows me and wants a relationship with me.
This had to do with the culture I grew up in. It wasn’t the same for everyone, but I got caught up in the rules of Christianity to justify my actions. I was in the choir, and I would read my Bible every day or every other day, but I was completely missing the whole relational aspect of God.
It feels like it should just happen on its own, but it doesn’t. What I’m learning is that it’s all about the journey of trying to figure out what it looks like to have a relationship with Him.
When I first came to NewSpring Church, I hated it. But I started going with my godmom once a month at the Northeast Columbia Campus.
This is where I met Billy Dillard. He and I grew pretty close. He was always hyping up the Gauntlet and dogging me about going, but I was a part of another youth group, so I never really thought about going. Plus, my family was a little tight on money.
But I ended up applying for financial assistance and being able to go. My mom has always been super supportive of me and was willing to help make this happen.
It was either Tuesday morning or night at Gauntlet that I had been struggling a lot with my calling into ministry. I don’t remember who was preaching, but he talked about God using us for His will.
I had been struggling a lot with coming to Anderson University and didn’t know anybody. I remember I was in the back corner by myself. I was praying, and I told God, “I don’t know what you have in store for me; I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but here I am.” At that moment, He confirmed my calling of going into ministry.
A mentor who helped me realize the Lord had been calling me to ministry was a guy named Ben. He was the youth pastor at the youth group I went to my junior and senior years of high school. He was the first person to take me under his wing and bring me into his life. Then, in my senior year, he and Billy were huge because they both challenged me in so many different ways, like to speak up more and step into leadership.
For the first time, I didn’t feel alone because I was surrounded by guys at the Northeast Columbia Campus. But it was hard when I came to Anderson University because I was leaving good community.
When I came up here, it was like going back to square zero. Then I found community in three guys: Quan, KD, and Dylan. They have been the biggest blessing in my life. I didn’t realize how important community was until I truly experienced it.
If you asked me two years ago what I thought I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have ever guessed this.
The Lord has never let me down, and he’s never going to let me down. This gives me a lot of joy, in the sense of being able to look back and see where the Lord has brought me from.
All of this is only the beginning because I’m 21 years old and still got a long way to go, a lot of growing to do, and a lot of life left. I’m just along for the ride, going wherever God takes me.