Naomi is a second year chemical engineering major at UCLA. She loves running (kind of quickly), reading (kind of slowly), coffee (black), and hanging out with people (always)–let her know if you’re down to chat!
I was born into a Christian family, and spent my childhood going to church, memorizing Bible verses, and hearing Bible stories from my parents and Sunday school teachers.
When I was about five, my parents asked me if I wanted to invite Jesus to come into my heart. From what I’d heard at church, Jesus seemed like a pretty nice guy, so I said yes, and my parents and I prayed together. Afterwards, although I had little understanding of what that prayer actually meant, I assumed that I was a Christian. I certainly believed that there was a God–and that he was likely the God of the Bible–but beyond that, my understanding of Christianity was hazy. I didn’t understand what sin was or consider myself a sinner; I didn’t understand why Jesus needed to live in my heart, or really even what that meant. Because of this, I don’t believe I was actually saved at this point in my life.
However, throughout the rest of my childhood, God blessed me with countless opportunities to learn about himself and about the Gospel. Earlier that year, instead of enrolling me in kindergarten at the elementary school down the street, my parents had chosen to homeschool me, meaning that everything I learned was based on a Christian worldview. At church, I continued to hear again and again that Jesus loved me and that he had died to pay for my sins. I accumulated a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but none of it changed my life.
Throughout the rest of my childhood, I continued to play the role of a “good church kid”; I answered the questions in Sunday school, recited the memory verses, and followed the rules. I listened to my parents and worked hard in school; I was polite to adults and friendly to the other kids at church. On the outside, I was pretty sure I looked like I had my life together. On the inside, however, I was motivated by pride in my knowledge and by the desire for the approval of everyone in my life. In short, I thought I was doing all of the right things, but I had still missed the mark.
During seventh grade, I started to question whether I was actually saved. I found myself wondering, “But like, what if I died?” This probably isn’t the most normal thing to wonder in middle school, and I don’t doubt that–like the rest of my life even up until today–it was part of God’s sovereign plan of grace in bringing me to himself.
I was terrified by the possibility of hell and the concept of eternity; up to this point, I had thought of myself as a basically good person because I knew a lot of Bible verses, got good grades, and obeyed my parents. However, I began to see some of the ways that I knew I did not live in a way pleasing to the God I’d been learning about for my entire life–my pride, my jealousy, my insecurities. I found validation in academics and popularity, and I cared deeply about what other people thought about me. I did not seek the glory of God, but desired my own success first. Although I knew that the way I was living was probably not wholly pleasing to God, I justified myself–after all, I wasn’t actively doing anything wrong.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone about these doubts because I wanted to maintain the image of perfection that I had so carefully cultivated; instead, I’d search my Bible for verses about salvation, trying to convince myself that I was indeed already a Christian because of the prayer I’d repeated when I was younger. But this questioning continued throughout eighth grade as well, and despite all of the head knowledge I gained, I still lacked an understanding of the greatness of my own sin (and therefore of my need for the grace of God through Christ’s death on the cross). I tried harder and harder to live perfectly, thinking that perhaps if I prayed the right string of sentences or was nice enough to my sister, I’d know I was saved–for sure.
Towards the end of eighth grade, my church youth group went to a conference about the resurrection. I heard the Gospel presented in its entirety–the magnitude of my sin, of the grace of God, and of my need for a Savior were all clearly delineated. Part of the message that night dealt with the magnitude of the pain Christ suffered on the cross, and that night I realized that although I thought I was an essentially good person, my hidden pride and fervent pursuit of the world were sin–the same sin that necessitated the nailing of the living God to the death of a criminal. I did not truly love God; I was not truly saved by that prayer so long ago. I was awestruck by God’s love for me, that he would send Christ to be a perfect sacrifice in my place, and by just how much I had missed the point of the Bible verses I’d been hearing all my life. That night, my pride and lack of love for God were made so evident to me, and I believe it was at this point that God convicted me of the seriousness of my sin, revealed to me the forgiveness he offered through Christ, and saved me. I realized that I could never live a life holy enough to earn salvation on my own terms, but that grace was a gift offered freely to me by God himself.
God has been so good since then to grow me in my love for him, for his Word, and for his people; although I am still so far from perfect (and will be until heaven), I am incredibly grateful for his daily grace in continuing to sustain and grow me.