Here’s my testimony.
I came to know Jesus at an early age under the discipleship of my mother. I believed that God loved me, and he created in me a tender heart to listen to his spirit.
However, when I was in high school, I began to idolize academic performance. I knew that God loved me beyond measure, but I didn’t know how to believe this. I overworked myself in school, trying to prove my value as if it could be quantified by test scores and teachers’ praises. My successes never changed anything, though, and I was constantly frustrated and wholly unfulfilled.
As time passed, two concurrent events created a turning point that led me to repentance and new discovery of Jesus’ love for me.
The first happened when I was a freshman in college. A professor personally challenged me regarding the intellectual credibility of the Christian faith. I had never seriously questioned my faith on intellectual grounds. As I read about the historical reliability of the Bible and evidence for the resurrection (thanks RZIM), I grew more and more fascinated by my God, about whom there was suddenly so much more to learn.
Around the same time, I read The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. His line “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us,” equally convicted and excited me. I began to see that my feelings of emptiness that led me to search for validation in academics were rooted not in poor self-esteem (though probably the opposite) but in unbelief in God’s Word and the things it says about me (Psalm 139, for example). On the other hand, I felt relief — there was a way out of the endless cycle of performance-driven identity.
My deep need for repentance soon came into sharp relief. C. S. Lewis’ words in The Weight of Glory speak well to my situation: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” My personal “mudpie” was flavored with intellectual affirmation. My actions revealed that I found it just as compelling as Jesus Christ.
As I began to wage war against this sin that had taken so much joy from me, Jesus began to move in my heart and change me. Slowly and painfully, over the course of several years, God pried my identity out of the clenches of my longtime idol. I learned to look at the Cross, which puts questions about my value to rest.
My favorite verse is Acts 20:24. Paul says, “…I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” I’m not there yet — but, in true testimony fashion — I thank God that I’m closer than I used to be.