By: Kyle Hanis, CWU student
Ephesians 2:4-5 says, ”But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” My story is all about those two words at the start… “But God”, and I cannot be more thankful for that.
I’ve known about Jesus my whole life. Early on I would go to church, but that stopped right after elementary school. Growing up, I would call myself a Christian with no thought as to what that meant.
I’ve spent most of my life chasing happiness. I thought that happiness would come from popularity, succes, or having the prettiest girl. I spent years trying to be the best at everything I could, earning achievement after achievement, title after title. I always told myself that the next success or the next girl would do it, but it was never enough. I ran myself into the ground trying to make myself feel good about who I was. Right before senior year of high school I met a girl named Emma and we started dating. While our relationship didn’t magically solve everything, she ended up being instrumental in my journey toward knowing God.
After graduation, I entered into the aviation program at Central Washington University. I put my entire identity into being a pilot. It was the only thing I cared about. I ate, slept, and breathed airplanes. Then sophomore year I found out I didn’t get into the program. Everything I had worked for was gone: my friends, my major, and my purpose. On top of it all, Emma and I were having all sorts of relationship problems. I tried to numb myself by drinking, but that only made my problems worse. It was the worst three months of my life, feeling like I had nothing and no hope.
At the same time, Emma was invited to this church called Resonate. She kept trying to drag me along, but I was not about it. She started to learn more and more about this newfound faith, and ended up going on a mission trip during spring break. When she came back, everything was different. She had decided to follow Jesus and I didn’t understand why that meant everything had to change. One day we got a phone call letting us know our new apartment ready for the two of us to move into together like we had planned, and she told me she wasn’t going to be living with me anymore. Soon after she told me that she wanted a Godly man as a husband and father of her children, leaving me with a choice; either change or the relationship was going nowhere. I was lost and confused, and now I didn’t have a place to live. I didn’t want to throw away two and a half years of dating so I figured I could at least show up to church and that that would make her happy. But God wanted more.
After a few months of going to church reluctantly, everything suddenly changed. The sermon was about how God had everything rigged, and it felt like I was finally understanding that there was a reason for everything that was happening in my life. After the message, we sang a song called Resurrecting with a line that says, “in your spirit I will rise, from the ashes of defeat” and I broke down in tears in the theater. I wanted God. I wanted the resurrecting king we sang about to resurrect my heart. I wanted to be loved. I wanted more in my life. I wanted what everyone else around me had. I started learning about the Bible, what God had done for me so I could know him, and what discipleship meant. For the first time in my life, I went all in with the Lord. He wanted all of me, all the good and all the bad, so I gave him everything.
You see, those two words… “But God” make all the difference in the world. I was hopeless, but God gave me joy. I was lost and confused, but God gave me a purpose. I was selfish and prideful, but God has transformed my heart. Because of his grace and mercy, because of Jesus Christ, I have learned what unconditional love looks like. Love that didn’t depend on me being good enough. Love that died for me on the cross. Love that is completely unconditional. Because of that love, I learned what it meant to live my life for the Kingdom of God, what it meant to live sacrificially towards others, and that everything wasn’t about me. There is much more to life than being the one with the most friends, best titles, or highest GPA. I have a Savior who loves me in spite of everything I had done and everything I will do; I am enough in the eyes of the Lord.
I now get to aiming my life at reaching more students like me, sharing my story with others who are just as lost in the achievement trap as I was. This last fall I was baptized. This coming spring I will marry Emma, who is now my fiance, and we will continue to leverage our lives to make the most of Christ. Coming to CWU as freshmen, neither one of us could have imagined what our lives would look like now, but God- praise God- had it all rigged.