I was only four when my mom and dad separated, so I was raised by my mom and grandma without any help. When I was young I loved church, but a couple years after the divorce in our family, my mom announced that she was bisexual and predominantly lesbian since being with my father. When my mom began to feel unwelcome and rejected by people she had known her whole life, we stopped going to church at all. I loved church but I had no idea what it all stood for. Jesus was just another name. When I went to get baptized the summer before this falling out, my pastor asked me to explain why I wanted that for myself. I didn’t have an answer for him and so I didn’t get baptized. I thought that was the end of that.
My mom has struggled financially and spiritually since then and I didn't have a role model. I didn't want to be like either of my parents. Being raised by only women because my only brother played hockey in British Columbia, I didn't have anyone to look up to as a fatherly figure. I learned everything from the friends I did have, my sisters, my mom, and my grandma.
I often turned my back on my mom, hiding her true identity from all of the people I knew no matter how close to me they were, and even to this day I have struggled with telling this truth about her. Growing up I didn't really fit in; I was discriminated against in school which made it even harder to reach the standards I set for myself. The one thing I excelled at was sports, but when they were done I spent a lot of time alone.
In high school, I had no intention to stay abstinent and neither did any of the people I hung out with. Since my freshman year I experimented sexually, I cheated, and after a while I locked away any and all guilt about it. I was manipulative and struggled with honesty. When I was accepted into college, all I wanted to do was get away from my life; I wanted to leave all of my problems with my family and all of my regrets in the rear view mirror. I wanted to make something new of myself, leaving everything else behind as if it never happened.
Although the plan was to go to ASU and get far away from Washington, I followed a girl who went to Lewis and Clark State College and I ended up here at WSU. Against everyone's advice I joined a fraternity. Although my reason was to meet some guy friends and possibly some role models, I got involved with binge drinking and partying, more sexual corruption, a gambling addiction I picked up in high school, and even a trip to the hospital with a very high BAC level.
Even with all of these achievements I still struggled with a lack of fulfillment in my life, extreme loneliness that I tried to fix through relationships with others, and even more regret than I left my home with. Through all of this, God was pursuing me.
I was sitting in class one day next to a girl named Maja Olson. We were having a conversation and I did not want to stop talking to this girl because she was so happy and lively and interested in what I had to say. I love to talk and when she asked me what my spiritual beliefs were I told her that I was raised Christian but I didn’t really practice it. I told her that I believed the bible was basically full of metaphors that provided a moral code of how we should live on earth. She disagreed - respectfully and passionately.
We had one more argument when she told me Jesus Christ was a real person in history -I didn't realize that was true. Then she invited me to come to Resonate that Sunday. I wanted to go because I didn't like where I was at in life, I didn't like the person I was in my relationships with people, I wanted to be more successful in the work place, and I wanted to feel better about who I was.
The sermon I heard that week was about misdirection and I thought it was really interesting. I had a lot of questions afterwards and I went to go find Maja to thank her for inviting me. As she and I were talking, a guy talking behind me heard my name and turned around waving and said, "You're TJ? I'm Luis! We should get coffee sometime."
I had no idea who this guy was or why he wanted to get to know me but there was something so accepting about him that I wanted to hang out with him. We met up for coffee that week and multiple times after that, and I learned so much from him through reading John and just through our conversations. I started going to Village with my friend Kathleen, who was also a part of the Resonate community where I met Steve Heston and Jonathan Crabtree.
All of these people started to accept me into their community and influence me in such a positive way, but the moment I will never forget is when I was sitting in Reunion with Luis and he asked me if I wanted to watch the sermon from the week prior that I had missed. We watched the sermon and Josh Martin was talking about this scale that was sitting behind him. He said a lot of people believe that to be a good Christian and to go to heaven they have to do more good than they do bad. Then he said that wasn't true.
Using his hands and talking with urgency, Josh explained how the price of sin is death. I thought to myself, "Well I've sinned, so that must mean I'm promised death.”
He explained that this is the present state of your heart, but in the bible God promises you a new heart. He explained the gospel - that what Jesus did by dying on the cross was merge His heart with mine, taking on my sin and giving me His righteousness, so that I could live redeemed in His name. Hearing that for the first time I didn't exactly understand, and after the sermon Luis explained to me that the gospel can be summed up in only six words: "Slay the dragon, get the girl."
I didn't understand at first but Luis asked me, "In this scenario who would you see yourself as?" Confused I said, "The Knight?" He said no; that I was the girl. He explained that I am in a tower guarded by the dragon of sin, destined for death unless a foretold knight comes to save me. He said that knight came in the form of a man who died on a cross and slayed the dragon of sin, bringing me from death to life. I looked up fascinated and thought I had never been so happy to be the girl in that scenario.
In that moment I felt something so strongly in my heart and Luis asked if he could pray for me; that was the first time someone had actually prayed for me. Right there in Reunion of the Compton Union Building at WSU I gave my life to my Savior, the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
Since then I have continued to learn from the community here, I have new purpose behind my ambitions, new ideals for my life, I have a Father in God, and I have begun to mend old wounds, I feel spiritually empowered rather than victimized from hardships, I have left the old self behind with the new found knowledge that if I do, there will be something better coming.