I am MichaEL, and this is my salvation story.
“If Jesus can be this real, this intimate, this personal, then what exactly have I spent my life doing in the name of following Him?”
This is a question I asked myself severally through last year. It wasn’t that I had just received Jesus into my life. No, I had long received Jesus into my life. I had only missed out on a foundational practice – the practice of implicitly listening to Jesus. I had learned to listen to Him through preachers, teachers, books, the experiences of others but had seldom cultivated the habit of listening on my own to hear the things He had to tell me personally. And if ever I did listen, it was hardly with much assurance. It simply felt to me like some realms of God were only accessible to certain classes of people, and it’d take you years and years of labor and prayers to step into some of the things I later found to be freely given of God. The experiences of people became somewhat of a veil through which I saw Him.
Growing Wrongly into God…
Rather than listen and follow God with no distractions, I would often ask “God, what is wrong? Am I fine? Why is no one else doing this? Why are You troubling me this much?” Rather than give the Holy Spirit first place, I let people’s experiences and expressions of God shape my understanding of Him. Now, I realize I only listened to some of the things Jesus said to me – when they aligned with these external influences – and put others aside – when I didn’t seem to understand them or they didn’t work with what I knew of Him.
So, even as a child, up until a couple of years back, rather than purely focus on growing into all of God and none of the traditions, I found myself growing into a lot of traditions which in turn served as a hindrance from growing into God. My yardstick for spirituality was how ‘moderately’ you dressed. Appearance was the biggest deal for me – it still is a big deal, but not as big as the Life of Christ in you. Then, if you went unnatural, you lost my ears; go natural and you had my heart. Sometimes I tried to suppress these ideologies, still, they functioned quite well in my subconscious, and influenced how I saw people. I can’t begin to think of how many beautiful souls I kept at a distance because they didn’t suit my idea of how a Christian should look. I’m just glad I don’t live with regrets, else the regret of losing certain acquaintances, friends would hunt me till today.
Related Story: The Church Failed Me When I Needed Them Most – Pat
Struggles with Self-righteousness and Insecurities
All this, coupled with the fact that I saw the righteousness of God as a thing attained through personal effort, rather than through resting in the finished works of Christ, constituted a huge struggle for me. I consistently spoke about how our mortal righteousness are as filthy rags before God – the Source of immortal righteousness – while I still blindly relied on the same form of righteousness.
So, rather than bring forth righteousness from a winning position of union with Christ, it became a thing of human effort. And so many times, this brought me sleepless nights. I lost my sleep whenever I made a mistake with regards to my perception of the will of God for me. Other times, I spent hours crying my heart out in the dark because I had made a mistake. Evidently, all this stemmed from a place of desiring to please God, but it was approached in the most misdirected of ways.
I trudged on in insecurities – I know only a few people who were more insecure than I was while in the University – especially between second and fifth year unless, like me, they kept their pain in secret while they laughed before everyone else. Many times, I was quiet, not as a reflection of my temperament but because I was broken, with little or no confidence left in me. My only comfortable place during these times was God and indirectly church. This was the one place where I could laugh and speak comfortably. I cried a lot with God. I mean if there’s one person who has seen my many tears, it’s Him. Looking back now I realize I could have experienced His fullness if only I had listened to Him (alone). I had experienced glimpses of His Life, and these glimpses brought blessings to people. It was the weirdest thing you know, to be so broken in secret and yet be a source of strength to others. The words “I am so glad I have you as a friend” felt like a crown to any relationship I was a part of. I loved being a blessing to people.
Healer, Heal Yourself…
God saw this and spoke to me about it. “Healer, heal yourself,” I once heard Him say in one of my weakest states. This was God’s call again for me to detach from things and come to Him. It was probably meant to be a word for a season but I failed to listen and engage God accordingly. I heeded His call for a day and lived on. I’ll offer you this piece of advice, dear friend: never assume the fellow with the biggest smile to be the happiest person. If you have a leader, a mentor, someone who exudes much strength, who heals and uplifts, always check in on them, say hello, ask how they are faring; don’t live with the assumption that they are fine. Your little words of encouragement and appreciation would go a long way in strengthening them.
It is easy to ask, why God allows such private pain if He loves. I don’t think this had to do with God. This was simply the playing out of the consequences of a principle: you fail to listen and follow God on a personal intimate journey, you fail to step into and experience the myriads of things He has made available for you. The glimpses I experienced were His voice calling out to me, the lights which were meant to guide me to a place of greater intimacy, and infinite wonders.
And into a place of greater intimacy, I came.
Related Story: I Was A Preacher’s Son But The Devil’s Ally – Joshua
2010 was the year I began finding clarity in hearing God’s voice. God spoke to me a lot about art. I was an engineering student, but He seemed to have admitted me to a different school with a personal curriculum. I saw more in Art than I did in engineering. When I read the Bible, I saw pictures, images to be drawn, painted. He explained scripture to me in the most creative ways but I guess I desired validation from people – which I wasn’t getting – and this wounded my confidence in the things I heard Him say to me in secret. To me, I was the only one and it wasn’t enough. Whereas the Bible encourages us to proclaim on the housetops the things we have heard in secret (with Him) – Matthew 10:27.
Jesus Waited for Me.
I couldn’t exactly forsake my experiences with God and Art but I feared giving myself over to them. I remember once while in prayers during a church meeting, I saw myself hosting a heart exhibition. It was the most beautiful thing; white walls, white lights art pieces, reputable personalities. It was the first vision I had ever had. But I was lost, I never really understood the place of God in art. I guess a vision of me preaching the gospel would have made more sense to me at the time. But then, Jesus was real to me at the time, but not as real as He became seven years later. I mean, for seven years, Jesus waited for me.
It took a drastic decision for me to be ‘saved’, to return to this place of clear intimate fellowship with God. This may not be best for you but it worked for me: sometime in 2016, I made a conscious decision to break away from most of the relationships I had at the time. These weren’t exactly harmful relationships except that they were innocently harmful as far as my desire for God was concerned. I wanted to hear just one Voice and no other. And after I separated myself from most friends and acquaintances, leaving only a few, I heard that One Voice.
A Place of Greater Intimacy…
May 28-31, 2017. I was at a boot camp for those three days and got all the validation I needed. It wasn’t exactly a typical church meeting. It was more of a business meeting with a huge focus on the purposes of God for humanity. I heard people speak the same ‘languages’ I had been hearing in secret for years. I met brothers, sisters for the first time and felt like I had known them all my life. “Where have you all been all this while?” was a question constantly in my thoughts. I had been hearing God in this different way and thought it was just me.
Related Story: Jesus’ Patience Broke Down My Defenses – Lawal
Through those three days, I heard God repeat, in a most reassuring way, the same things He’d been trying to say for 7 years. And this time, I realized how most foolish I’d be not to trust and follow Him. I saw myself walk into a place of light, one which I’d never again leave. Every single person seemed to be revealing my innermost secrets. I met a friend who sings, got some of his songs, and for months I couldn’t listen to any other sound. I returned from the boot camp an entirely different person, decided I was not going to run my life anymore. I had found Jesus like I was meant to find Him, I became His dream and He became mine. And this gave me enough strength to trust in His love for me, living in the assurance of His precious plans for me.
Few weeks passed, and He gave me a revelation – I had a dream. The summary of it was: “you’ve finally worn the belt of Truth like you should.” This gave me renewed strength to walk with Him like I now do. It birthed greater reassurances that made me trust Him more.
The past one year feels like the most exciting I’ve ever lived. For once I seem to be living in perfect peace and alignment with His plans for me – He never stops reassuring me of this. Sacrifices are required, but because I see the picture ahead, I gladly make them, resting in His strength as I do.
Sometimes the ease of access to God scares me. “But why does it seem so easy now? Why does this walk with You seem so productive now?” I often ask Him.
His response: “because you’re now living aligned with My will.” What could be more reassuring!
Unending Joys and Laughter…
God causes me to laugh a lot. I mean, I literally take breaks in-between conversations just to laugh. This doesn’t go without the curious glances and questions: “why are you laughing?” Sometimes it’s easy to respond, other times, it’s not. But I try.
Do you know how it feels to hear God say, “thank you”? I pray you get to hear it soon if you haven’t yet. It’s the most beautiful thing! A few times I’ve heard God say, “thank you, MichaEL.”
“Shouldn’t I be thanking You? Why thank me?”
His responses often go this way: “thank you, MichaEL for waiting for Me.” The awe!
Related Story: I Asked For A Sign From God And He Gave Me One – Lana
This response makes me realize that God desires to be with us even more than we do to be with Him. As far as He is concerned, the few months I spent waiting to hear Him clearly and follow somewhat made up for my years of turning a deaf ear. I may have delayed my journey but He forgave me and now seems to be speeding things up. Hearing God say, “thank you,” breaks me down always. It inspires true wonder: that the God of the whole universe (and more) could come down to my level, that I may come up to His.
Such intimate moments birthed the My Salvation Story project, which I hope to pursue till full attainment.
Today I hardly seek validation from anyone. If God said it, I’m good. I could talk to a person or two about it, but now I live only for the audience of One while living in peace and love for everyone and everything He made.
So, my salvation story isn’t essentially about how I received forgiveness of sins, but about the moment Jesus became most real to me. As real as the best friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
There are many things and sins, weaknesses and struggles Jesus saved me from – some of which I never knew I had or exhibited; pride, insecurities, low self-esteem, lust, and so much more. It would take much more than 2000 words to share my full story with you. But what you have just read does well in summarizing my salvation story, and I hope it sows a seed in your heart of how real Jesus is, and can be to you. I also hope it inspires you to boldly share your story.
I am MichaEL, and I am he who has made God His refuge. 😉
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