No matter what your story holds, it’s always a beautiful miracle when Jesus comes into the middle of it and transforms your life. That’s why we’re dedicating the entire weekend of July 29 & 30 to celebrating baptisms, individuals proclaiming their newfound identities in Christ. We’re delighted to share many of their stories with you; here’s one from high school student Karis Owens:

My name is Karis Owens. I am 16, a rising junior at Long Reach High School. I currently serve on impact team at GADC and am loving it. My favorite thing to do is talk because I love people and building relationships with everyone I meet. I usually overshare but I like to at least pretend that people enjoy my company.

I was raised in a Christian household, went to church every Sunday, was taught to love Jesus, the works. Although, going through the motions and not feeling anything except what I was told to feel, was my upbringing. I was walking with Christ but not through him.

Before trusting Jesus I cared too much about image. My reputation was my hamartia. I cared so much about what people thought of me that the version of Karis I put out there often changed. My core was selfish and materialistic. I wanted worldly values like popularity, clothes, friends thinking I was cool, etc. – all things that ultimately wouldn’t fill the void I so desperately tried to fill. Regardless of how many times I would succeed in pleasing the people around me, I would still feel empty. I poured so much of myself into these things that didn’t matter. My heart was corrupted, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself, let alone God. Living for myself only gave me a temporary high. The joy always felt hollow.

There was no huge experience that made me realize that I no longer wanted to live for myself anymore. This was the reason why I was so reluctant to get baptized, because I felt like my story was “less meaningful” because I hadn’t experienced a death or accident that God used to draw me in. I didn’t go to Africa or contract a disease like many of the beautiful testimonies I hear. But I did learn. I now know that what God is doing in my heart is the most beautiful miracle of all, and my experience getting to that point doesn’t make my story any more or less meaningful. God met me where I was, in my brokenness.

In 7th grade on the spring retreat, the theme was “free.” This is the weekend when I truly accepted Jesus into my heart and where his love has flooded into my soul ever since. My heart was opened and I owned up to who I was, and the sins were easily washed away because of his blood. My being was freed.

Since then I’ve been growing in my faith with God, understanding what being a Christian really means. Life didn’t automatically snap into place as soon as I accepted Jesus into my life. Bad things still happened to me, I still felt, I still doubted. Sometimes it would consume me and I’d grow distant, but I believe that sometimes you must feel doubt to know what faith really is. I chose to accept the grace that Christ so openly distributes. Pain may be present, but Jesus conquered it all.

I feel God working within me now more than ever. He has blessed me with a newfound passion for serving. All I want to do is help others. I just want to share the love that he has shown me onto others who have yet to experience the beauty of his love.

Like I said before, hardships still occur. My family was struggling with money, which changed a lot of things for me, especially because of my materialistic nature. I thought that these changes would be hard for me to accept. All of my identity was within what I would wear, where I lived, who I’d talk to, how good at sports I was, or how many “likes” I’d get on social media. The changes in my life would affect all these things, but because of Jesus I didn’t mind losing them. I still struggle with a lot of this, as I feel a lot of people do in this age, but Jesus allows me to see past it. I try to find the bigger picture amidst the little details that I think matter so much now. My purpose is in the Lord, so whatever it takes to live the life he desires for me is where I now place my identity. It is a work in progress but he is rebuilding my heart.

I am getting baptized to publicly proclaim my love for Jesus. I always thought that my experience wasn’t “valid” enough for me to take the next step, but God has shown me that no feeling is invalid or not credible enough. This world is full of people walking different paths at different paces. The way to Jesus is always different, so why would we compare our journey with someone else? I don’t know how to explain the feeling I have in my heart, but I know it is God working within me, convicting me to get baptized. I prayed about it after realizing that my journey isn’t the focus of baptism. To be baptized is plainly to show others that you have placed your identity in Christ, and hopefully this will draw more people in. The hole in my heart has been completely filled and made new by Jesus. The love I feel and know is surreal, and I want others to know of that love too. This is how I feel, and hopefully it can touch others’ hearts as it has mine.

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