Do you know God? Years ago, I didn’t know God. I didn’t want to know God. I felt like I didn’t need to know God. After all, I had things going for me at the time. I had superior intellect, a perfectly calibrated moral compass, parents who would spoil me, and skills of all sorts and kinds. I had no need for a God. I certainly had no need for a savior. After all, what could I possibly need to be saved from? I was a good person! Sure, I had told a few lies to benefit myself, cheated a few folks, disrespected and dishonored my parents, but I was, in general, a very good person.
If there’s one person I’d like to punch in the gut and hand a bible to, it would be old Tejas. Suffice it to say, I was (heh, still am) a very difficult person to deal with. Hopefully, by the grace of this God I speak of, that’s changed. Hopefully. Loudmouth, obnoxious, cocky, and arrogant are a few adjectives that come to mind — adjectives that others would use when describing me. Awesome, superior, winner, overachiever, perfect are a few adjectives that come to mind — adjectives that I would use when describing me.
When you’re as “awesome” as old Tejas, when you’re better than all the other losers who don’t have it together, when good things fall in your lap while everyone else struggles to get them, when everyone’s crying about how they can’t make friends and you’ve got a billion, when you get certifications at age 10, when you win prestigious awards at age 15, you really feel like you don’t need God. You become your own god. I would live for myself, for my own comfort, for my own pleasure, for my own enjoyment. It was a life of me me me and not a life of service and obedience.
If you know me, you know about the fun genetic disorder I was born with – the thing that makes me live every day like it’s my last because it very well could be. Being born into a Christian family, we’d sit by the bedside every night and pray. We’d start with Psalm 23, after which we’d move on to recite the Lord’s prayer, then a little Christian poem, and finally we’d ask for stuff.
“Dear Jesus, please help mom & dad not to eat too much fatty food.”
“Dear Jesus, please help Tarun with his studies.”
“Dear Jesus, please provide for our needs.”
…and when it came time to pray for Tejas,
“Dear Jesus, please heal Tejas of his hemophilia completely.”
We’d pray for those things religiously and routinely, every single night. Being a gullible little tyke, I’d long for it, I’d hope for it, I’d yearn for the next day, hoping I’d wake up perfectly healthy like everyone else. Hoping I’d be able to go to school regularly. Hoping I’d be able to play sports consistently, see my friends at school every day, and not have to go to the hospital as often as I did; only to wake up the next day disappointed that I was still my same old hemophiliac self. It’s pretty easy to see why I didn’t want to have anything to do with God later on in life. After all, he failed me. On multiple occasions. Forget God, he probably doesn’t exist anyway. I’ll go live my life myself.
Because of this blood disorder, despite my rebellion, despite how much of a good time I had living my life the way I wanted to, living in sin, living to please myself, living a life of indulgence, I would always end up in the same place physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I would always end up injured in the hospital, depressed, stressed out and thinking about God. Sure, there isn’t a cure for this thing on Earth, but if anything could stop it, it’d have to be God, right? Ah, but we’ve prayed about it over and over, he probably isn’t listening/doesn’t care/doesn’t even exist. Whatever. This sucks.
Hmmm, there’s not much else to do waiting at the hospital. Maybe I’ll pray. Maybe this time it’ll actually work. Here goes!
“God, please end this. I really don’t want to live like this. I hate this. I want a normal life. Please give me a normal life. PLEASE end this. Everyone else is out living, I’m here in the hospital. I know you can end this, WHY DON’T YOU?! APIGHAPEG PLEASE! WHY WON’T YOU?! AGH GOD COME ON! CAN’T YOU SEE MY SUFFERING? CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH? YOU OBVIOUSLY CAN, YOU’RE GOD! WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?! AGHH I HATE THIS!”
Frustration, agony, tears, sorrow, God. The same place, every time. It is safe to say that this genetic disorder, this hemophilia, though inconvenient, was the only thing that kept me tethered to God. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be a Christian, period. All of these years, it seemed a curse; now I see it as a blessing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At this point, I was mad at God for not healing me. Until…
He Showed Up
A friend had invited me to church. My reaction? “Lol no. I might burst into flames as I walk into the building!” She was persistent, though. I had made excuses.
“I don’t know where it is.”
“We’ll pick you up.”
“You don’t know where I live.”
“We’ll meet at a common place.”
“Church folk are weird.”
“Give it a try.”
Little did I know, that church service would change my life forever. To this day, I can remember singing along to one of the worship songs. My eyes reading lyrics, my lips saying words, my heart pleading with the creator of the universe that if he was out there, he’d hear my cry. Begging that he’d see my sorrow, that he’d find me, that he’d meet me, that he’d actually say something, that for once in my life, I’d actually hear from him. In that moment, I felt him. God. The Holy Spirit. It was as if there were vivid lights all around, the hairs on my body standing on end, the butterflies in my stomach flipping out, my face constantly smiling… what was going on?
Surely enough, towards the end of the service, the pastor said something to the effect of “if there are any sick/hurting people here, please come up to the front so that we may pray for you.” – to which I thought “haha, I’ve been prayed for dozens of times and nothing has ever happened. Whatever, I’m still sick, let’s go up for prayer and see what happens.” Louise Coulson-Staak prayed for me that day. We had never met before. With her hand on my head, she prayed and asked the God that we had been singing about to heal me, to work in me, to move in me. When she was done, she looked at me and said “Man, I feel the spirit of God strongly on you.” To this day, that is something I’ll never forget. That’s the day everything had changed.
One of the benefits of being Indian is having an Indian brain. Indian brains are awesome. They’re naturally good at math, computer science, and research. Having experienced God for the first time, I went a little crazy. I went into frantic research mode learning and learning and learning and learning and growing and absorbing all sorts of theology and doctrine and bible and everything else I could get my hands on. I devoured information endlessly, learning about calvinism, reformed theology, arminianism, the puritans, Matthew Henry, the dead sea scrolls, all that jazz, all the while learning things that surprised me and changed me a great deal.
Up until God found me, I figured I didn’t need him because I was a “good person“. Then I read this book he wrote. It says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “there is no one who does not sin”. Oh? Surely that can’t be true. I mean, look at my life! I’m a winner! Okay, maybe I’ve told a few white lies here and had a few wicked thoughts there but… hey, wait a minute… those can’t be counted as sins can they? CAN THEY?! Oh snap! Looks like I’m not that good of a person after all! I need help. “Dear Jesus, please let me let go of this pride. Please turn it into humility.”
It’s a wacky journey, but a fruitful one. The whole gospel, it makes so much more sense once we know our place. I was not a good person, nor am I one now. Far from it. I’m a sinful moron. I do things I shouldn’t, say things I shouldn’t, think things I shouldn’t, all with underlying evil motives. I am by no means innately good. If one were to write down a list of sins I’ve committed and will commit in the future, if one were to keep a record of all of them, there wouldn’t be enough paper (or gigabytes) on Earth to contain them.
God saved me. I met Jesus. I gave my sin to him. He gave me his righteousness. He took the death, suffering, hate, shame, condemnation that I deserve on the cross he died on. He gave the grace, love, affection, cleanliness, and right-standing with God that he deserves to me. Luther calls this the great exchange. Because of this, God doesn’t keep a record of sins I’ve committed or sins I’m yet to commit. He sees me as pure, clean, blameless, holy, righteous, perfect, covered in Jesus Christ’s perfect blood.
He extends this loving offer of forgiveness to everyone willing to repent and believe in him and worship him as God. He extends his loving hand to other “good people“, to other idolaters, to other adulterers, to other murderers, to other cheaters, to other thieves, to other depraved, fallen humans, to you. Do you know Jesus? He forgives you in spite of you. He forgives you and makes you perfect, not because you are but because he is. Ah, this Jesus. How great he is. Give your sin to him, accept his righteousness and forgiveness and become a new you. It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make. Come now, let’s get forgiven.†