Learning to walk with Jesus is a lifelong pursuit.
I was seven years old when I first acknowledged I was a sinner and in need of a Savior. The pastor’s wife had taken me for a drive to talk to me privately since I was about to undergo a major risky heart operation for a congenital heart defect. She shared how Jesus died for my sins and how much He loved me. In my little girl’s mind I still remember how much I wanted forgiveness and to receive Him into my heart. And so I prayed …
I survived the surgery and my family praised and thanked God for answers to their prayers. Life continued and I was thankful that I had a ticket to heaven for when I died.
Since I’d been sidelined for the first seven years of my life, I made up for lost time. I was determined to run faster, play harder and enjoy the life I felt I’d missed. My family changed churches and my siblings and I were sent to a variety of Sunday Schools over the years. I’d pray and memorize Bible verses from time to time but there was no consistency. My grandparents were a wonderful example and whenever they had the opportunity would take me to Vacation Bible School during the summers at their church. I remember seeing my grandfather sitting in his chair with his large Bible each morning and evening as he studied and prayed.
My teenage years were filled with fun as I was very active at school and extracurricular activities. However, if you asked any of my high school friends they would not have known I claimed to be a Christian. My walk and my talk didn’t reflect it. I would pray when I needed something or was scared. But a daily walk with Jesus was still foreign to me.
As an adult, I began to feel like something was missing. I felt an urge to read my Bible. The only one I owned was an older zippered KJV Bible with very small type. So I purchased a new one with larger type. And I began to read from the beginning in Genesis each morning and I began to pray.
About this time, my grandmother died. As I sat in the service honoring her life, I felt a nudge in my heart; a whisper almost but not audible. I needed to find a church and begin growing in my faith. The following Sunday I found myself sitting in the back pew of a church as I listened to the pastor talk about Jesus. I felt an overwhelming sense of love and home. So I kept coming back.
The more I grew and learned, the more my heart was on fire for things of the Lord. Jesus was no longer just my ticket to heaven. He became my life. I talked with Him. I walked with Him. Everything seemed different. He was opening my eyes in a new way. I was working as a nurse and I began to interact differently with my patients. Conversations grew deeper and more meaningful. I often walked through challenging times with the families as death occurred. I was able to lead several of them to the Lord as they prayed to receive Jesus into their heart. I was asked to speak at many of their funerals.
My life has not been without many challenges. What has kept me going strong is my walk with Jesus. I’ve learned to cling to Him. I’ve learned to depend on Him. I’ve learned that He is faithful.
One of the Scriptures that I memorized as a child was Romans 12. It has stayed with me over the years. Verses 1-2 are especially poignant for me as I continue to learn and grow in my relationship with the Lord.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
May I encourage you to listen to that still small voice and begin to read your Bible? Pray and ask Jesus to open your eyes. Find a church family where you can learn and grow. I continue to deal with challenges every day. My life isn’t easy but my life is filled with more peace and love than ever before. The difference is I am walking with Jesus.
Blessings and love,
Debbie Petras is originally from Long Island, New York but she and her husband Greg now live in Arizona. She worked as a cardiovascular nurse for many years but currently works with preschool children. Debbie was greatly influenced by her Christian grandparents but spent many years living a life that didn’t reflect her belief in Jesus. At her grandmother’s funeral, Debbie felt the Lord speaking softly to her heart. She returned to church and began reading her Bible. Life began to change as her love for Jesus grew and began to spill over to others. Matthew 5:16 became one of her favorite Scriptures “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” She enjoys sharing her faith and writing on her blog Heart Choices as she inspires and encourages others.