Jesus Loves Me

By Karly Joseph

Photo by Dreamstime

Blinded by the piercing light, I stared out at the crowd and struggled to make out the faces in the first few rows. I took a deep breath and stared at my folded, moist hands for what felt like eternity and thought to myself, why did I agree to do this?

When asked to speak at Week of Worship for Walla Walla University, I cautiously processed the many likely scenarios in which I could humiliate myself in front of 1500 people. I thought to myself, what if I trip walking up the stairs to the stage, or worse, what if I accidentally say a bad word? Although these questions caused a slight hesitation, I responded with one word that seemed absurd: “yes.”  When I accepted the invitation to speak, my initial fears were quickly replaced by a much bigger question: How can God use a broken kid like me to share a message with my peers?

I am in no way a preaching type. I am a fly-under-the-radar type. I am a quiet and reserved observer. I am a shadow dweller. I am a hider. I am not a scholar or a theologian, nor do I have the wisdom that an experienced Christian might have — I’ve only known Jesus for a little over a year.  But what a year it has been.  

In the 17 months since I transferred to Walla Walla University, I have learned about Jesus and started the difficult journey of healing. I have been surrounded by an incredible community that has allowed me to retrace the painful steps I have walked since my childhood — many years which I have tried so hard to forget. I have had to face some of the most painful parts of my life where abuse, homelessness, abandonment, and loneliness are a far too common theme. I’ve asked the difficult questions and wrestled the lies I’ve been told, but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is this: Jesus loves me.

I have seen many dark days, but maybe that’s what makes Jesus shine that much brighter. I have found my savior. I have been set free. I have been showed a love that promises to never leave or forsake me. For the first time in my life I know, without any hesitation, that I am loved despite what I have done and what has been done to me. I have hope because of this love I have found.

So no, I don’t know all the bible stories. I didn’t have parents who told me that Jesus loved me. I don’t understand the biggest questions about faith. But I do know my story which is the greatest thing that I have to offer — and that’s exactly what I did. With those bright lights shining, I shared my story and what I know of love. Although I don’t have the ability to connect with people through a finely sharpened theological sermon, I have a life overflowing with proof that God is alive and working in the hearts of his children. My life is a tangible example of the impact of grace.

Though I was unsure of how my talk would be received, the messages that poured into my email inbox were an encouraging sign that my words and my story reached a community I thought I had so little in common with. Because of my honest response to an opportunity to share, many people now know that they aren’t alone. I never knew my story had a purpose — until now.