"put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." -Ephesians 4:22-24
I’d like to share a bit about Alfred Nobel. Alfred invented dynamite. As a self-proclaimed chemist, innovator, and engineer, Alfred made his living as an explosives manufacturer.
In the late 1880s Alfred’s brother died and a French newspaper accidently published Alfred’s obituary. The miss-print condemned Alfred for the invention of dynamite stating “The merchant of death is dead…Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday”
Alfred was devastated by the foretaste of how he would be remembered. His last will and testament set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel prizes.
What I have had in common with Alfred is not that I’m a chemist, innovator, or millionaire. It’s that we were both “merchants of death” for the majority of our lives. Now before you call the law on me, let me clarify with everyone that I was spiritually dead/unconscious for 22 years of my life.
What does being spiritually dead/unconscious mean? For the first 22 years of my life, I lived for myself. I put myself first in all that I did. I couldn’t wait to achieve the next milestone, award, recognition, promotion, you name it. Anything that awarded me praise, I was for it.
Towards the end of high school, it was time to achieve the next milestone which, for me, meant getting accepted into college. It wasn’t my grades or test scores that got me into school, but it happened to be my ability to hit a little white golf ball. Naturally, I placed my identity in golf as it was something that got me all the attention I could ever want.
When arrived on campus in 2011, I quickly realized that my ability to play the game of golf was no longer as glamorous as it once was because now I had 14 teammates who were better than me. I did not start my first two years, so naturally, I turned to something else to put my identity in and get fulfillment from. For the next four years I found my fulfillment in a romantic relationship.
All this began to change when I was presented with invited on a weekend golf retreat at Webb Simpson’s house here in Charlotte during the fall of 2013.
Going into this retreat, I knew it was an event based on Christian principles. This didn’t bother me because I had grown up in a home where I was told who God was and the impact of his son Jesus dying on the cross, which washed away all of our past, present, and future sins”.
To be honest, I went to church, did Bible studies, and said prayers before meals because it was the expectation of those around me, it never was an intentional choice.
I arrive at the retreat and the topic for the weekend is “Christ Centered Relationships.”. Relationships meaning: friendships, familial connections, as well as a hyper focus on dating relationships and marriage.
This weekend I had the exact same revelation Alfred had experienced. Although my “evaluation” was not in the form of a botched obituary, it became clear to me that I put myself first in everything I did. After hearing about the impact God had on people though their personal testimonies, I became very curious to know how I could grow to personally experience the same God who I had claimed to know for so many years.
That curiosity proved to be persistent in the days following the event. Unsure of how to get to know God or where to begin, I did what I do best and simply started talking to God. I told Him I wanted to know more about him but had no idea how. I told Him I believe, but it’s hard for me to get to know someone I can’t see, hear, or touch. Instantaneously, I received an answer via a precise thought. “PURSUE ME.”
Up to that moment, I had pursued everything under the sun, but those two words which came to mind “PURSUE ME” were incredibly daunting.
As my last two years of college wrapped up, I remained in an abusive relationship and I bounced around in different church services and a campus ministry from time to time, all while trying to find the answer to how I was supposed to pursue God. A lot of instruction I received was legalistic and I felt I was falling back into doing things out of obligation vs. choice/true belief.
It wasn’t until I graduated college and moved to Charlotte in mid-2015 that I met Rickie Zheng at Bank of America within the Operations Management Analyst Program. For over a year, Rickie met me where I was, listened to my struggles, and scratched his head to the many questions I had regarding my faith. Over time, he ultimately fielded my biggest question concerning “how do I pursue GOD”? He introduced me to a guided devotional that within one year, walked us through the entire Bible. In 2017, we embarked on a journey to pursue God together. What I have learned is that God is worthy of praise, that salvation is free, and that Christianity is a communal faith. Meaning it’s something to be experienced together.
Folks, what a difference it made when I turned away from the world’s lies, (often told through phone screens and & societal expectations), and embraced God’s truths which have stood the test of time.
What a difference it made to personally invite God into my life and ask Him to guide and direct me.
What a difference it made when I realized God offers salvation to everyone for free.
What I personally love about Alfred’s story is that he had the opportunity to evaluate his life and then he lived long enough to change that initial evaluation. Alfred and I both experienced varying degrees of success and disappointments. We both had a revelation in regards to our legacies and were overwhelmingly convinced that something far greater than our own personal feats existed but hadn’t yet been pursued.
Alfred’s new beginning comprised of the Nobel Prizes. My new beginning started on November 17, 2017 at 11:22pm. I spoke to God again but this time I dedicated my life to serving Him and not myself. I asked Him to use me in ways I could never dream of. “PURSUE ME” was once again the message I received.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. -Galatians 2:20