Following Jesus is my Life’s Greatest Adventure
“I feel like my purpose now is to find ways to relate to people. Many people have the kind of doubts and honest skepticism I had before, and I have the honor of just encouraging them to fearlessly seek what is unchanging.” – Kyle Johnson
I grew up in a pretty dynamic blended family. I’m the youngest of five. My biological sister and I bounced between houses every Friday to honor our mom and dad’s equal custody arrangement. When we were with my mom we went to church, but I never recall us talking about anything spiritual. From the time I was 16 years old, I lived with my mom and I’d catch up with my dad occasionally over dinner or on the phone.
At the beginning of my senior year of college, my dad was diagnosed with aggressive terminal cancer. My sister and I immediately became his primary caregivers for those remaining months. While we were helping our father prepare for the end of his life, God used him to help me finally begin mine. My dad had come to know the Lord after I moved away, and it was his number one goal to be a witness so our faith would grow. When I recognized how much I was struggling in comparison to my dad’s peace and confidence, I was left with a burning question:
If my life isn’t affected by my faith, do I believe my faith is true?
That was the beginning of a long process of testing the faith I claimed on paper. Up until that point, I associated a dedicated Christian life with making the same, predictable drive down the same road multiple times a week for the rest of my life. I told myself I would get there when I was older and wouldn’t mind such a boring life.
After my dad passed away, I had the opportunity to go on my first mission trip to 11 countries in 11 months. With college officially over, I was homeless, living out of a backpack and traveling to meet and serve people all around the world. That experience taught me so much about what it means to be a believer, especially as we met some truly inspirational giants in the faith.
The trip also gave me a lot of room to explore. I continued researching other religions and allowed myself to even consider them. This was refreshing because the more I researched, the more I realized Christianity was based on something that was meant to be credible and historically verifiable. If God wanted all nations to believe, faith couldn’t hinge on mysticism, cultural legends or schools of thought. Christianity isn’t like any of the other religions because Jesus either rose from the dead or He didn’t. I came to accept that if Jesus’ disciples were willing to die before they denied the resurrection, I had no reason to keep choosing my self-promoting ideas over Him.
Our culture is full of ideas that sound and feel good to us individually, but truth is singular. It pays no attention to our feelings because it existed before them and will continue unchanged long after them. That was what I wanted to build my life on—something I could pursue without any fear of someone’s counterargument or insightful questions.
I feel like my purpose now is to find ways to relate to people. Many people have the kind of doubts and honest skepticism I had before, and I have the honor of just encouraging them to fearlessly seek what is unchanging. I love asking questions and inviting people to yearn for something true. Before Jesus’ followers even knew the full story, Jesus was telling them to obey Him. And as they did, His authority became undeniable.
Similarly, as I started putting into practice some of the things Jesus told us to do, I began to see why His way is so much better than my own. I found myself desiring more of Him. That’s a point we are all meant to reach, I think, because Jesus literally asked His followers to exchange their individual identities and ideas for His with the kind of joy you’d expect from someone who just won the lottery.
One of the many memorable moments during my year of mission work happened as I was riding through the rainforest in Thailand in the back of a pickup truck. We had been caught in a massive storm and were all a little nervous. Our driver tossed us into the air as he went over a bump, and my ungraceful landing managed to crack the massive drum of drinking water I had been sitting on. When one of the guys asked why I was laughing so much, I admitted that I used to think it would be boring to give God, the creator of all adventure and crazy stories, control of my life. I’ve found that surrendering my life to Christ as actually been the greatest adventure I could ever ask for. – Kyle Johnson, as told to Jenny Pope