Julius Johnson was recently baptized at Renewal Church. Below is the testimony he shared with us at service on 10/9/2016:
I’ve been a runner most of my life. I’d always run from things, people and situations. Like how I found myself running from my folks when peace was hard to find at home. There were so many trivial differences and I just needed out. Or how I ran from male influences growing up, always looking for a role model and a father figure. My dad was a rolling stone so he never stayed put for too long. I guess I got my running from him. Or how I even ran from my friends never getting too close to them and never letting them get too close to me. Always running.
I was raised in the church, forced to go every Sunday. I participated in Sunday school like the rest and I even sang along with the congregation when a worship song I liked was being sung. But I was also known to sleep during the sermon being awakened by a swift flick of either the church fan or the back of my mom's hand. So needless to say at 16 or 17, when I was able to, I ran from the church and God too.
Seven years ago my life was just starting to blossom. I was independent of rules and my childhood foundation, and my life depicted that. Not like I was crazy reckless or anything, but I had my share of hangovers and 3 hour nights of sleep before heading into work. I’d hang with my core group of friends, getting into all sorts of "legal" trouble, nothing illegal, but trouble nonetheless. I had no structure about me besides my baking which took off in popularity on social media. Not even my family grounded me. Then, the cancer came.
My sister was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, to our disbelief because all seemed fine with her. She just had a baby and all of sudden, cancer? This obviously meant for me that I’d be back home more often and hanging with my friends less; they in turn didn’t really want to hang with me because I was such a Debbie Downer. I seldom saw my girlfriend (whose mom at the time was dealing with the same thing) and life just seemed to take a left turn.
I remember the day before my sister passed away that I came to God in fasting and in prayer. I prayed that He saw fit to end my sisters suffering, and boy did He answer that prayer. In my desperation, my lonesomeness, in my hurt and my pain--that's when I acknowledged him. Like most people in the world that call on God when they are in the deepest of valleys, I too called on Him. It was then that I realized He was waiting for me. Long before my sister passed. Long before my friendships began to dissolve one by one. Long before I was forced out of my place and move back home with my folks (the latter 2 happening in the past 5 months alone). God was calling me to Him. I had ignored him for so long, but I couldn't do it any longer. He made it known He wasn’t joking around and that I needed him.
There’s a beauty to God that has stopped my running feet. There’s a solace in knowing that Jesus has already finished the most agonizing of races, one that involved him dying for me, my sins, my transgressions, my ungodly thoughts and actions, my confusion, and my shame. He covered all of that for me? I’d have to be foolish to disregard that fact. There's a peace now in just knowing I can finally REST in HIM. Relinquishing all control and rights to my life because I know I can’t do it without Him. Trusting Him to guide my steps as I now father my niece and nephew, “training them up in the way that they should go”. Relying on Him to“make a way in the sea and even through the wilderness” when I feel hope is lost. I turned to Christ those months ago, knowing that with believing He was pierced in his side, died on the cross and rose again to conquer death, that my self-serving, impatient, evasive running days were over. He is now my God, and I will follow him!
He welcomed me with open arms; yes, he welcomed back this flawed, imperfect, broken man so that He could piece by piece make beautiful all of my jagged pieces.