By Katie Baumgratz
I was raised in a big, Italian Catholic family. I knew about Jesus and what He had done on the cross, and could recite just about every popular Bible story, but I was also taught that I had to earn my way into Heaven and that only perfect saints who had zero sin on their souls and “did lots of great things” were allowed to enter the Kingdom. So when I was about 12 years old and realized I was indeed a sinner, I began to see no hope, and gave up. Going through the motions to please my family, I saw church as a religion instead of a relationship.
I pursued worldly relationships instead—relationships that were centered on my needs and wants: social status, material possessions, partying, alcohol, smoking, self-worth in giving my body over to men for their pleasure, and even manipulation of good things like friendships and sports. Anything that I thought would make ME happy, I pursued. It wasn’t until a serious 3-year relationship with an agnostic ended dramatically my junior year of college that I realized I had nowhere to turn. After abusing different worldly ways to cope, and realizing those weren’t working, I finally surrendered and looked up. I decided to give God a second chance. I mean honestly, what did I have to lose?
A Story of Surrender
My surrendering began as a journey of Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
The first step I took was going on a college church retreat where students shared their testimonies on how God changed their lives. Between the pouring tears of shame, pain, and regret, and the longing for what they had, I remember feeling God’s presence for the first time telling me, "I'm here. I'm going to rescue you. And I’m going to give you a testimony."
My second God-led step was applying to work at a Christian summer camp. That sounded like a good way to spend my summer, and I adored working with kids, but little did I know how much I would end up learning from the experience. As I was sitting with my 7- and 8-year-old campers, listening to the camp staff teach about Jesus, I heard the beautiful story of God’s gift of grace through Jesus Christ for the first time. How could a story I’ve heard multiple times suddenly have such a different meaning—one that didn’t require me to be perfect—one that accepted sinners like me into the Kingdom of Heaven? I immediately believed and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I spent the rest of camp learning more about this decision and building upon a new relationship with my Redeemer.
My Journey Forward
Since then it has been no easy journey. I have still struggled heavily with completely surrendering certain areas of my life to God, but now I'm not alone. I have a Savior and a church I can confide in and turn to when my life gets out of hand or when the world tries to desperately pull me back. God brought me to Watermark through The Porch about a year ago and has grown multiple areas of my life, helping to heal deep wounds that were left from my past. I am now part of a wonderful community group with the most incredible girls who are my running partners in our sprint after Christ. I have found that God provides the means to follow Him if we take the steps to seek and surrender.
I never thought a broken, selfish, messed up person like me could be worth rescuing, but Matthew 9:12-14 puts my life into perspective:
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus came to earth for people like me—sick, sinning, believing I could earn His grace only through my sacrifice.
Through repentance I have found a forgiveness that is healing. Through sufferings I have found a peace that surpasses all understanding. Through loneliness I have found a love that will never be separated. Through searching I have found an identity that can be trusted. Discovering these biblical truths has brought about a joy that the world can't take away because it didn't put it there. Praise the day I can see my sweet Jesus face to face and thank Him for saving a wretch like me.