Fathers are the most notorious figure of the household for the American family. Growing up, my father was not the best, but not the worst. My father was an alcoholic and often he focused on work more than he focused on his family. When I think about my childhood with my dad, I do not have Hallmark memories playing on repeat in the back of my mind. I often remember isolating and shutting myself out from my surroundings and being timid in the midst of authority figures. This affected me in many aspects of my life, particularly with friendships. As I went through middle school and high school, I had trouble keeping close friends because I would not allow myself to be vulnerable and transparent with those asking to allow our friendships to go deeper.

During my junior year of high school, my father gave his life to Christ and I witnessed a radical change in his character. We started to go to church as a family, and I really enjoyed it. I knew that what was being preached had to have a response, yet I had barriers built high. A year later, I saw my older sister get baptized and it really made me start to think about God’s existence. For the most part, I believed that there was a God, but I also believed it was impossible to have a relationship with Him. Yet seeing my father’s heart and sister’s heart transformed, I pondered on who God was.  

I moved to San Antonio in August of 2015. After witnessing two years of the Lord moving in different ways in my family, I knew that I desired to be around people who knew God. One day I was sitting in my dorm at Chapparel and I heard my roommate knocking on my door. He was inviting me to go with him to a Chi Alpha service. At first, I was skeptical, but I eventually opened my door and agreed to go with him. In the middle of worship, I opened my eyes and saw the genuineness of people’s hearts who were fervent for the Lord. I knew that their posture during worship was in response to what God had done for their souls. Inwardly, I battled for a relationship with the Lord; I desired Him, but I was not ready to surrender my rights before Him. The pride I was rooted in allowed me to believe that I knew what was best for myself, but in reality, I knew that God was the most qualified to run my life.

Throughout the semester I had been struggling with depression and anxiety and in the midst of a suicide attempt, I felt the presence of the Lord and heard Him say “you are loved.” Tears rolled down my cheeks for what felt like hours, but in a short amount of time I knew that the Lord intervened in a mighty way and healed me of depression and anxiety. In that very moment, I knew that I could no longer live for myself, but for Jesus. I looked to my small group leader to understand what being shepherded by Jesus looked like. His friendship paved a way for the Lord to tear down walls that I built high and he showed me how to have a relationship with Him.

For so long I believed in a false gospel, yet it led to nothing worthwhile. Jesus said “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). These words sent my world into a spiral. Repentance led to surrender and believing led to wanting to do for others what God had done in my life. Having a relationship with Jesus has brought peace and comfort to my life because I know I am guided by a mighty hand and not my own. He has taken me to places I could never imagine and He has given life and life abundantly.

-Chris Gonzales