It was like any other day at school. I was getting ticked off at everybody. As I walked down the hallway, somebody shoved me into someone else. So I started kicking him. He grabbed my foot and I ended up on the floor. I started to get up when I noticed a teacher glaring at us. I knew I was in trouble¡¦.again.
That wasn't the first time a teacher had looked at me that way. I often got in trouble because I just didn't get along with many people. My teachers were constantly telling me, "Thomas, you should smile more." But I didn't want to smile. Instead, I always looked stiff, angry.
I just wanted to be left alone. And when anyone tried to bother me, I'd just yell at them. That usually got them out of my face.
I was always yelling at somebody. Some people thought it was funny, but others were hurt and offended. I yelled because I didn't want other people to know the real me. It kept people from getting too close, so they wouldn't figure out my insecurities. It was like I built a wall around myself.
Instead of going out with friends after school or doing something fun on the weekends, I just stayed home. There was lots of yelling at home too. And I wasn't the only one yelling.
My parents have always had very high standards for me. I've always had to dedicate a lot of time to my schoolwork and, as a violinist, to my music. Sometimes they were very demanding and it felt like I was being compared to other people. So, I continued to build that wall and shut people out.
That's until my grandparents came to visit from Seoul, South Korea.
While they were staying with our family, I was having stomach problems, where everything I ate seemed to make me sick.
One night before bedtime, my grandpa sat beside me, told me about God and prayed for me to be healed. That was probably the first time someone had told me about God, although I had clearly seen God in Grandpa's life. I noticed he'd spend hours in prayer and Bible study. And even in his old age, he found a church to walk to in my neighborhood.
He told my family about this church, and encouraged us to go. So my mom and I tried it. The first time I went to youth group, I was amazed at how cool these people really were. I had fun being with them.
One Wednesday night, I went to youth group thinking I'd play a few games and sing a few songs. But it ended up being a night that changed my life.
The pastor told us about Jesus and how he could be our Savior. He said if we wanted Jesus to come into our hearts, all we had to do was ask. I remember praying, "God, I know I have really messed up, but please come into my heart."
After that night, I felt so clean. I really knew my Savior loved me, regardless of where I had been or how I had acted.
I know God changed my heart because his love has affected the way I feel about myself. It also has affected the way I interact with other people. Sometimes I still struggle with yelling, but the walls I had built around me are slowly coming down. Instead of always putting up an angry front, I actually have a smile on my face when I walk the halls of my school. And sometimes I even greet people with a hug. Now that's a change!
I know I'm growing in my faith because it's affecting my daily decisions. When faced with a choice, I ask myself, "Is this for God or not for God?" With his help, my relationship with my parents is improving. And at school, I talk to people more and tell them about Jesus whenever I get the chance. My friends even call me "the evangelist!" I just try to bring up Jesus in conversations with my non-Christian friends, and I even ask them what they believe.
Besides just talking about Christ, I want my life to reflect him. Or like my youth pastor says, be a "stepping-stone" that leads others to God.
I know it's more than a coincidence that my grandpa came to visit and encouraged me to go to church. In a way, he was my "stepping-stone." Through him I was led to an incredible youth group that loves and accepts me. And most important, I was led to Jesus.
By Thomas Choi