Kendall Jones is a junior at her high school in Boise, Idaho. Her family members are personal friends of the Abedeni family, and they attend the same church. She wrote this essay for one of her classes at school.
Jesus Freak: One who refuses to deny Jesus Christ, even in the face of death, humiliation, isolation, and torture; anyone who joyfully suffers for the will and purpose of Jesus Christ. Modern examples of Jesus Freaks are Saeed Abedini, Mother Teresa, Amy Carmichael, and in a much less extreme form, me.
"What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak? What will people do when they find out it's true? I don't really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, cause there ain't no disguising the truth!" I belted out the words of my favorite song by dc Talk in reckless seven-year-old abandonment along with my father. His deep voice contrasted with my high-pitched squeal in an almost harmonious fashion. I giggled and danced in the seat of my car, with light-hearted joy that clearly indicated that I did not completely understand the gravity of the words that I was singing.
At the young age of seven, I had no clue what it meant to be a Jesus Freak, but I had an unwavering conviction that a Jesus Freak was exactly who I wanted to be. I was a rambunctious child, growing up in the most privileged country in the world. How could I know that the pledge I was singing inferred more than just walking around proclaiming myself to be a Jesus Freak during recess at my school, and fiercely trying to convert my best friend? From the looks my classmates gave me, I knew for sure that I was a Jesus Freak, and I wore my title with pride. It was not until I finally picked up on more verses of that same song that my assuredness faltered.
"There was a man from the desert with gnats in his head. The sand that he walked was also his bed. The words that he spoke made the people assume, there wasn't too much left in the upper room. With skins on his back and hair on his face, they thought he was strange by the locusts he ate. But the Pharisees tripped when they heard him speak, until the king took the head of this Jesus Freak."
Of course the Jesus Freak the song was referring to was John the Baptist. I knew this as well as any young child who had grown up regularly attending Sunday school. But during that pivotal car ride with my father, it dawned on me that not only was eating locusts in the desert weird, but downright gross. I fully connected the dots when I remembered that John the Baptist's head was presented to King Herod on a silver platter. That was when I really learned what it meant to be a Jesus Freak.
Being crucified upside down? Painful. Fed to ferocious lions, tigers, and leopards in a coliseum full of a vengeful, bloodthirsty Roman crowd? Gruesome. Being shot in the head by a Communist policeman after refusing to spit on a Bible in China? Sickening. All are one hundred percent accurate fates of Jesus Freaks throughout history since the ministry of Jesus Christ, approximately two thousand years ago. If these deaths sound endurable to anyone, then this is a good indication that he or she would make an excellent Jesus Freak.
This is not a jest. The common denominator of all these examples is the willingness, peace, and joy with which these Jesus Freaks laid down their lives for their God, their beliefs, and their convictions. It is not until one has completely submitted control of his or her own life to Jesus that one can finally become a Jesus Freak. If this one deed is accomplished, then death is not feared, rather it is embraced for all who actively give their lives to Jesus.
This was extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around, and as I sat staring out the window of my car in silence, my heart sank in disappointment. At that point I realized that I was downright scared of being a Jesus Freak. Before my revelation, being a Jesus Freak had been a title worth showing off. Now, it meant that people would look at me differently. Being a Jesus Freak was not "cool," it was downright dangerous. That was when I quietly retired my title.
That did not mean that I was not in complete awe of the complete bravery of these Jesus Freaks. Before I fell asleep at night, I would often times imagine a scenario in which I was asked to either renounce my faith or die. I would imagine myself setting my jaw, squaring my shoulders, and looking my challenger in the eye before firmly stating, "Never." Of course, I would never imagine the consequences of my choice – that simply was too frightening.
I was content to only profess my faith in church for many years. It was not until I found out this past year that a man I went to church with was imprisoned in Iran for nothing other than sharing his faith that I have begun to experience a curious resurgence of my Jesus Freakness. As I listen to the reports on his situation grow graver and the criticisms of people pointing out his obvious stupidity in risking his life in a country that so blatantly persecutes Jesus Freaks, I realize that I am not angered by their disparagement, but rather saddened. I pity them for not understanding that God's peace, joy, and love remain even in the gravest of situations. I pity them for not understanding that even though this man is being tortured and beaten, his spirit grows stronger by the day. Being a Jesus Freak is not an attribute that people are born with, but a choice that each potential Jesus Freak makes upon his or her own decision to take up the cross and spread the love of Jesus Christ with joy and willingness – and sometimes their own lives. This was a choice that I now understand and am fully capable of making.
Being a Jesus Freak is both a challenge and an insult that brings joy to all who deserve it. Being a Jesus Freak does not always entail dying a painful, gruesome death. It can also be manifested in the way a Jesus Freak treats others, presents him or herself, and allows the will of God to work out in his or her life. When a Jesus Freak truly submits his or her own will and life, this is when he or she completely accepts this title and understands the full extent the occupational hazard of being a Jesus Freak.
Here I am, the child belting out the words of my favorite song with reckless abandonment. The child with a fierce conviction that being a Jesus Freak is exactly who I want to be, ramifications and all. Because I don't really care if I'm labeled a Jesus Freak. Nobody can disguise the truth.
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