“I knew I had to make a decision about my faith, because living for God one day of the week and myself all of the others seemed hypocritical. I was a perfectionist, after all, and didn’t do anything halfway, so why wasn’t I fully committing to Him?"
“I’ve always been a performance-driven person – trying to be the best daughter, sister, friend, student, and athlete that I could be,” said Jenna Harper. “There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to do well, but my desire to excel evolved into relying solely on myself and seeking and expecting perfection in all areas of my life. My attempt to control was all-consuming, and trying to earn love and affirmation from those around me became a deeply entrenched pattern in every relationship.
“I grew up thinking that God was some far-off figure who was not easily accessible and was probably too busy, anyway. I was fortunate to have a loving earthly father, and so when I heard the gospel growing up, I never doubted that God was good. But Christianity seemed so rigid and structured to me, and the church my family attended appeared to only care about maintaining centuries-old traditions. There was no bridge to God, and I seemed to constantly fall short of His expectations.
“Throughout college, I associated religion with multilevel marketing schemes designed to increase membership. But when I moved to Dallas after college, I went to The Porch at Watermark because a lot of my friends were going. I didn’t have a relationship with Christ at that time, and although I was interested in discovering more about Him, I pursued a life that was self-indulgent. I lived with my then-boyfriend, Stiles, now my husband, with one foot in the church and one foot out.
“Eventually, I knew I had to make a decision about my faith, because living for God one day of the week and myself all of the others seemed hypocritical. I was a perfectionist, after all, and didn’t do anything halfway, so why wasn’t I fully committing to Him? I decided to take a leap of faith by signing up for a Watermark young adults retreat. My group leader, Kari Kurz, was one of the first Christian girls to whom I felt like I could actually relate. She met me where I was and asked me questions about my fears, doubts, and what was holding me back from fully committing to Christ.
“I told her that among many other questions, I had fear about what would happen to me after I died, and she shared about the certainty that God’s free gift of grace in His Son, Jesus, gives us about eternity. In Him, I could be certain that ‘whoever hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life’ (John 5:24). The gospel finally started to make sense to me and all the questions that were holding me back from having a relationship with Christ didn’t matter anymore.
“I was all-in with the Lord at that point and really wanted community around me as I started applying God’s Word to all aspects of my life. It was great to have friends who would keep me accountable, encourage me, and open God’s Word in order to give me biblical advice. They were also helpful as Stiles and I made some major changes in our relationship before we got married.
“After we married, I decided to go to re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. Pride and control continued to be issues in my walk with Christ. Romans 3:23 helped me understand that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ but we are forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That was it! The bridge to get to an all-perfect God is Christ, and I finally realized I could never do anything for Him to love me less or more. God loved me through all of those sins, and the Lord sent His Son to die for me so that I could be reconciled to Him and to others.
“God also used re:gen to change my perspective on forgiveness. I used to think that forgiveness meant that you just swept away the harms done to you by someone else and forgot about them. But, that’s not right. Forgiveness means allowing God to deal with the pain and wrongs of the past and not holding on to my resentments against others. Because Jesus paid the debt for my sin, I can forgive hurtful things that have been done to me, even as I repent from the wrong things I have done.
“I used to think that God wasn’t worth getting to know because He didn’t care to know me. Now, I understand that the Lord truly wants a relationship with me and is close by, standing there with open arms and love whether I make a mistake or not. I used to hear the gospel and wonder about the ‘how’ of pursuing a relationship with Him. Jeremiah 29:13 states that ‘you will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart.’ It reminds me that when I took a leap of faith and opened my heart to the Lord, He was there for me. I had been looking at the world to define my identity and fill my insatiable appetite of desires, and I learned that the only One who can truly satisfy is Christ.”