Jesus made me better.

There are so many posts I've written in my head and so much that has happened to our family in the last month and a half, but I don't have time for it all right now. The thing heaviest on my heart is the thing I feel gets the highest priority today.

I've been seeing an increasing amount of derogatory, anti-Christian sentiment lately in my news feed. I can't say that a lot of it isn't deserved. Yep. We Christians sometimes earn these hateful remarks.

Most of these sentiments center on the idea that we are either super holier-than-thou and think that we can pretend our own sins don't exist while pointing fingers at those around us (yep, we deserve it), or that finding Christ changes people for the worst.

The latter, I take issue with. I was sitting in the bathroom a few minutes ago, straightening my hair, thinking about some of these things. I was thinking of those I know who have found Christ in the midst of my relationship with them. I was thinking of those I know who have been Christians as long as I've known them. I was thinking of those who surely earn the holier-than-thou badge and, in my opinion, give Christ a bad name. I was thinking of those who turn so many away from the gift of Jesus Christ by spewing off hateful, judgmental remarks.

I was once agnostic. I don't think I was ever atheist, because I did believe there was some higher power. I never bought into the idea that we came from absolutely nothing and were suddenly something. But I didn't really agree with the idea of organized religion and I didn't understand why "our" God was the right one. Why were these other religions wrong?

Some days I still don't believe in organized religion. It's why this video struck me with so much overwhelming emotion when I first saw it.

This is all really beside the point, but I did want to point out that I was once a nonbeliever. I know how much it can turn others off to share the gospel through divisive, inherently hateful messages.

But see, for me, finding Jesus Christ saved my life. I truly mean that. I'm not saying I was a drug addict who would have ended up dead in a gutter. I can't say it never would have happened, but it wasn't the direction I was headed, at least. I was, however, a person full of shame, self-loathing, self disgust and hate.

I have such a hard time talking about my past with the whole world. I've written and deleted so many posts over the years, trying to give my testament but failing because of fear of others' opinions. But, man, if I don't share it, I just contribute to the mentality that those who find Jesus become worse people.

That couldn't be farther from the truth.

It's not really my place to say that Sally Christian or Joe Christian aren't truly Christians. That's between Sally or Joe and God. But I do know that some so-called Christians' behaviors do not reflect Christianity. So for many nonbelievers, this idea that Christianity negatively affects those who believe in it is very probably based on a fallacy that so many of these "Christians" who "found Christ" are truly Christians.

I can tell you my own personal story and share the light of God in the way in which I am able. I try hard to live a life that brings Him glory. But ultimately, having found Jesus or not, I am still human. I still get involved in ugly arguments, I still let hate overtake my heart sometimes and I still take part in gossip. I still fall back to my old ways on very rare occasions. I am not perfect. But I am trying, and I am leaning on Him for help when I fail, and asking for His strength to prevent me from making those same mistakes again.

Before I found Jesus Christ, I was promiscuous. Very. I was a shopping addict. I stole. I lied. All the time. I lived in the midst of so many lies I couldn't keep them straight. On the outside, I was mostly seen as a good girl. But I wasn't. I was just a good liar. I was so gossipy and so judgmental. I also hated myself. I suffered from one bout of extreme depression. I tried to commit suicide. I was a mess. An absolute, disgusting mess. I was a terrible friend. I was a lousy girlfriend. I'm lucky Tim married me, because I really put him through the ringer the first six months of our relationship.

Finding God saved my life, because even though I had found a way to straighten myself out on the outside, when Ben was born and I was newly married, I was still a hot mess on the inside. I was still hateful and judgmental and mean. I was still a liar. I was still someone very lost and lonely. I just hid it pretty well. Had years gone by without finding Christ, I likely wouldn't have been able to keep up the outer facade. At some point, I would have reverted back to the old Chelsea, because I'd experienced zero heart change.

Finding God saved my life because he changed my heart. It's not about a set of rules that I have to follow so that I can go to Heaven. Not at all. What surprised me more than almost anything else about Jesus was that He changed my heart. I didn't even try. I accepted Christ as my savior and month after month, I began to find myself changing inside. The person I was trying so hard to appear to be on the outside was suddenly the person I was becoming on the inside.

Finding God made me much less judgmental. Like I said, I'm still human, I still judge. But a fraction as much as I used to.

Finding God helped me love so much more.

Finding God helped me desire to do good.

Finding God made my priorities change. He changes my focus. He helps me see what matters and what is inconsequential.

Finding God helped me learn to forgive.

Finding God helped me let go of hate.

Finding God taught me that grace is real, and that it doesn't matter how bad I used to be. It's all gone; it's all washed away. I'm a new person, and I don't have to be ashamed. I spent so much time being so horribly ashamed that I lived with a constant pit in my stomach. Though this has been one of the biggest works in progress over the past three years, the very fact that I'm sitting at this keyboard typing this up, about to share with the world who I used to be, shows how far I've come in not just extending grace to others, but in allowing myself grace.

I'm not saying that if you don't have Jesus in your life, you can't do any of the above things. I'm saying you don't have to. It doesn't have to be so hard. You don't have to do it alone. I can forgive myself for my past because God changed my heart and I know I am not who I used to be. I was the person I was before I was saved. And now that I've been saved, I am truly a new person. The old me just serves as a testament to the power of Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Maybe I am so horribly wrong, and not joining the anti-homosexuality, pro-gun, staunchly Republican train makes me a fake Christian. I obviously don't think so. I choose to live like Jesus, and I know in my heart it's the way Christians are supposed to behave. God changed my heart and helped me become more Christ-like. I choose to use my religion to love on others, not to tear others down and condemn them for their own sins.

Because, ultimately, Jesus made me a much better person. And I want those around me to see that. Enough with the hateful, divisive remarks. You can't blame atheists and agnostics for their belief that Jesus makes people judgmental, hateful, bigoted. I see so much of that around me all the time. Too bad we can't focus on the message of Christ.

Even though I can't change all Christians, I can do my part, share my testimony, and shine God's light so that others who don't believe may see that there are plenty of Christians out there who became better people when Christ saved their lives, too.  :)