I remember when I first started sharing my faith with others.
I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and—let's just say I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed believer. After growing up in a Christian home and in a Christian church my whole life, the gospel became real to me in the summer of 2014, and I was ecstatic. I no longer followed Jesus to make my parents proud, nor did I decide to follow Him to please the leader who pastored me. Instead, I made a decision to follow Jesus in 2014 because I wanted to. Truth gripped me. And, when it did, I couldn't possibly imagine how I could say no to Jesus. It was a sweet feeling to surrender. After being paranoid days before I said yes to Him, it felt so freeing to be certain about something. And, I was so excited and so sure about my faith that not sharing it with others felt like I was doing the people around me a disservice.
Which people around me to be exact?
The people in my first sphere of influence:
You should've met fourteen-year-old-freshman-in-high-school Yana. The girl was unafraid. She was passionate, convicted, and extremely careful to obey. So, any time I felt that God was calling me to minister to someone specific, you better believe I would. Whether it was the White kid with his black hair hanging over his eyes, the most influential girl on the cheer team, my favorite teachers, or the senior in high school who only put up with me because he knew my sister, I would share Jesus with anyone who would listen.
And...the responses varied.
When I shared that Jesus loved them, some of them were polite and showed the smallest bit of reception. Others smiled and nodded, but clearly dismissed my message.
Well, others were extremely hostile, who creatively told me with a slew of expletives to get the f*** away from them with that Jesus b***s***.
In fact, I committed myself to being careful not to bring it up.
But, while I might've stopped bringing up the name of Jesus with my words, I didn't stop bringing up the name of Jesus with my actions. I remember coming home from school on those days and praying for them constantly. I would ask if they wanted to sit with me at lunch. I would strike up a conversation with them if we both opted out of dodgeball in gym class. I would love them because I knew that that's what Jesus would do. And so, while they hated when I talked about Jesus, it was extremely rewarding to see their guard come down when I would act like Jesus—unbeknownst to them, of course. They wouldn't like it when I told them that Jesus loved them, but they gravitated towards me when I would love them. And so, instead of trying to convince them to give church a try—(A lot of them also profanely expressed to me that they never would. When I invited one to church, they told me they couldn't because they had to do laundry. We were freshmen. That's my favorite excuse yet.)—I figured I oughta bring the church to them, preaching Jesus by the way I treated them, included them, befriended them. It's what the church should do, after all! But, after realizing shortly after saying Yes to Jesus that He called me to write, I soon realized how I could use my writing to minister. Because I understood that while my 2014 classmates may not want to read the Bible, I knew that they would read my book. And, it didn't take long for me to realize that they were exactly the kind of people I'd spend the rest of my life writing for.
And, so began the process of me writing my first novel, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself. I wrote it in the year of 2014—motivated by my classmates' refusal to hear about my faith—and managed to publish it before we all graduated in 2018. And, while I didn't begin writing my second novel, titled, My Name is Anxiety—which becomes available on Amazon in just two days (!!!)—until 2019, my classmates in 2014 still played a huge role in my entire writing process.
I've been out of high school for four years now, but the fourteen-year-old girl inside still wants to complete the mission she had since freshman year: to love the people most hostile to Jesus the way Jesus would love them Himself. To win the broken over by treating them the way Christ would. To show compassion to those who don't realize how much they need Him.
I'm eager to do this because I spent most of my freshman year wondering, what makes people so hostile to the name of Jesus? Why are people so turned away when they hear about His message? If you want the truth, my answer back then wasn't all that gracious. I thought my classmates weren't receptive to the gospel message because they were bad, arrogant atheists who oughta brace themselves for the wrath of God. I mean, how else could I rationalize the color draining from their faces after bringing up the name of Jesus? Or, them dropping the F-bomb in response to me telling them that Jesus loves them? That makes them bad people! The people that gets on God's nerves! The ones who don't have any hope for salvation!
If you're asking me today, those answers are wrong, and quite honestly, a very religious way of looking at it. Today, if you asked me why some people's hairs stand up on the back of their neck when Jesus is mentioned, it's not because they're too far gone, or they're just "bad," or they enjoy being rebellious...
Instead, a lot of the times it's because they're in pain.
What I thought was just an arrogant atheist back then I realize now is a person in pain.
Real pain. Deep pain. Traumatic pain. Bloody pain. Pain that—often times—buries people so far down that we stop seeing them as people and instead see them as the ways they choose to deal with their pain.
Some people choose alcohol to medicate. Others, drugs. Some, sex. Some, rebellion. Some, faithlessness, claiming to be atheists. Some people choose partying. Some people choose makeup. Some people choose binge-eating. I could go down the list.
Some people do anything they can to escape the thing we all have—
And, the best news that has driven my life since 2014 is that the God who made the heavens and the earth isn't afraid of pain. In fact, God is so good He's willing to endure that pain with us. Not only that, but He's the only One who can heal us. Better yet, He wants to. Because, while we may not see the person behind all of the pain they're in, Jesus can. We may not see beyond the heaviness people carry right on their shoulders, but Jesus can. And, if Jesus can, we should too.
We—meaning, the church.
I have heard one too many stories of hurting people turning away from God or avoiding Him altogether because of church hurt. Someone who claimed to be a follower of Love hating the very person their Master tells them to love. The stories are numerous, and therefore, heart-breaking. And, when I think back to my first moments of ministry in high school, I wonder how many of them didn't want to give Jesus a try because His followers were so...hateful. I get a bad taste in my mouth when I think about it. It's sad. And, because I know what it's like to be in pain, to hurt, but to have a Savior be so near in the midst of all the horror I was walking through, I want to introduce that same Savior to those similar to who I attended high school with. I may not be able to do it in high school halls the way I used to, but I can do it in a book. And, that book is called My Name is Anxiety.
In this story, you're going to meet a character who is in a lot of pain, pain that I've walked through a bit myself and pain I know many others have experienced. And, in this story, you're going to find how pain can lead to some dark places, places some may find themselves in today. My Name is Anxiety goes to those dark spaces unapologetically. If anything, this book is for the one who lives there—the one who considers darkness to be normal for them, the one who doesn't know anything but. You know why? Because I wouldn't write a book for those living in darkness without introducing them to the light. Rest assured, reader. My Name is Anxiety is intentionally dark so that everyone can see how bright the light is. My Name is Anxiety intentionally walks both the character and the reader through hopelessness so that hope can become all the more sweeter. My Name is Anxiety is a continuation of my mission that began as a freshman in high school. I want to introduce Jesus to the lost. I want to introduce Jesus to the hurting. He is for them both. And, while I enjoy preaching Jesus to those who know Him, I especially enjoy preaching Jesus to those who don't. And, while everyone is welcome to read My Name is Anxiety, this book is for those who don't.
If you know someone who doesn't know Jesus, send the book their way. If you know someone who does, encourage them to see people as people, and tell those people about the God we serve who knows how to heal their pain. We can't just linger around healed people anymore. It's time we start ministering to those who are bleeding.
And, I'm honored to do my part with the writing of this novel, titled, My Name is Anxiety. I hope it blesses you. This is just the beginning.