This is my story.
I grew up in the church. I don't know a time when I didn't believe in Jesus. It was simply a part of who I was. My identity in part was obeying my parents and the church. Oh yeah, I did kind of get that mixed up. It wasn't until much later in life that I figured out that I had put the church in place of Jesus. I didn't mean to do it. I think a lot of kids growing up in the church do it. I grew up being told what things to do or not to do that would make me a good Christian. I therefore equated action with salvation.
That was messed up. In turn I began to judge other people based on their actions and determined whether or not they were worthy of eternal life. When you base worthiness on actions, everyone falls short at some point in time.
It wasn't really until I was married that I began to really recognize grace. I think it was having a wife and kids where I began to better understand how you could love someone even when they don't give you a reason to love them. God loves us no matter what we do. I always knew that, but I don't know that I understood the reality of it.
I don't really have a story where I did a bunch of bad things that messed up my life. I have a story more like a pharisee where I tried to be worthy of God based on my actions and I would be upset if someone suggested the actions were not enough or that someone else could have eternal life without them. But God worked with me and put situations in my life that helped me to better understand.
God is not sitting in heaven looking for reasons to turn people away. God is in heaven calling all of His children to him. But God won't force you to choose Him. God allows you to choose to live with Him eternally. But there is only one way to do that. You must obey God and live to serve God for all eternity. If your focus is on getting what you want and having God serve you, then it won't work. There is only room for one God and that isn't you. Heaven won't be heaven if even one single person is there who refuses to obey God and is determined to serve themselves. Heaven is only heaven if everyone is there to serve God and love each other.
I guess the rest of my story is that I am committed to helping others realize that when you love and obey God, then you are who you were created to be and that is when you find peace and joy. It is when you disobey God that you aren't who you were created to be and that is when you can't get rid of that feeling that something is wrong and that you are less than you are meant to be.
It feels like there isn't much of me in my story, but that is me. My life has always been about serving God, even when I didn't realize I was doing it the wrong way.