My journey with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, started five years ago, but His redemption and transforming power has been working mightily in me ever since I was in my mother’s womb.

My parents introduced me to Jesus Christ ever since I was young. They read to me Bible stories, played Christian songs, and brought me to CCF Sunday School weekly. I studied in a Baptist school where I graduated from preschool, elementary, and high school. In that school, students were required to memorize and recite verses and chapters from the Bible daily and monthly as well as to learn Biblical principles and trivia. This led me to become a “Bible Whiz.” I also maintained excellent grades in my academics and accelerated almost yearly in the honor roll. On the other hand in Sunday school, I was an A student (if a standard existed). I was known for raising her hand almost every time the teacher asked a question from the lesson, a Bible trivia, or the memory verse from last week.  People who knew me or heard me speak told me I was smart, gifted, talented, and a “good girl.” The first three words applied, but if they saw my heart’s condition then, they wouldn’t call me a good girl. Head knowledge was my expertise; faith in Jesus Christ my greatest waterloo. I was the perfect little girl on the outside but I was filthy in the inside.

Having received positive comments from people and blessings from God (meaning our family was blessed financially and materially), I swelled with pride and self-centeredness. Although my parents taught me to accept their “no” when they refused to give me what I want, I made tampo and muttered negative things about them. “I am who you want me to be: a good daughter. I deserve that toy!” this was my mindset then. Long before Regina George reigned as the queen bee in Mean Girls, I gathered my own “wannabees” and gossiped about or insulted our other classmates who, in my foolish eyes, were weird and outcast. If only I knew my situation was worse than theirs, I would have repented; however, my ego would not let that happen so I felt no remorse. At home, even our helpers got a taste of my bratty attitude when I refused to eat the food before me and complained about them to my Mom even if they did nothing wrong. It got worse. Being the eldest child of my parents, I was instructed and trained to be responsible and in charge over my brothers when our parents were away. Unfortunately, I abused this privilege. I fought frequently with my brother Josh. I pinched him or spanked him when he acted in a way contrary to my expectation. In a way, I enslaved him. I really was a hypocrite that time because right after I hurt him, I’ll apologize, then seconds later, I’ll tell him, “Josh, I’m really, really sorry, but please, don’t tell Mom and Dad.” My fights with him created rifts between us so we barely played with each other or talked unless we’re quite okay and our parents are at home.

And so for the first twelve years of my existence, I lived a double life: saint by day, monster by night—until God intervened. When I turned 12, my cousin started bringing me to Jzone. I carried my egotistic attitude with me so I tried to impress the “kuyas” and the “ates” that I can write all the points of the speaker without error and can recite many verses from memory. True enough, some of them were impressed and this caused my pride to swell even more. God must have hated me so much back then because of my pride, but thank God He’s not the type to harbor ill feelings for very long (unlike yours truly), so He spoke to my heart in surround sound, clearly and personally. The turning point took place in a special valentine session in Jzone called “The Father’s Heart.” The youth pastor, then Kuya Ryan Escobar, spoke of God’s redemptive love as a Father; He forgives sinners of their iniquities, gives them a new life, and adopts them as His sons and daughters! All I have to do is put my faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and make Him the Lord of my life.

I knew this message since way back when, but on that Saturday, February 25, 2006, the message was accompanied with fear. Fear of being separated from God forever. For the first time in my life, I saw how proud I was and that I was spiritually dead. I needed God’s salvation and grace; I yearned for His forgiveness. That Saturday, for the first time in twelve years, Jesus Christ became my Lord and Saviour.

Since the day Jesus became my Lord, I am living and leaning on His grace. After He came into my heart, He placed in me the desire to know Him better through His Word and to walk in His ways moment by moment. I learned to be patient and gentle with my brothers and to love them as Christ loved me. Today, by God’s grace, my brothers and I are close and encourage each other. I learned to accept them the way God made them, to listen to their stories and insights, and to teach them God’s truths. By God’s grace, I honored and obeyed my parents not only through my grades but also in our daily encounters at home. I quit throwing a fit when I don’t get what I want. And today, again, by God’s grace,  I am attending our strong and loving D12 regularly, serving in Nxtgen (CCF’s Sunday school ministry) and Jzone, and leading a group of girls in school. God is also using me to magnify His Name through my blog which I regularly update. Praise God indeed!

In Ephesians 2:8-10, Paul wrote:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Indeed, I cannot boast of my own goodness. Yet I stand before you today and boast of Lord’s goodness in my life which I know and I believe, could be real and personal in your life, too, if you have a personal relationship with Jesus. I am His pot and He is my Potter who is shaping me according to His design and perfect plan. I am forever grateful to Him for never letting me go (in spite of my many hang ups). I used to worry about what my life will be like in the future, but now I’m relaxed because I am certain it’s safe in the hands of an Almighty and all-knowing God.

What things were gain to me–my being a Bible whiz and a smart, good girl–I now count loss for the sake of Christ Who loved me and gave Himself for me. My name is Jennifer Grace Jarlego Talam, a recipient of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness.

Soli Deo Gloria!

(testified in MODULE 2, SESSION 5 during ONE Retreat, October 2011)

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