Finding the God of Truth and Grace

Vanessa Johnson

Now one of MOG’s leaders and World Challenge’s potential partners, one young lady looks back on how God made himself real to her.

I was born in Mexico. When I was five, my parents divorced. My father had put us in a situation where my mom was frightened for our safety.

We moved in with my grandparents who were Christians. Most people in Mexico are Catholic, so I grew up in a unique situation. 

Looking back, God was always present.

Picturing a Complete Family

I had a lot of anger as a child, and I would take it out on God mainly. I remember a couple nights getting really frustrated—“God, why is this part of my life this way?”—questioning everything.

While I was ranting at him, I felt him speak over me: “Vanessa, whatever you want, I’ll give you that desire of your heart. Just tell me what it is, and give me the time.”

I thought, “Okay. I can do that.”

I knew what I wanted a family to look like, but I didn’t want to put it in words, so I drew a picture. That was it.

Occasionally I would pray, “God, this is still what I want. It’s up to you.”

When I was 13, we moved to the United States. Mexico was going through a drug war in our region, and we lived in constant fear. My mom didn’t want us to grow up in that environment.

Being Adopted

Because so much in my life was unstable early on, I’ve always felt the need to be in control. When anything slips, suddenly I’ll find myself thinking, “Oh my gosh, everything’s falling apart.” 

Each time, God’s given me a gentle reality check. “Vanessa, it’s okay. It’s in my hands. Just pray over it, and I got it.” 

This really came into play with understanding God as a father and his answer to my prayer about family.

After we moved to the US, my mom met this guy. They dated and then got married.

I knew the words ‘God is our father,’ but I didn’t really feel them until my stepdad decided to adopt me and my sister.

That was when I really understood what it means for God to adopt us into his family. Suddenly, the significance of God as our father clicked for me: he takes us from our place of brokenness and makes us his children.

There have been challenges with making a new family, but I’m learning to put those in God’s hands too.

Finding the Designer

I met Ian Watkins and became part of MOG, Move of God, and then we met with Sarah and Cory, the World Challenge directors. They helped us start organizing MOG into a church. All of this made me start delving deeper into who God is in my life.

I’d seen how he reached into me and my family, but I began looking for him in what I was studying in school and what I might do for my work in the future.

A lot of people assume, “Well, you’re a biology major, so you’ll become an atheist because you can’t study a hard science and still believe in God.” 

Quite the opposite, actually. 

I study the Word with MOG, then I read my textbooks, and there’s no contradiction between them. When you look into the depths of a cell, it’s impossible that that level of detail and complexity is random.

Could even billions of years of evolution haphazardly throw cells together and come out with a human being that has our rational, emotional, spiritual depth? No way.

A Designer is so evident, and I love that about science.

Speaking to the World

Particularly with what I study and believe, I think a lot about how to communicate the truth to people.

A lot of my professors and classmates don’t want to acknowledge a Creator. I can’t keep silent about the falseness of trying to find a way around God in his own creation, but I also want them to see the protective, loving father God is too.

When you come to people with truth but no grace, it’s just harsh; but when you come with just grace and no truth, it’s not helpful. I think there’s a lot of that going on with people in our generation, either unloving truth or dishonest “grace.”

A lot of times people try to polarize God in the same way. Either he’s all compassion or all anger and disappointment.

When you look back at the Old Testament, though, the Israelites turn their back on God time and time again, and God always gives them an opportunity to come back to Him.

Then Jesus came to be grace and truth together. He hasn’t changed, not then or now.

I think that’s what we at MOG want to show people, a God who can take the worst of our pain, who is righteously angry at lies and injustice, but who also forgives and makes all things new.

Editor’s Note: MOG is working with World Challenge and its catalyst funding initiative to influence more lives for Christ. If you have a start-up ministry and would like to be considered for mentorship and funding through World Challenge, fill out our online application for Catalyst Grants.