My Salvation Story: Seeing Life Through a New Lens
This is my salvation story- Jon Frederick, Christian Photographer
As a child of two military members, I spent most of my childhood moving every few years. Only complicated with my parent’s divorce when I was about three. There was always one constant to all this and that was my grandparents. Both sets lived in the same place my entire childhood. It was nice to have a little normalcy, at least as I look back. In particular was my father’s mom, I called her Nannie.
Nannie lived with my Pawpaw in Odessa, TX. I remember as a kid, flying out with my dad to Dallas. We would watch a Texas Rangers game, then catch a quick flight to Odessa. Pawpaw and Nannie were not only at church every time the doors were open, but they had the keys. They bought me my first Bible in 1994. In fact, it is sitting on the table right next to me now. That old King James Bible has made it around the world. That includes my time in the Navy, college, my first home, and now here in Georgia.
The year I met Jesus
The most memorable trip was in the Summer of 1995. My dad flew out with me to Dallas, as was the norm. But this time we stopped by Justin boots Co. Within an hour, I was walking out with a brand-new pair of brown cowboy boots. He also bought me a white cowboy hat, just like George Strait. My Pawpaw worked in the oil fields and as a ranch hand most of his life. A true American cowboy as far as I was concerned. Now I looked just like him in my mind. Looking back, I imagine I looked more like Woody from Toy Story. But when we went to church, I hung my cowboy hat right next to Pawpaw’s as we entered.
I was 11 years old that summer, and that Pentecostal church became a second home. My Bible was like an appendage. I was just old enough to understand the love of Jesus Christ and that I needed him in my life. So, I prayed my prayer of salvation and became a child of God during a church revival. I walked out of the church a little taller that day and it wasn’t just because of my new boots. That’s where my salvation story really started, in West Texas. It has taken me a long time since that summer to be filled with the spirit and to hear God’s voice as clearly as I heard it in the summer of ’95.
My Salvation Story- Going Home
I returned to my mother’s home who now lived in Murphy, NC. The first church service I stepped forward and was baptized in Blairsville, GA. I knew that Jesus was baptized and that was a good enough reason for me. David Macy was the pastor who baptized me, and I was convinced that I would go into ministry just like him. David mentored me and poured knowledge and love out endlessly.
This is also where I started taking photography seriously and remember my dad giving me an old Ricoh 35mm with one lens. I wore that thing out as a kid, taking pictures of anything and everything I came in contact with, in the mountains of North Carolina. I had God in my heart and a camera in my hands, little did I know that those two would combine one day to create a ministry for Jesus.
We ended up moving from that little North Carolina town to Huntsville, AL. I quickly fell away from the church once that connection was broken. Throughout my teens, I was more concerned with girls and friends than church and soon stopped attending all together. In college, I found anything and everything that altered my reality and filled a void I could never explain. As my life spiraled, God was still with me. When I needed him, I would still pray, and he kept me safe when my goal was self-destruction. And for two years, I don’t even remember touching a camera, it was like I was losing myself.
Salvation Story Round 2
With my life in turmoil and living without direction, I joined the Navy and returned to college once my tour of duty was over. God was still there with me, but he was not the center of my life. But one day I just couldn’t take it anymore and I kneeled beside my bed and prayed. I prayed for my life to change, for me to find meaning, and I prayed for a good woman who wouldn’t break my heart; like it had been shattered so many times in the past.
That is when I met Kathleen, who reintroduced me to my faith, my appreciation for life and my hope for the future. I may have hung up my cowboy hat and boots for a Braves ball cap and some Nike sneakers, but I was right back to 1995, and God came like a flood, filling my soul until it poured out.
Photography reentered the scene too, but now I was learning with digital cameras and using it as an outlet of expression. I started entering a few competitions and soon found myself getting a few requests from art publications. After that, gallery exhibits. Before I knew it, I was working under some fantastic photographers, but the model shoots I was doing didn’t feel right for me. The models felt exploited and exposed all in the name of “art.”
Seven11 and Faith Inspired Photography
My wife and I prayed for direction and God quickly led me away from that atmosphere. After that I did some freelance work and prayed constantly for God to lead me and use photography for his purpose, it was His talent and I no longer wanted to use it only for myself. That’s when my wife and I started Seven11, and the rest is history. The path God chose still allows for publications, exhibits, even published our first Christian devotional photography book. But now I don’t feel wrong for what I am doing, and I find so much purpose, pride and joy in my work. Once again in my life, I look to God, and he shows me the path I am meant to travel.
Giving it All to God
I won’t speak to the theology of “once saved always saved,” but I can tell you, God was with me through it all. He never pushed me away, I pushed his perfection away with the filth of my actions and mindset. But Christ is that bridge that continued to keep me linked to God even if I wasn’t focused on him. I finally understood the verse in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
I was so young when I accepted Christ and had never felt the emptiness of life without God. It’s an emptiness that grows and creates a God sized void; nothing can fill it. At least not until you come back and make him the center of your life again. That void was hunger and thirst for my heavenly Father, and he can fill it much quicker than you can ever empty it. Over and over, he will come back; with him comes unexplainable peace, clarity and a limitless love that is indescribable.
God changes you as you grow in your relationship with him into the person you are meant to be. Every road I have traveled, God walked beside me. When I was younger, my relationship was new, and I didn’t always know the path I was meant to follow. But as my relationship grew, it didn’t take long to realize that I was on the wrong path and quickly change direction, looking to God for guidance. And probably preventing some dire consequences.
But the most important thing is that the creator of the universe loves me, even more than I love my two beautiful boys (which is hard to believe). When I was lost, Christ left the flock behind and came looking for me. He left no stone unturned, and I heard his voice and came running back to him. It is that kind of love that reassures me that I am right where I need to be in my life. God changed my life, and I can easily say I now see everything through a new lens.
This article is also available as a podcast!
Photography and writing by Jon Frederick, Christian Photographer for Seven11
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