I have this awesome friend. His name is Tyler. He’s one of the smartest, funniest, and overall best people I’ve ever met. And when we did meet, back in college, we got along instantly. We just meshed. So when he told me he hadn’t grown up in church—like I had—I remember being surprised. And when he said he’d first heard about Christ through his friends in high school, not at a young age through his mom—like I had—I was shocked. His testimony was so vastly different from mine, but somehow we’d both found Jesus—or rather, he’d found the both of us.
Tyler taught me that there’s no cookie-cutter way to become a Christian. Through searching for truth, struggling with doubt, and investing in relationships, we can all find personal relationships with Christ.
Currently, Tyler’s a doctor and in his first year of residency. I was able steal some of his precious free time recently and interview him about his faith and how he got where he is today. I hope and pray that his story and the words expressed therein give you the same hope, encouragement, and wisdom they’ve given me over the years.
WHAT WAS YOUR PERCEPTION OF CHRISTIANS GROWING UP?
I had a pretty shielded view of Christians. I had a few friends growing up that were “church going,” so whenever I’d spend the night at their house on Saturday nights, I’d end up having to go to church with them. It was cool. There were treats and stuff so it wasn’t ever a big deal. Thankfully, I never had a run-in with huge hypocrisy or anything like that, so it was kind of under the radar in my world growing up.
WHAT WAS IT THEN ABOUT CHRISTIANITY THAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU, OR CAUGHT YOUR ATTENTION?
I think like many outreaches, Young Life—which ultimately brought me to Jesus—used other ploys to bring me in to hear the gospel. (Young Life is a non-denominational Christian outreach found in most major cities in the U.S. that focuses on building relationships with teenagers, usually through youth groups and after-school programming.) In my world, Young Life was a very popular, fun thing to do with friends every Monday night. I went to club meetings, and hung out with a bunch of people being goofy. Basically I heard the message of God’s love and sin—which I’d heard before at church occasionally, but I don’t remember anything contextually from those Sunday morning sermons. In Young Life, when I showed up, I remember them speaking to something that for whatever reason would strike a chord with me or spark an interest in things I’d been thinking about, but just hadn’t been able to put words to yet. You know what I mean?
Even though I was only in high school, I still thought about things like eternity. I thought about death. I thought about the meaning of life and all of this stuff. I just didn’t know where to put that or how to answer any of those questions. Walking into Young Life and hearing the gospel gave me a context for that and made a ton of sense.
DEFINITELY, SO HOW DID YOU GO FROM THAT INTRODUCTION INTO THE GOSPEL TO SEEKING OUT YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD BEYOND YOUNG LIFE?
Well, I officially heard the gospel and accepted it as truth when I was fifteen, but it wasn’t until over three years later that I really ran with it as my own. It remained something that was just cool and was somewhat a part of my story that I did nothing about.
But three years later when I went to college, it removed some of the security and patterns of the life I grew up in and forced me to choose what I did with every minute, and every decision was mine. I remember thinking, “I’m going to be making a ton of decisions in life, to go to parties, to not go to parties, which people to hang out with, to do whatever,” and I’ve always been the type of person who needs a tangible reason why I make decisions and not just make them because I feel a certain way.
There were influences from other people, but I just remember having this huge sense of independence freshmen year of college and I remember God blessed me with these people surrounding me, just random friends living next door to me in the dorm. They knew God, and the way they were choosing to live their lives was something I aligned with, and I realized they were doing that seemingly because Jesus was in charge of what was going on in their lives.
FROM THERE, AS YOU WERE MAKING YOUR FAITH YOUR OWN, WHAT KIND OF INFLUENCES OR INPUT DID YOU SEEK OUT TO MAKE THAT FAITH EVEN DEEPER?
I think I’ve gotten most of my influences and most of my growth from two main influences. This is something I still need to grow in, but the first is sermons. They’ve always fascinated me. I’ve always just zoned in and readily accepted (pastor’s) teachings. That being said, I still question and take it with a grain of salt. But I just love a good teaching; something that just slaps you in the face. Even from the get-go, as a young Christian, that was something that really taught me a lot. I remember Sundays were typically the days when I was able to understand the Bible and understand God’s will much more than the other days on my own.
As time went on, the other big influence was my relationship with my peers. Until recently, I’d never had a mentor, so it was my peers that helped me figure out faith and figure out what it all means. It was those long discussions with close friends and us just figuring out life together and struggling with all of these questions. That’s what helped me figure out the day-to-day stuff.
It was sermons and community that were my focus, but where I’ve been lacking and want to improve is focusing and drawing a lot more on the Word (Bible) in my own life and from prayer. And I do those things, and they build relationship between the Lord and I, but it does seem like I’ve gotten the most from those two things (sermons and relationships).
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS HAVE BROUGHT YOU CLOSER WITH CHRIST, AND WHAT KIND OF THINGS HAVE WIDENED THAT GAP?
For me, the things that widen the gap are stress and busy-ness. I’ve felt the furthest away from God and his presence when things get crazy and I become self-reliant. My reaction to being overwhelmed and busy is to take control of as many things as I can and try to work it out myself, even down to the details. And when I succeed in those things, it’s almost worse because then it pushes me to become more self-sufficient because I think I can do it myself, which is just a large distraction.
Times that bring me closer to Christ are times of rest, whether that’s a true Sabbath day, or vacation, or just a day when I just get to be and can slow down. I think in my line of work (as a medical doctor) it can be difficult because I have a lot of work-related stuff to read every night, but it helps occasionally being able to read what I want to read and stretch myself and challenge myself with books and thoughts and conversations with others about God and this world and how those things fit together.
And then those random times when sermons happen or realizations happen, or God just speaks and you get knocked on your ass and realize you’ve lost the big picture, and you’re brought back to your true priorities. You realize it’s not about me succeeding but about bringing him (God) glory. It’s not about fighting for my pride but about becoming humble, getting outside my own head and my own means and loving people.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH IMPACT YOUR DAILY INTERACTIONS?
Well, I wish I could say it was manifested in every relationship because I was aware all the time, but that’s not the case. When I am aware and present with what God’s actually doing around me, that affects the patients I have. I can visibly tell the difference those times. This aligns with the time when I’m self-sufficient as well. I don’t look at people as people, but I see them as a means. But when I’m operating in the spirit [consciously letting the Holy Spirit guide me] or with awareness of what God’s doing around me, I tend to see them more like I think God sees them; as a human being who was created and is loved. It’s those times when I can talk to them and lose myself in their lives and find ways to encourage them.
YOU’RE A DOCTOR AND CURRENTLY IN YOUR FIRST YEAR OF RESIDENCY. WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A CHRISTIAN IN THE MEDICAL FIELD?
There’s this unspoken thought that’s a big fear of mine that in the medical field, if you’re a Christian, you’re dumb, or you’re illogical, or believe in some make-believe, fairy thing that’s just not real. So I think that sadly, there’s this teeny, tiny voice inside of me that occasionally creeps up and says, “Hey, it’s embarrassing that you’re a follower of Jesus.” But even though I try not to listen to it, it can sometimes speak quite loudly. So with that, it’s fun to succeed and excel intellectually in the medical field and also represent Jesus at the same time. It seems to throw people for a loop occasionally when they see me be logical and intelligent and at the same time they know I believe in this whole gospel thing. And also it’s been fun because I think I’ve gotten a reputation of being a very joyful person, even when things are very, very hard. So I just hope that continues to spark a question in their minds of why that’s the case and how ultimately the answer is there are bigger things and bigger kingdoms than the medical world and job world.