COVINGTON, Ga. — Jackson Watts is a thinker.
You can tell it in the way he articulates his thoughts. You can almost see, through the furrows of his eyebrows, the thought processes he goes through to choose carefully his words.
Such a way of processing thoughts was particularly beneficial for Watts, a junior baseball player at Eastside, as he had all summer to think about making what he believes is the most beneficial decision he’s ever made when he pledged his life to Jesus Christ just two weeks ago.
Watts was baptized at a Christ In You Move camp in Cleveland, Tennessee. He remembers the date and will likely not forget it.
“It was July 20 while I was at the camp,” Watts said. “I actually already had a lot of energy and anxiety leading up to that moment, and I remember the moment when I said, ‘I’m going to do it tonight.’”
That moment came when he was talking to his youth pastor, Kurt Petersheim while at the camp.
“He asked me a couple of questions,” Watts explained. “He asked, ‘Do you believe in the Lord, and do you want to ask him into your life.’ I said, yes, and that’s when I realized it was really that simple.”
And it’s that simplicity of his faith and just a desire to live it out daily as a regular person that Watts said he wants to model for his friends, teammates or anybody around.
“I’ve never had, like, a bad life,” Watts said. “My parents were divorced when I was two years old, but, you know, it’s not a bad situation. I’ve got a good life. Parents all around me that love me. I’ve never been the kid no one wants to talk to because he’s just messed up. So there wasn’t some big or bad moment that triggered it. I did it because it just gives you direction and it gives you purpose.”
Watts said that his biggest “sin,” perhaps was his willingness to just settle for coasting through life. Taking this decisive step in his faith was a culmination of there was more to his life than just merely existing.
“I’ve never really doubted the Lord,” he said. “I’ve gone to church a lot. As a kid I went with my mom or my family. I went to Wednesday night youth things and different churches with my friends. But then around middle school I started doing it more on my own and just started enjoying it more and more.”
His gradual affinity for the Christian faith came to a head when he decided to signup for the CIY Move camp earlier the summer.
“All the kids hyped it up and talked about how much they loved it,” he said. “I figured, I guess I might as well go for it. They said even if you don’t love the religious aspect of it, it’s still good way to go and still have fun.”
But Watts found himself falling in love with the experience, and with God, even more.
“I noticed some changes in me and my relationship with the Lord even just going throughout the camp that week, he said. “I felt changes with everyone around me, and just remember feeling touched the entire week in his word, which made since because we were doing things where we were just very deeply involved in the word the whole week. And you get an unexplainable happiness while you’re there. It was awesome. Just the simplicity of it all.”
That simplicity is what Watts wants people to know about this new life of his. That it’s not as deep and spooky as maybe some try to portray it. He doesn’t want to be a Bible thumper either.
Watts said he desires to find practical, every day ways to show people the change God has made in his life — and can make in theirs.
“It doesn’t really take much to influence your friends,” he said. “Especially on something like baseball teams, where we’re already close-knit guys who are eating together, changing together and sometimes sleeping together. You don’t have to tell someone they have to read the entire bible right away in order to give your life to the Lord. It doesn’t take a lot to show that change your faith makes in you. Maybe doing something as simple as wearing a cross neckless could intrigue someone. Or not being the one to make fun of another kid at school, or giving tips to someone or helping someone along the way.
“The bible talks a lot about community. Less ‘I’ and more ‘we.’ We for He, actually. It’s really all about caring for each other and showing light.”
Watts said he immediately felt an urgency to be that kind of shining example almost as soon as he emerged from the water.
“That night it happened, my youth pastor asked if I was ready, and I was,” Watts said. “We did it in the fountain at camp, and when I came up, it felt so refreshing. Some people were waiting until they got home, and I wanted to do it the same day. I told my mom, and would’ve respected if she wanted me to wait so she could see it, but she, I guess, had a selfless moment too, and she trusted me and allowed me to go ahead and let it happen.”
Now that he’s back home, he’s already feeling the impact of his choice. He says he’s enjoying worship services at Eastridge Community Church, which is his home church. He’s been finding subtle ways to show his heart change as he interacts with classmates. And now his faith journey has given him a new perspective on the importance baseball can have in his life.
“Over the next two years I have in high school, I’m going to look to get good grades and find the right college,” he said. “I have no clue where right now, but hopefully it’ll be fore baseball. And maybe, now, baseball can be my outlet for spreading my faith for a long time. If, after high school, I never play baseball again, that’s alright, and I know God will have other plans for me.
"But I’m definitely hoping God can use me to make a difference here.”