What did you discover this year? How did it help you grow?
Back in August, I wrote about where I was at in my Christian spiritual journey, and how a lot of what I was struggling with had more to do with The Church and Christian culture than with God. I had planned on immediately writing a second portion to it, but I didn’t even really know where my faith was at, or even how to describe it. It has taken time to put a finger on it, but I feel like now I can discuss it without any major confusion or fear.
It began with a real moment of clarity; I was lying in bed one night after a particular stressful week, during the second semester of my sophomore year. The tension and stress in my than- living situation was at an all-time high, and there wasn’t much that I or anyone else could do about it. With tears spilling down my face, I thought to myself, I wish I could just take my Bible and go someplace far away and spend time with God until this is over.
Lord,I’m alone and I need you.
I can’t do this anymore
Please, help me
In that moment, God was what I needed. In similar moments, God was and often is all that I have.
That summer, going to church on a regular basis was hard; I was only taking one class, but it took up a lot of my time due to the hefty amounts of reading and note-taking. On the other hand, I was also yearning for something more than just sitting in a service and hanging on the pastor’s every word. I wanted connection and intimacy; to feel what it was like to know God beyond the walls of a building or a group of people.
I had heard about Jesus Calling through a few friends that had been reading it. I was in the process of learning how to genuinely pray, and I discovered that I was terrible at doing so out loud. It felt weird and uncomfortable, almost to the point of being robotic. I had already gotten into the habit of writing letters to my Creator over the years, but this brought it to a much deeper level.
I would often write in my journal while listening to meditative music; sometimes it would be a short prayer, and other days it would take an hour or more to articulate all the thoughts I had regarding the topic. I have connected with God so much more through that book than I have anywhere else in the last five years.
When the Chic-Fil-A controversy came about, I once again felt as though I was trapped in the middle of it, as I tend to feel with many current social issues. I witnessed so much anger and uprising, both online and offline. Frankly, It was not something that I wanted to give involved in. At the time, my little brother had just shipped out for basic training while the Air For Academy was being surrounded by a raging wildfire in Colorado, so I was not about to get worked up over whether or not I should boycott a fast food chain. And I know that it was so much more than that, but taking a side in that fiasco wasn’t exactly on my priority list.
I do have my own opinions about various social causes, such as abortion, homosexuality, and the like. Everybody, both Christian and non-Christian, has the right to have their own thoughts and views regarding such. What makes me unbelievably angry is the way both sides go about articulating such. I can only speak for myself, but I refuse to pick up a sign and go protest at a courthouse or an abortion clinic. I am not going to blatantly tell someone whether or not they’re going to heaven or hell. I refuse to hold others to specific and impossible standards that I wouldn’t want to be held to.
Why? For starters, I just don’t see the point. I’ve heard people say that they’re motivated by “holy passion”, but there is a vast difference between passion and blind anger/hatred. No one wants to listen to anyone that stands behind a fence or a piece of caution tape and screams about how much God hates this or that. And if they do stop and listen, my guess is that they walk away with an impression that is anything but good.
Second, a person’s struggle with their sexuality, or anything that goes against the Bible, is between them and God, not me or whomever is around them. It’s not my place to tell that person where they stand with God, or what their relationship with Him should be like. These things take time and processing, and only God is fully aware of that person’s heart. Don’t try take on a task that is only possible for the Holy Spirit to do.
Again, I completely respect the fact that people think what they want to think. What I scratch my head over is how one chooses to treat other human beings in light of that the line of thinking. In other words, Scripture may have a ton of different verses about what is a true Christian and what doesn’t, but what about the verses regarding love?
How you act is most certainly a reflection of faith; how you love is an even bigger, more powerful reflection of that. Refusing to love, in my eyes, seems like absolute hypocrisy.
That’s why I had such a hard time all those years. I questioned and wondered all right, but that period of time was a lot shorter than trying to figure out how to admit that I didn’t, and still don’t see everything as completely black and white. I was terrified of not being “Christian enough” and being pushed away and condemned as a result.
For the last year, I have been slowly learning what it means to be a woman of faith outside the Christian bubble; the one that puts so much emphasis on gelling into this clean, Eutopian-esque culture, instead of living authentically and being willing to extend and receive the gift of Grace. As I said in that post, I needed to stop trying to mold myself into something that I thought I should be and allow God to mold me into the person that he wants me to be.
These days, I don’t know if I like the term “Christian” anymore. Sure, I use it a lot and it is pretty common. But I’m not a fan of the negative connotations that have become associated with it, and I don’t think it genuinely represents how I view my creator.
I would much rather say “I have a relationship with God.” That’s what it ultimately comes down to, particular when I take my last breath. Me and God.
Yes, community is important; by finding the right community, even more than one for me, I have grown so much more and it’s been a lot easier clearing up some of the cobwebs. But you can’t depend on it to “feed” you all the time. If you try to build a solid foundation on something that can easily change, it eventually will crumble.
I’m going to church and I’m in a Bible study, but I’m no longer afraid to disagree with the way that a message is being presented, or ask questions about it. I’m open to discussions about faith and daily life, but I’m not going to pressure myself to try and follow other people’s convictions, especially if it’s just not me.
My journey is not over, as is the case with everyone. I still have a lot to learn in terms of how I can apply my faith to the coming stages and seasons of my life. My advice to anyone who has, or is currently experiencing what I went through is this: Don’t be afraid of uncertainty, or the possibility of going through what some may label a “crisis.” You will go through it, whether it be in high school, college, or at some point when you’re out in the real world. Like human relationships, spiritual relationships have their own ups and downs. Be patient, and be open to wherever you feel like God is leading you. It might take a while, and it might take you to places that you’d never thought you would go. But eventually, you will look back on everything and be reminded that it happened for a reason.
I know I did. And I’m glad.