We are part of a small group made up of some of our friends. We meet weekly with our families to hang out and discuss various topics. At small group last week, our discussion leader asked each of us to share our faith journey. I was unprepared (not due to lack of warning), and when I’m unprepared I ramble and get emotional. Part of my emotion comes from remembering and telling my story. And part of my emotion comes from feeling like I was telling it all wrong. This is my redo. 😉
For those of you who don’t know me at all, this will really help you understand who I am and why I’m here. My story will hopefully make it clear to you why I feel my purpose is to authentically talk about God, religion, and my struggles. It will also help explain why I am so passionate about helping people who feel insecure–because I’ve been there, and I believe wholeheartedly that relationships are done best honestly and intimately.
So here goes nothing…
My faith journey begins as a child. I grew up going to church, various Lutheran churches for about half of my childhood (my dad was in the Air Force so we moved every couple of years) and a Baptist church once my dad retired, remarried, and rededicated his life to God. It was when I became heavily involved in our church youth group as a middle schooler that I decided I wanted to follow Jesus as well. I was captivated by His love and the sense of purpose He gave me.
My high school years were marked by insecurity. I was shy, immature in my faith, and felt like an outsider. Consequently, I didn’t have friends at school because I didn’t know how to relate to my peers anymore. I was a Christian, trying hard to follow God, and I didn’t know how to do that while having relationships with people who were not going in that same direction. I isolated myself and talked very little in my classes. However, I did sense God calling me to reach out to other kids who were left out. This sort of became my ministry and purpose throughout my school years.
My Father/Daughter Relationship
Also, I had a very close relationship with my dad. Part of this was that he was also living for God, and part of it was that I had simply been a daddy’s girl right from the beginning. Some of us just are, you know? I just loved being in my dad’s presence. He had this calming and wise way about him. If I needed advice on anything, I knew that he was my man. I knew that he would tell me his honest opinion, even if it wasn’t going to be what I wanted to hear. The flip side of our relationship is that I had a deep desire to please him. When I let him down, it grieved me deeply. It tore me apart when he was upset with me or disappointed with a choice I had made.
Looking back, I think that I related to God in this same way. I loved just “hanging out” with God and seeking His wisdom. I was comforted by His presence and His Word. But when I messed up, it was hard to not see God as angry and distant. I still don’t know if this is how God is, but I would like to think not. My dad was a great dad, but not perfect. God is perfect, and He alone can love me perfectly, even when I fail miserably.
My Adult Years
All of this lead to my “biggest” failure of all time. The one where I wound up pregnant and unmarried. (For more on this and the impact it had on me, check out this post). I didn’t handle my guilt and shame well, so I no longer saw my worth. I had let everyone down, especially my God. How could I ever come back from that?! I wondered, “What Christian would want to be friends with me? What parent would be proud of me? What employer would ever hire me?” My fears and insecurities were out of control for a couple years, because I couldn’t forgive myself, and I didn’t think I deserved anyone’s forgiveness.
A few years into being married, things started to turn around for me. I slowly let my hard shell crack and fall away, and I began to forgive myself, although maybe not fully. We became involved in a young adults group at the church we were going to, and I started seeking friendships again. I felt the need to tell everyone up front that I had gotten pregnant with our first kid before we got married, so that if they were going to reject me for it, they could get it over with before I got attached. Ha!
The Ups and Downs
In all honesty, these were very selfish years for me. I was focused on myself and rebuilding my confidence. I think that God understood, and I maintained a good relationship with Him through the process. There were many ups and downs for me during these 8 years. I struggled with depression, and so my life and faith journey was more of a treacherous hike than a scenic walk. When things were going well relationally, my faith was strong. When I was struggling to connect with people, I started to doubt all over again.
One of these times was after I quit a job that I was struggling to do well at despite giving it my full effort. The day I quit, I had written a letter explaining all of my frustrations and confusion over my position there (why I thought this was a good idea, I don’t know!). I was already feeling awful enough just from trying to do my best and knowing that I was failing, but then to make matters worse, they sent me home that day not allowing me to finish out my two weeks notice. Now I can look back and see that I didn’t handle this professionally, but at the time, I didn’t get it and it left me feeling confused, hurt, and horribly depressed.
My Most Recent Struggles
In terms of my depression, the last couple years have been better. I haven’t gone into a deep depression in years, but that’s a story for another post. My faith started out stronger than ever and my confidence in Him had grown tremendously. But then life happened, not to me, but to people who mean a lot to me. And since I’m highly sensitive, I take on the weight of other people’s problems and hurts without even trying. I started doubting for a whole other reason. Bad things were happening to good people, God’s people. Prayers were going unanswered, and cries for help were seemingly ignored.
For several months I doubted, questioned, and even stopped believing in God, only to have my faith brought back to life again and my joy returned. This was emotionally draining. One second I thought I was going to walk away from my faith and the next I couldn’t let go. First, I would be so disgusted with the way it seemed God worked (or didn’t work) in this world and I would tell God how upset I was. But soon enough, God would show me His grace and love through a message, a person, or a situation. And my faith and love for God would quickly grow again. My faith journey would continue.
My Faith Journey Today
These last couple years have been hard, but so good. I would say that I no longer take my faith for granted. And I no longer assume that I have all the answers. Even more, I have come to the point where I finally believe what I believe because I actually believe it (did you follow that?). Not because it’s what I’ve been taught or because it’s what I want to believe. My beliefs have changed so much and yet are so much the same.
The relationship I had with God is still alive and well. My love for Him is growing each day as I get to know Him more. My trust in Him is getting stronger, but is still a work in progress. As my love for God grows, so does my trust. I am honest with Him and others of my doubts and struggles and He brings me through, even if sometimes slowly and painfully. I want to share all of my struggles in my relationship with God openly and honestly on this blog and in my real life, because in true relationships that’s what you do. We can have authentic, deep, rich relationships that grow deeper each day by being lovingly honest.
How has your faith changed or stayed the same over time? Share with us in the comments!
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