Lately I’ve been acting really weird. It’s almost like…I’m a Christian, or something.
In high school and during my first year or so of college, I loved being a Christian. I was all about church and Bible study and breaking bread. Then I discovered predestination and thought more about the idea of hell and consequently found myself hating God. I came to believe Christianity was a hoax that was invented to add meaning to life.
But I was trapped. I didn’t want to be a Christian anymore, but my identity was so wrapped up in it. My father was a pastor and everyone knew me as a Bible study leader. So I went along with the show, but my greatest desire was to run away and start over where no one knew me and I didn’t have to play Christian.
As many Christian conversion stories go, eventually something in me broke, and I found myself bawling on the floor. I decided life wasn’t worth all the misery I was putting myself through, and instead I would choose Jesus. True to form, as soon as I surrendered myself Jesus saved me.
I remained reserved in my faith for the following two years. I liked Jesus, but I still questioned the God of the Old Testament, and I didn’t really trust Christians. To me, Christians were what I used to be: a show. This email that I wrote to my father on February 1, 2009 explains my thinking to a degree:
I’ve been attending various churches over the last few weeks, and don’t want to be a part of any of them. Every service is essentially the same, and the vast majority of the people are white, educated, and middle class. Where’s the diversity? Why are we all clumped together and why does nobody seem to care? Oh right, because it’s comfortable.
I would like to be a part of a small group, but all they do is study the Bible (maybe once a month they’ll go out and do a service project together). I’m sick and tired of sitting around a living room and talking about the Bible. I’d rather go live it out with people. Also, I’m sick of people going to church, because I feel like most of them go in order to check it off their list. So they are good with God. I went to church last night, but some of my roommates don’t know that. So this morning, when I was getting ready to go workout, they joked about me being a sinner and whatnot. I don’t think that’s funny–I think it stems from a true belief that people have about church. That if you don’t go to church you aren’t a good Christian, or perhaps you aren’t even a Christian at all.
I was pretty rebellious toward anything that Christians did – I purposely wouldn’t have a quiet time in the morning like everyone else, and I didn’t even like the term “quiet time.” I didn’t wear skirts to church on Easter; instead I wore Spiderman t-shirts. I didn’t like church at all, and I wouldn’t call it church (I used the term “Sunday service.”) I didn’t take communion or fast and I probably would have never considered being baptized if I wasn’t already. I didn’t like most worship music or what I believed to be overused scripture verses. I didn’t like when Christians bought TOMS. I didn’t like it when Christians didn’t use curse words. I didn’t like these things because I believed Christians were just going through the motions to feel good about themselves, and they were ignoring the more vital aspects of the Christian life, like serving the poor. I wasn’t going to be like them.
And then I went on the World Race.
My squadmates surprised me during our first month in Ireland. They were doing all the things Christians do: fasting, memorizing scripture verses, taking communion, listening to nothing but worship music, not cursing, etcetera etcetera. But there was something different about the way they carried these tasks out. It wasn’t as if they were doing it to feel good about themselves, to check it off a list, it was as if they were doing it because they were so in love with God. That intrigued me. Another thing that intrigued me was how my squadmates had a passion and a desire to serve – again, not to feel good about themselves, but because they were in love with God.
I still had my doubts about God. One night in Ireland I was overwhelmed with all the suffering in the world; I became hopeless and so mad at God. How could he let it happen? And why wouldn’t he stop it if he had the power to do so? I cried and cried and cried. And then I shutdown, because that was easier.
The next month, in Romania, my teammate Colin presented communion for the seven of us one morning. Everyone took it. Except me. I would not.
A few days later Colin had us draw our souls. Mine was a big question mark.
And then, a few weeks later, something happened that changed me forever. Someone I barely knew spoke a word of prophecy over me. The first part of the prophecy shook me up, because I knew it was true (and there was no way the person who spoke it could have known), and the second part of the prophecy woke me up…”You have to be 100%.” I don’t know what that means, the person told me. I knew exactly what it meant.
“Everything changes from here on out. There’s no more time for joking around or being rebellious – God has placed a calling on my life and I must fulfill it. So tomorrow I start with fasting. Fasting and seeking and listening to what God has to say. This is it.” I wrote in my diary that night.
And that was it; that’s when I started taking my faith in Jesus seriously. I mean, it’s been long journey with many other aspects since then, but that’s when it started. I didn’t realize it at the time, I don’t even think I realized it until now – a year later.
I fell in love with God this past year, and I fell hard. I fasted weekly and binged on communion and even had “quiet times” in the morning. I began to understand that these things had nothing to do with other people – these acts were between me and God. And even if I didn’t understand them completely, they were worth doing because I was getting over myself and believing in something my mind couldn’t fully grasp. That’s why it’s called faith.
God tested me and trained me and broke my heart, only to give it back all the better. I have no more questions for him – all I have is trust. There is not a cell in my body that doubts the goodness and faithfulness of God (…Old Testament God included.)
The reason why I didn’t realize all this until now is because I was so worried that when I came home I would forget everything I learned and go back to my old rebellious and reserved self. I was worried that when I wasn’t surrounded by my squadmates anymore I would lose my zest. But I haven’t, no, not at all. If anything, I’m still sprinting forward.
Ways I’ve surprised myself since coming home:
1) I blog about God. Like, all the time. I’ve been blogging for seven years, and I used to rarely mention God (if I did it was usually when I was mad at him.) But now I can’t stop blogging about him and how good he is, and it’s freaking me out.
2) I listen to worship music. Like, all the time. I have all these great genres of music to listen to, but I keep choosing worship. Again, it’s freaky.
3) I’m obsessed with prayer – I think every conversation should end in prayer.
4) I’m so full of peace. I’m not mad at God; I’m not mad at other Christians. It’s all about JESUS, and I now understand that the only person I’m accountable for is myself. It doesn’t matter what or why other people are doing what they do – all that matters is my HEART. It’s been cleansed and it feels so good (though there is still infinitely more cleansing to do…)
It’s weird…I’ve made it to this place and I can’t go back. In essence, I’m whipped. I always used to look at my parents and other spiritual leaders and wonder how they were so confident about their faith. There was a constant war in my soul and I couldn’t imagine it not being there. Well…it’s not there anymore. I just can’t get over how weird it is. I’m a freak. A Jesus freakkk. Just thought you should know.