Since I’ve skipped a few days, I’ve decided to take on a taboo topic: religion. It’s a hot button issue, but I make no apologies for who I am and how I decide to incorporate it into my life.
First off, I am Christian. My parents started taking us to church when I was around 2, and ever since then it’s been a mainstay in my life. I was raised in a Baptist church, but no longer have membership there.
Being a Christian means a lot of different things to me. For me, it means that God is three persons, the holy trinity, and that his son was born to a virgin. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead three days later. The bible is the word of God, and is a set of guidelines for how we are to live our lives. You don’t get into heaven by actions but by God’s grace and being saved from our sins through repenting and being forgiven.
I have a bit of a rebellious side in me, so when I was 18 I started getting tattoos. Some people think this makes me less of a Christian – well you are wrong. They site a bible verse from the Old Testament thinking that it needs to trump personal feelings in this matter. But when Jesus died for us, he cancelled out the Old Testament rules for the New Testament ones. I did a lot of soul searching before getting my first one, and after 4 I had to promise myself that I would stop, but that’s a whole other story.
Since high school I’ve had a little bit of an up and down relationship with God. Up until then, I blindly followed where ever I was told to go. I didn’t have my own thoughts or opinions. I was the Sunday school teacher, the after school program leader, the leader at the summer camp type of Christian. I went to church every Sunday with my parents and was happy in my little bubble. Then our pastor was forced to retire and we started getting interim pastors until we found a permanent new one. We had one pastor who signed a mini-deal to be the interim pastor until we found the next one, and he was there for at least a year or two. He was old school Irish and I could not stand him! This is where the disconnect started. I was around 16 when it all started and he was not preaching a message of love but one of judgement and condemnation. I couldn’t get on board with that. So I stopped going to service. Once I was able to drive, I would go to Sunday School first, and then when everyone switched over to the main service I would drive myself home. My youth leaders were half supportive but made the point of saying if I was going to continue doing that I should find another service to go to each week. I didn’t. I probably should have, but I didn’t.
We finally settled on a new pastor when I was in university – it took a LONG time! The pastor who came even said he had no desire to switch churches but when the Lord leads you to something you have to do it. He was young, and vibrant. He brought in current political and social references into his messages. I really enjoyed learning from him in the beginning. Then things started to change. He started to make changes without a congregational vote, or slip things past the elders to get his way. Our church had always been a democracy and he wasn’t used to that. I finally lifted the rose coloured glasses and realized he was destroying everything that held the church together. Our church was built in the 1950’s by German immigrants and when those families who physically built the church left because of this pastor, you couldn’t help but take notice. I remember one members meeting where the pastor yelled at one of the oldest members – one of the most respected Christian men in the church. It was the turning point for me. I was done with it. Once again, I started missing Sunday’s here and there. Not to the same extent as before, but once a month maybe. By this time I was living in student housing and responsible for my own transportation so it was my own choice to go or not. My parents had moved and I started to pull back.
Then I went to Korea. I didn’t have an English church there (although there was an English Baptist church in the next town over I found out two weeks before I left) and I had to take control of my own faith. I read my bible and prayed every day. More commitment than I had ever had before. I received emails and facebook messages of encouragement from the church members. I heard that in Sunday school while asking for prayer requests, one of the elders included me on the list. Little things like that were amazing and uplifting. Not once during the entire year did I receive an email from the pastor asking how I was or anything. I moved back home after Korea for another year and still, not a single word from this pastor. I moved back to my hometown for teacher’s college and the first day back he saw me in the parking lot and offered a “hello – it’s been a long time” but at that point e was pretty much dead to me. I went to the church for the year I was in teachers college, but moved home after and revoked my membership. He asked why and I told him I had found another church where I currently live but mostly because I couldn’t support his leadership of the church any longer.
So I started going to church with my parents here in the middle of no where. It’s a sweet little country congregation. The baptist church in town didn’t really suit my parent’s needs spiritually so they started going to the evangelical church instead. It’s wonderful. The people are loving and accepting, the pastor is a good man. There has been a switch in pastors since I started going but both were Godly men, filled with teachings and love for their congregation. I went for about 2 years straight, and then I started teaching more. Add that to my part time food industry job and Sundays became my only day off. I took advantage of it and started keeping Sundays to myself. It was a little bit of an adjustment for my parents once I started, but I had lost that connection to going again. I think personal habitual cycles come into play a lot with it.
I still am a Christian even though I don’t go to church. I honestly have failed I think on the part of a “good and faithful servant” but God is ever forgiving. I’ve turned a leaf last night, asking for forgiveness once again for my sinful life. I have been asking for guidance for my life choices and need to start listening to the quiet voice inside my heart. I need to start giving up certain evils that are clouding my connection to God. I’m not sure if that means I’ll start going to church again, I really feel that I need to be inspired to go to a church, but I don’t have that excitement here. My life is a work in progress and I’m turning it over to God in a big way.