This morning I’m sitting outside at Starbucks, as I wait for my 11 o’clock church service at C3 (aye!) to start. Leaving the house early to come spend some time by myself, either studying, editing pictures, reading, or writing on here, has been one of my favorite weekly rituals. Sunday is easily my favorite day of the week, even with the sometimes impending doom of knowing I have to go back to work tomorrow morning – I know you feel me here.
The past couple of Sunday’s, I haven’t had much inspiration to write. I’d been feeling a little bit off, not down or under the weather per say, but off. I was becoming more and more drained, desparately needing to take a break but not yet realizing it. That’s a topic for another blog, so anyways… today I came, and I realized that without recognizing it, I officially missed my one year anniversary. After months of politely declining, last February I accepted an invitation to C3. I remember my discomfort so clearly; I was extremely hesitant, I kept my guard up the entire time & I continued to tell myself things like “I don’t need to believe in anything,” “I’m doing this to be supportive to Juan,” “I won’t let anyone influence me into believing in something I don’t want or need to believe in.” And for a while, it worked. I physically showed up to church, telling myself that I didn’t mind attending for a quick hour. I even convinced myself I was going in part because I love music, and the worship team at C3 is truly so gifted that I could go just to listen to them and be satisfied; I love the guitar, and a good vocalist can bring me to tears no matter what he/she is singing… or so I told myself. S/O to Alyssa from C3, girl you the bomb!
Slowly but surely, I began to feel the invisible grip around my heart loosen. I felt my walls weakening, and eventually completely broken down. It’s as if my heart was in the middle of a castle or a fortress, with very large and defensive walls around it to keep invaders and enemies out, come to realize that the wall was only trapping my heart inside with the enemies, and locking Jesus out. And not just locking Him out, but also growth, healing, freedom, pure relationships, and the opportunity to fulfill my calling. And honestly, I’m just recently understanding the weight of this revelation.
In the past, I had gone all in with religion. To the point where I didn’t question anything, and when questions did arise, I buried them down or convinced myself I was wrong for having them. My questions would have led to doubt, and doubt meant that I didn’t have faith, and I needed to have faith. There were times I felt truly one with Him, there was the week I spent in Mexico during high school on a missions trip, and there was the Jesus Culture Youth Conference I went to with my church. I have to admit, though, I used religion as I used drugs & alcohol (never any issue, just an analogy): as a crutch. Finally, when I had someone poke at my “faith” years later during a deployment, it crumbled. I crumbled. I was in another country, alone, and I had NO foundation that would keep me steady. I felt like my entire belief system was built on ignorance, and I had a lot of pain that I hadn’t yet dealt with. So I turned my back on everything SO intensely that I then had “Atheist” on my social media bio’s. YES, HI, I am regrettably a millennial through and through apparently, LOL
So this time, as the walls came down, I told myself that if I was going to commit my heart to Jesus again, IF I was going to do this thing, I would do it differently. I wanted it to be the first true time and the last. I would learn, but slowly. I would absorb everything and invest my time and soul into it. BUT, I would also allow, and encourage, myself to question everything, as well. I wouldn’t learn about Christianity and deny that there could be truth in other religions. I’ve invested in learning about various religions at the same time, and remaining open-minded as I do so. I’ve read books and articles on similarities and differences between Jesus Christ and other religion’s equal representative (if they have one, which usually they do). I promised myself I would search for answers not only through word of mouth, but the Holy Bible more than anything else, because word of mouth is subjective and varies. And although the Bible is also subjective in part, because it has many translations and interpretations, I’ve found that it is the closest to God’s word I can come. I’ve forced myself to pray, even when at first (and sometimes still) I’m at a loss for words and don’t know how to talk to God, or I trail off and get distracted (“oh, sorry, Jesus! anyways back to what I was saying uh…”). I’ve also continued to pursue other spiritual practices that help me to stay grounded, such as meditation and yoga. And with everything I’ve learned during this time, I’ve practiced applying into my life.
This post is getting longer than anticipated, but I want to share 3 of the greatest lessons I’ve learned & been impacted by.
The first is that I can believe in God, and still be mad at God. I can question Him, I can yell at Him, and I can express all of my pain, anger, sadness and DOUBT if I want to, because He knows what is in my heart and He accepts that.
The second is this: we all have purpose, and we often have opportunities to fulfill that purpose, while we also have the choice to turn from it. Imagine a woman, maybe you work with her or maybe you have a class with her or maybe you just engage with her in line during lunch. This woman appears to be fine, she seems put together and likely has her ish together. What you don’t know is that she’s battling something so intense that it took everything in her to get out of bed, and with every passing minute she’s doing everything she can do maintain composure. You engage in conversation, and you feel something you need to say on your heart. Maybe it’s an experience, a compliment, a Bible verse, or maybe you have no idea where it’s come from but it’s there. For some reason, it’s bold, you have social anxiety, you’re running late, whatever – you decide not to say it. You walk away and go about your day. Now imagine that woman had been praying for an answer, a sign, something, anything. God had answered, with you. He placed you in her path to SAY THAT THING that was on your heart. But, you didn’t. And that woman did not get her sign. You were the answer, and you denied her of that. What I’m saying is that at any time, at any place, you might be fulfilling a purpose you didn’t even know you had. We never know when that is, so the solution is to always speak what is on your heart. Share. Be vulnerable. Be present. God is using us! *Inserts one million exclamation marks then erases them as to not come on so strong* Ahem. You don’t need to be religious to apply this into your life.
The third is that I can be imperfect. My faith can be imperfect. My journey can swerve, falter or stop. I can not pray for weeks, miss church because I’m too tired, chose to listen to heavy metal when I’m mad even though I know it’s probably not going to lead me towards the right mindset (hey thanks Steph for encouraging otherwise, love you). There are SO many testaments to this in the Bible, and guess what? All of them were forgiven, accepted and loved JUST the same as any one person who had been committed to Jesus their entire lives. Jesus died for our sins, he did not die because humans would have no sins. He knows that we are not perfect, that He will encounter adversity and that sometimes we will chose the wrong path. He knows that in this life, we will make mistakes that seem unforgivable, that are so evil that we cannot speak of them to others. We inflict pain upon ourselves and others, almost constantly. These trials and tribulations are going to hit us hard, fast, and repeatedly. And He loves us anyways. *Insert Kim Kardashian boo hoo crying gif*
I could go on and write about Bible verses that have impacted me deeply, and sermons that have made me rethink the patterns of my life thus far, and conversations that have sparked new joy, inspiration and realizations, but just as I want this to be my journey, I want this to be your journey.
This isn’t really a lesson, or maybe it is, but I’ve learned that another key to growing in my faith has been friendships. There are friendships that feel like they feed the soul, and some that don’t. It’s okay to have both. If you want to grow in your foundation of faith, I would encourage you to talk about it with friends. I speak for myself here, but I can think of a couple friends I have who claim to be highly religious, but make me feel like I should keep everything personal to myself in their presence. Let me say, this doesn’t mean they’re bad people it just means they aren’t right for me right now. I know I’ve been the person who isn’t right for someone else at one point and probably still am. Listen to your intuition. Through time and trial, I have found the ones who do truly allow me to come as I am, share the depths of my soul, and want only to help me grow, and grow alongside me. Talking about Jesus, about my journey and about anything that comes up, with them, has been profoundly impactful.
Without further ado, I end this blog, finally, with warm spirits and a full heart. I hope something here resonates with you, because it has honestly flowed effortlessly from my fingers and onto the keyboard.
I’m going to go inside now & order a decaf almond milk latte with 2 stevia 🙂 Then take my happy lil self to church to praise God and listen to His word. I’d like to also open the opportunity for anyone reading this who has questions or just wants to talk about something I’ve said on here… and I just want to say that my time is yours! If you comment here or use the contact tab (or if we close close then message me offline hehe) I’d be honored to talk more.