Monday, September 10, 2007

Personal Journies

We all have our own personal journies. I think I had mentioned a few entries ago how I have become quite reflective of late, and part of that is because since the day that Steve proposed I've come to a few turning points in my life. In the last two years I've had my immediate family move halfway across the country, have incurred my first major debt (car payment), have moved out of my parents house, and got married. I've had several friendships fade and new ones appear in the last couple of years. I've struggled (and am working to improve) my self-image and have found other areas of my life I'm trying to improve in as well. It's been an interesting couple of years.

Other than getting married, I would have to say that the other thing that has significantly impacted my life in the last couple of years has been renewing my faith in God and Jesus Christ. For those of you who aren't religious or aren't interested in hearing about other people's religion - a) I believe that faith is a personal journey/decision and what you're about to read is MY personal journey/decision (in a nutshell... Readers' Digest version), and b) I won't be offended if you don't read this entry. There, now I'm done with disclaimers, and shall continue.

Anywho... I grew up in a home where we believed in God, but my parents and family had some bad experiences with the church that they belonged to. I found out and witnessed a lot of these things as a teenager and I became immediately a skeptic/agnostic. I believed in a God bigger than ourselves, but how could a God and a Savior allow such bad things to happen to such good people? I tried a couple of different churches, but either didn't feel welcomed, didn't feel like it was a warm atmosphere, or was completely freaked out by people screaming in tongues and weeping openly because some dude touched their forehead while screaming in tongues. I was looking for a church where they just studied the Bible, explained who Jesus is and who God is, and could answer my questions about WHY bad things happened... or at least offer an environment where I could ask the questions I had. I gave up; I didn't think such a place existed.

In June 2006, we lost Steve's grandmother who was a strong Christian. She had always asked Steve and I to go to church with her, but because I had given up and Steve just didn't know church we consistently declined. After she passed, it felt like the right thing to do to go to the church that she loved so much and see why she loved it. That brought us to Harbor of Hope, a smaller church located in the bottom of a mill building in Chelmsford.

I was immediately nervous. A church in a mill? How much money were they going to beg me for? How creepy were these people going to be? Was this going to be like my experience at the tongue-speaking church and I would be permanently turned off from church-attendance for the rest of my life? I knew I was missing this spiritual dimension of my life (everyone needs one, according to the psychological experts) and while I believed in God, but had given up trying to fill it... would this church help that, or would it be another one to back up my "I am not a church person" mantra?

I was pleasantly surprised. The pastors were down to earth and weren't much older than us. They had kids, families, and real-world experience/stories. They didn't profess to be perfect, and in fact were open in telling the congregation that they too had struggles and questions in their faith at times in their lives. There were offering boxes on the walls and no baskets passed around. Communion was offered to anyone who had put their faith in Christ. Everyone was accepted based on the premise of "Love God, Love Each Other". We didn't meet a single person who wasn't down to earth and who didn't genuinely care for the other people in the church - both new comers and regular attenders.

We became connected with a "Journey Group" where we study the Bible once a week and where we made lots of new friends. I felt comfortable both in our Bible study and with one of the pastors (Jed, for those who came to our wedding) to ask the questions I had and was reassured when I found out that these "seasoned believers" often had the same questions I had. I became more comfortable in prayer and didn't feel like I had to sound completely articulate in order for God to listen. I slowly felt my faith becoming renewed, and just at the point when I felt like I was almost there, I came across this passage:

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29, NIV)

At any rate... from that point on my faith has only grown stronger and I have a long way to go on my spiritual journey for certain. I've kept this scripture as a cornerstone to my journey and a reminder of what faith IS.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, in our church we celebrate adult baptism which is basically a personal decision to leave your "old" life behind and place your faith in Jesus as the leader of your life, and then you show it publicly by being baptized. It's kind of like Confirmation, only a lot less ceremony and more hot tub/water. I was hesitant for a while to do this, I felt like I was supposed to wait for some epiphany and perfection to be baptized. Then I realized - no. God knows I'm not perfect, that everyone is a long way from being perfect, and he and Jesus love us anyway. I don't need to give up everything and everyone in order to place my faith in Their hands, I just need to want to improve myself to live as He wants us to live.

About a month ago, I decided I was ready. Yesterday (which, coincidentally would have also been Steve's Grandmother's birthday) I was baptized at Harbor of Hope in a low-key celebration service. There were about 10 people who were baptized, and it was a great day.

Now... I fully expect that I'll struggle with my faith and I'll sin on occasion. I am - after all - still human. The difference is that I know I'll always have the love of God and Jesus to guide me, and the power of prayer and grace by my side.
Appropriate Song Lyrics: "How precious did that Grace appeared the hour I first believed." - Amazing Grace

1 comment:

Laura said...

::big hugs::

Congratulations. :)