The Christian Faith
That is a topic that I have struggled with for a long, long, very long time. My issue was that I didn’t know what it looked like, what it was SUPPOSED to look like.
I grew up in church, I grew up hearing the “right” answers, learning the “right” words. I “prayed the prayer” when I was 6 and rededicated my life to God when I was 13…even then, I didn’t understand. Through high school, I liked to say I did. I was always a good student- good at learning and spitting back the learned info- so I did what I knew- I used all those “right” words and answers I’d learned along the way as a mask. On the outside, I was a “good kid” that looked/sounded/acted like a Christian, but underneath, I was extraordinarily judgmental, always comparing myself to others. I struggled with my image and who I was because of that, and I was always afraid to REALLY speak up for my faith. I did go on a mission trip to Mexico when I was 15 and looking back, even that astounded me- even though I knew, I couldn’t understand why such poor people were SOO joyful, so content, and SOO generous.
Between my senior year in high school and my sophomore year at college, I began to struggle even more. For so long, I had put other things on a pedestal of “what it meant to be a Christian.” Then, when I saw those PEOPLE fail, my image of a Christian was shattered, I was left lost and confused. I attended Campbell University, a Baptist Christian college. Now, understand, it was a GREAT college for education, but for a spiritually weak person, it was very confusing. I was surrounded mostly by 3 types of people- those that didn’t care about religion, whatsoever; those that said being a Christian was ALL about love and that God loves everyone so everyone’s going to Heaven; and those that attended the div school and seemed to focus SO much on theology and so little on acting their faith out. Now…please consider…at this point, I was very angry and bitter in my heart so I automatically categorized everyone in one of these three groups- not everyone was like that- there are some INCREDIBLE people that I met through CU that are passionate about their walk with God- those were the people that I always wondered at. Again, those were the people that I just didn’t understand, those were the people I pushed away because they and their faith scared me. So…for these three years, I hated all-things Christian. I still said I was a Christian, but every Sunday, I usually came up with any excuse to miss church, I “did” my quiet time (but mainly to check it off a list) and never really got anything out of it, and I served as a leader for FCA (which, because my faith was not where it should’ve been, began to feel like a chore rather than a joy).
Summer of 2011 I married this incredible guy. Again, neither of us were where we should’ve been with God and we struggled for a while because of it. I graduated in 2012 and got my first teaching job that summer. It was extraordinarily hard- mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. I was always drained and quite frequently depressed. Because I wasn’t doing my job from the right perspective I couldn’t handle it. So, these past few months, I believe God has really been pulling on my heart to get me going again. I’ve really begun to be challenged to ACT my faith- I was reading the book “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan (great book- you should go read it!), I was faced with a question of why I felt like no one really liked me which forced me to look at my own heart, I was forced to figure out why I was so tired and depressed about my job all the time, and also, my sweet, sweet husband became one of God’s tools to bring me to Him.
During the school year, David began getting up in the mornings with me, even though if he really wanted to, he could sleep in another 3 hours. He would get up with me, fix coffee and breakfast while I was getting ready, then we would sit down and do Bible study together. Let me say, quite often I was less than engaged because, again, my heart was not where or how it should be. But David KEPT DOING for me- he KEPT loving me despite me. He had such INCREDIBLE joy for his walk with God. Honestly, I got angry at him for it because I couldn’t understand why he had that joy and I didn’t. But the more David kept loving me and being patient with me despite me, the more I WANTED to understand and have it, too.
These past few weeks, I believe God has really used all of these factors to bring me into a real, genuine relationship with Christ. I felt a call on my heart the past few weeks to get more involved in church, to open my heart back up to friendships even though I’m scared I’ll be hurt, and to be IN the word, learning it and thinking about it rather than just “reading” it to check it off the list.
God has brought me to an understanding through these things, and solidified His calling in my life from camp last week, that a REAL relationship with Him is not about words, it’s about understanding that I CANNOT do anything to EARN my salvation. I will NEVER be “good enough.” According to His laws, I am a criminal, because I’ve broken many of His laws. I can’t do “ENOUGH” good things to “unbreak” the laws I’ve violated. I’ve compared my heart, my attitude, and my actions/motives to how incredibly GOOD God is, and I’m disgusted at myself (Again, David was a good example of Christ’s love to me in that regard) It sounds hopeless, but the CRAZY thing is, is that it’s NOT! The God that created this universe, the God that (really, to be honest) I shouldn’t even matter to, disagreed with me. From the beginning of time, He knew all the lies, all the disrespect, all the attitude, selfishness, greediness, jealousy, anger, lust, and bitterness that I would have. He knew all about it, but still, from the beginning of time, He believed I (and WE) were WORTH it. The God of the universe, that OWNS EVERYTHING believed we were worth it enough to go BANKRUPT (TOTALLY AND UTTERLY) for us- He believes we are worth it enough to have sacrificed His own SON for us. And it’s not just that Jesus died for us to pay the debt of our sins (because- let’s be honest, when a CRIME is committed- we all expect a punishment to be paid- that’s JUSTICE)- well Jesus was our justice- He paid so we wouldn’t have to. But Jesus was not just killed for us- He didn’t just stay dead- but our hope is also in the power of God because not only does God have the power to defeat our sins and weaknesses, He has the power to defeat DEATH.
God’s mercy and grace- to me, is like I was digging myself into a huge hole, that I couldn’t climb out of- but Jesus pulled me out, filled the hole (mercy) then gave me hope and joy and salvation with Him that I truly don’t deserve (grace). He filled the hole PLUS gave us more.
But again, being a Christian is not just about SAYING and believing, it’s also about DOING. It’s not about doing because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to! When David changed his heart toward me and continued loving me despite how unloving I was towards him, I saw that change and love in his heart. I saw how I was responding to David and I was ashamed. I was so grateful that David continued to love and help me despite how I was, and that made me want to CHANGE! That made me want to do things for HIM that I wouldn’t have done before. That’s the same with our relationship with Christ. I challenge you to look at your life- if you’re a Christian, look at your walk and ask yourself- has God’s incredible love changed me? Do I even REALLY believe what I say…or am I just acting like it and calling myself a Christian because my family does it or because I go to church once a week?
The books of Romans and James, in the New Testament point to God’s love and mercy, and James points to the fact that Love CHANGES people- REAL PURE love CHANGES hearts. When we experience THAT kind of love, it changes us and we get SO excited we want to share it- so again, I ask you, if you’re a Christian- what are you DOING? Are you real or not?
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
From here on out, I have begun praying about what God wants me to DO to help others, to show them HIS love. I’m not quite sure yet- if anyone knows of any ministries that deal with orphans, children, education, preventing sex trafficking, and the poor- those are my interests- those are the things that are on my heart.
I will be crocheting hats, scarves, and blankets to donate to different ministries/give to people as needed. I’ve asked God to give me a heart overflowing with His kind of love- it’s going to be scary and hard, but it’s going to be an INCREDIBLE, and not-your-everyday adventure. All I know is that I’m just worn out. I’m sick and tired of being typical and not being HAPPY- and all I know is that He has brought a joy, peace, contentment, and excitement into my heart that I honestly have not known before.
If you want to e-mail me some ideas of ministries I could begin to work with, shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to donate yarn to the making of Coverings of Hope, again, e-mail me and we can get together for that. If you crochet/knit feel free to join me in making usable things to bring help and hope to people that need it- and pray over each stitch that God would use the item for His glory and for the help of those that need it.
When I get to the end of my race, all I want to hear is God tell me I’ve done well and I used the talents He gave me to help others KNOW Him, too. I don’t want to live a wasteful, self-filled life that does nothing but make a dent on my couch. I want to love and I want to grow.
Real love grows. Real love changes. Real love, to quote a dude named Bob Goff, DOES- and again, not because it HAS to, because it WANTS to- so what are we doing?
The kind of person I want to be for God: Matthew 25:34-40
“34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’”