All I wanted was to be one of those kids who got two days to sleep in over the weekend instead of one. Growing up in a Christian family meant one thing to me as a child: I really only had one free day over the weekend, and that was Saturday. Sundays were filled with early alarm clocks, fighting over clothes, hair products, and the bathroom with my three sisters, trying to convince the parents that I was “too sick” to go to church, and going to church anyway.
It wasn’t that I hated church, in fact most of the time I actually enjoyed it when I was there. It was just that there were so many good cartoons on TV on Sunday morning, ones I had been missing out on for years. Also, plenty of the kids at school didn’t go to church and they seemed to be getting along just fine. A lot of my non-Christian friends were even a lot nicer than my Christian ones, so I always just kind of wondered what the point of church was.
gracefully awkwardly entered my teen years, my view of church shifted. I’m not sure if it was because I was starting to “find my faith” or because of the cute boys in my Sunday School class, but I found myself enjoying the lessons and challenges that came with attending church regularly. I went to youth group, volunteered at Vacation Bible School, and attended church retreats. I prayed a lot, but mostly when I was in pain or struggling. My health issues (asthma, eczema, chronic stomach aches) were debilitating throughout most of my high school career and I felt a lot of comfort in prayer. When my eczema became too severe to attend school, much less wear clothing, and my face was actually bruised from crying so much (bet you didn’t know that was possible, did ya?!), I turned to God for help. He listened, He comforted. I leaned on Him in a way I never had before.
But then things got better and I drifted from God and my faith. Like so many of us do, I talked to God when I needed something, and nearly forgot about him when things were going my way, when I felt healthy and happy.
For most of my life, I have been in a constant ebb and flow as far as my faith is concerned. I always believe in God, always know He is there, but I don’t always act like the Christan I would like to be. I have gone through periods of doubt, but my personal experiences with a higher power always reassure me that I am not the only one in charge of my life.
I have gone through several periods of hating Christians, or rather “Christians.” I have had friends, family members, and strangers alike do some horrible, disgusting, relentless things, all the while claiming to be Christians. Some have even committed these acts in the name of God! I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people claim to be “practicing God’s word” and are so hateful, so unaccepting of others. It has definitely caused me to stray from my faith in the past few years, but I always find my way back. I find my way back because I have parents and sisters whose faith inspires and encourages me. I find my way back because as far away as I stray, the moment I come back I feel overwhelmed with God’s love and mercy. It is a feeling like no other.
Finally, I feel like I am discovering what being a Christan means to me. I say to me because I think everyone’s faith is different. Yes, we may read from the same book and even attend the same church, but faith should be an individual experience and journey. To me, faith means love. Having faith means accepting that we can’t and won’t know all the answers, and that is okay. We can all pretend to know exactly what God’s words mean in a book that was written thousands of years ago, but the truth is we don’t know. We all have different life experiences and viewpoints that lead us to interpret passages and stories differently. Again, I think that is okay.
Faith means letting others believe what they want to believe without judgement and persecution. To me, faith means leaning on God in good times and bad. Faith means not determining my worth as a human or a Christian by how much I go to church, how often I pray, or how rarely I curse, but by how much love and kindness I show others. Faith means not losing my faith when I encounter those “Christians” who make me question my entire religion because their behavior is so atrocious. To me, faith means being able to believe in both science and God- evolution and creation. I don’t know exactly how they work together, but do I really need to? Faith should be fun, messy, thought provoking, open-minded, and constantly evolving. Faith should be personal and not look the exact same in everyone.
To me, faith means hoping that my loved ones will also discover the faith that has enriched my life so greatly, but trusting that God has His own plan for each and every one of them.
Faith simply means loving others because of the love that the God I believe in shows me.
Most importantly, my faith means that someday I will also drag my kids out of bed on Sunday mornings and encourage them to find their own faith, whatever shape or form it may come in. I don’t think we all have to believe in the same thing, but we should believe in something. Gotta have faith.