I really like coffee. I also refuse to align with any political party and I don’t think tattoos are bad. In many ways I am very different from my family. I love my family. They are amazing and wonderful and encouraging. My parents love me so unconditionally that I’m always humbled by what they are will to do for me. But I’m very different from them.
I’ve never written about this before. I think it can be intimidating sometimes to be different. To not hold the same views or to not feel as sure about certain issues. When my whole family (I’m talking about aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) gets together, it’s hard to get a word in. They are talkative sorts and I love that about them, but when your opinion isn’t completely formed about something and you’re trying to learn about all sides, it’s hard to express that. I’m terrified that writing this will offend someone. Even when that’s not my intent, it’s just that I’m a quiet person.
I rarely speak up about my opinions or beliefs, especially on controversial topics. I just don’t really know how to. I don’t believe that issues are ever black and white. I don’t believe that you can just puts things in boxes and leave them there. The same is with God. I had a friend once ask me what my political identity was. I said independent. She looked at me and said that she thought that was going to be my answer. When I asked why she replied, “because you don’t seem like someone who likes to be put in a box.”
I’d never had someone explain me so well in so few words. It was a moment of clarity. I hate the idea of being categorized, even though you could argue that I have categorized myself as unboxed. But over the last year I’ve realized the absolute freedom in living outside of the box. But it hasn’t been all roses and self-enlightenment. I didn’t go to church for about 8 months.
I should probably explain. Two summers ago I went to Jacksonville, FL to participate in a Summer Training Program with the Navigators. About a month or so before that, my church went through a terrible division that left me confused and a bit hurt. I had loved that place and then it became foreign. I didn’t connect there anymore. Then I went to Florida.
I was both nervous and excited for this program. I didn’t realize it then, but now I see that I was hoping so much that this program would help heal me. It was my last lifeline to God in a way. I had a lot of expectations that I didn’t even realize I had. Unfortunately though, I was severely disappointed. I left the program even more confused about Christianity and a bit disenchanted by the whole thing. I still believed in God, and I still believed in Jesus, but I lost my belief in the institution. There is nothing wrong with the Navigators and I would recommend anyone to check them out. But they didn’t fit me.
Which is partly why it bugs me that many denominations believe that their way is best because if all of our relationships with various people are completely unique, then wouldn’t our relationships with God be unique as well? He reaches all of us in so many different ways, so obviously we will all grow in different ways.
But anyways, when I came back to school, I did go back to my old church, but I was more disappointed than excited. I couldn’t really explain to people why the training program wasn’t a great experience for me and I just lost interest in the church. So I stopped going.
In a sense, I needed that. I needed the break from the church, or rather, the people in the church. So for 8 months I didn’t think about it. I still went to Bible Study, but that was about it. During that time though, I began to see what it was like to not have my faith as a primary focus. I never felt down-trodden, but I felt something missing. It felt like I was a hot air balloon that had been tethered to Earth by two cables and one of them had snapped. So I was floating a little wildly.
But I never felt like God wasn’t there. As the months progressed, slowly I could feel God doing something. I began to realize that it wasn’t “the Church” that hurt me, but the people. And people are human, they are as broken as I am. Slowly I began to see God again and how He was relevant to my life. I began to see how much He and Jesus loved me and loved all of the people on this planet. Then I moved to Pittsburgh.
I think subconsciously I made a deal with God that moving to Pittsburgh would be when I gave church another chance. So I started trying out churches. I tried two. They were nice, but something was missing. During one service, the pastors tried to throw in so many jokes that the topic was completely missed. While I do enjoy a bit of humor, it was too much. Finally I went to a third church and that was it. I found the right place. It’s also practically two minutes from my house. It was like God was saying, “I love you so much that I’m going to make it ridiculously easy to go to church.” It also meets in the evening which works best with my schedule.
I don’t really know if there’s much of a moral to this story, but it’s my story. I guess what I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be a little lost sometimes. It’s okay to step back and just be. God’s not going anywhere. Honestly, I think He wanted me to just stop and not try to force myself to fit into a box of expectations. But most of all, I’ve learned that it’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to be hurt and to feel that because sometimes the best way to grow is not how you would expect.
I don’t know if that was a good ending, but in a sense, there really isn’t an ending because this isn’t a post of me saying, “I went through this period of whatever, but now I have everything figured out.” Nope. That’s not me. The thing I love most about the human existence is that we are always changing and evolving. That’s what I love about Christianity too. God is always changing us and guiding us through things. So, this is where I am.