Looking back on my time as a teenager I’ve noticed that I was never really like a lot of people my age. My parents used to always tell me that I was an old soul, and that definitely was the case. One of the biggest sticking points for my uniqueness was my relationship with God. I was a frequent flyer in my church and my relationship with Him was always important to me. In fact, during my later high school years I interned there. When I was 17 I gave my first sermon at one of our youth services. A part of me even thought that I would become a minister or missionary or some kind when I got older. All in all, God was a huge part of my life back then. But now my story with Him is different. And I think it’s for the better.
A relationship with God was never forged on me or my sister when we were kids, even though our dad was heavily involved in his church. He even started working there when I was in elementary school but still allowed us to make our own choices when it came to whether we wanted to go or not. I always believed in God but I believed more in sleeping in on Sunday mornings, so most weekends I stayed home with my grandma. My dad bought me a children’s Bible that was filled with captivating stories and illustrations that peaked my interests, but nothing ever really took hold of my soul. God was somewhere off in the distance, and I was stuck on this world trying to figure out the complicated phenomena called life.
When I reached my teenage years I began to feel this deep wanting in my heart that I just couldn’t figure out how to satisfy. I had dealt with some serious challenges and had started to feel like I wasn’t quite fitting in with the world around me. My dad suggested that I try out the youth group at church to see if I could relate to any of the other teens there. I was a causal visitor for about a year or two, but mainly kept to the outskirts of the group for fear of being vulnerable with others. But that deep wanting that I had began to ache even more. It wasn’t until I went on my first mission trip in the summer of 2010 that I finally had an answer to that wanting.
I threw myself into church activities after that mission trip, taking on a leadership role that I never thought I would. I took part in worship arts experiences, mission work and many other volunteer activities. I’m not sure if it would be appropriate to label me a “Jesus freak” at that age. All I wanted was to believe in something that was bigger than myself. And I did. I still do.
When you grow up and life becomes a bit more complicated than before, your beliefs start to change. The girl who was once all in for God had now turned into a young woman whose faith was being questioned. There wasn’t a sole source for this change of heart. Rather, it was the simple fact of growing up and being exposed to more of the world. My faith was tested and I had to adapt my beliefs to my life. My thoughts on organized religion and the church have wavered because of negative experiences. At the time of this writing I haven’t been to a Sunday service in over six months. I’m not sure when I’ll go back, but I do know in my heart that I still have a strong belief in God and a deeper meaning to life. I don’t have all the answers and I come up with more questions every day, but to me that is a sign of someone with a healthy faith. If I continued on in my faith blindly, I would never learn or grow. Instead, I would become stagnant. My faith has had to mature just as I have.
Some people might think I was lame or weird for being so interested in God when I was still young. They may say that I was brainwashed or a fool, but that doesn’t really matter to me. Everyone has their own unique set of beliefs and how they express them, and this just happened to be the way I expressed mine. I wouldn’t change my experiences because they helped shapes me into the person I am today.
So where do I stand with God now? I still believe in the core message of what Jesus has to say: love God, love others and love yourself. Despite the many rules that many of us heard when it comes to God, I think His message boils down to those three. Looking back at when I was younger I now see that I was mainly looking for hope, love and acceptance, and expressing my faith was my way of doing those things. It inspired me to be creative and to think bigger. I saw that there was more to the world than just myself, and I developed dreams of changing the world through the things I loved. No, I don’t think I’ll become a minister or missionary in this life, at least not in the traditional sense. What God has taught me is that people in the world need to love and be loved, and anything that I can do to help, I will. It doesn’t need a label or have to fly under only one banner. Love is love, and I intend on spreading it.
And thank God for that.