I became a Christian when I was six years old. My dad was reading me the story of Zacchaeus, and something just clicked. I finally understood what this whole salvation thing was about (well, as well as a precocious six year old girl can). But as I sat there listening to the story of a small man who just wanted to see Jesus, I wanted to be saved. I wanted to accept Christ into my heart as my Savior. I wanted to be a real Christian. I was ready.
So my dad prayed with me before I went to bed, and the next day I woke up reborn. Renewed. I was a different person.
My faith was easy when I was younger. Things usually are. You have fewer questions, you rarely doubt, and the mysteries seem more entrancing than distressing. You are able to accept things, because you don’t have a reason not to. You don’t understand how to talk yourself out of something. You simply believe.
Eighteen years later, I don’t have that pure, innocent, effortless faith of a child. Eighteen years later my belief in God has been tested, doubts have surfaced, and my relationship with Christ seems tainted. Eighteen years later, I don’t feel saved. I don’t feel sure. I don’t feel worthy.
Eighteen years later, being a Christian stopped being easy.
I stopped going to church in college. This is ironic considering I went to a Christian college. My own form of rebellion, I suppose, since I had always been the good Christian girl. I traded Saturday evening services for courses on religious studies. I traded the church for a classroom, and I thought that would be enough. Slowly, I traded pieces of a faith that had begun to shatter around me for other things. But all I was left with was more doubts, more emptiness, more frustration.
In the midst of a Christian campus, surrounded by men and women on fire for God, I quite simply stopped trying. I became lost. I convinced myself that if God truly loved me, He would help me through my mess. If God really loved me, He wouldn’t leave me to feel so alone. If God actually cared, He would have swooped in to rescue me from my downward spiral.
But I didn’t feel His love. I didn’t feel His comfort. I didn’t feel His grace.
I felt abandoned. I felt left alone. I felt angry.
Finally, I let it be. I set off to find healing somewhere else. My religion couldn’t give me what I wanted, so I went in search of that elusive something. I was an aimless wanderer. I was torn between my past and my present, my faith and my logic, my heart and my mind, my selfish wants and my desperate needs. I was pulled in all directions. It wore me down, bruised my soul, left me more broken than I already was. Until suddenly I fell apart.
There is always a light. No matter how truly lost you feel, there is a shadow of hope. An open hand waiting to help you back up. My sisters were my light. They always have been God’s most special gift to me. They loved me even as I sat in the darkness, unwilling to fully leave it. They never stopped trying and encouraging. My sisters were there, waiting. And one Sunday when they asked me to come with them to church, I agreed. And then I kept going.
And I waited for the day when being a Christian would be easy again. I waited for the day when my doubts would fall away, and I was left with some spectacular testimony that would inspire believers and nonbelievers alike. I waited for that moment when I would once again wake up feeling reborn and renewed.
I waited for the day when my faith wouldn’t have to be something I worked at. I waited for God to come back to me. I waited for Christ to resurrect our personal relationship. I waited for God to give me His love, His grace, His mercy. I waited for Him.
But that was my problem, repeated over and over like reruns of a badly done tv sitcom. I waited for God. I wanted Him to make the first move. I wanted Him fix it. Because it was His fault, wasn’t it? He had left me. He had ignored me in the midst of my frustrations. He had turned His back on me. So it was His turn to make the effort.
I will never leave you or forsake you.
I confused two issues. Somehow I had linked my realization that being a Christian had become difficult to the notion that God had left me behind. I assumed my walk with Him was a struggle, because He abandoned me. No, I had stopped seeking Him. I had cut Him out, walked away, but I had blamed God. I blamed Him when being a Christian became hard work, when really I wasn’t willing to put any work into it at all. I wanted it to be easy.
Honestly, being a Christian is never easy. Not like it is on day one when you are so overwhelmed and in awe of the newness of your faith. When you just know that nothing will ever be the same. I spent so many years wanting that moment back, that easy moment, instead of allowing my relationship to mature and evolve into something even more amazing.
But like every relationship that is worth having, you have to work at it. You have to understand that it’s going to be hard and that there will be bad days. But on those bad days, you aren’t abandoned. You aren’t alone. You are never outside God’s amazing love and grace and eternal comfort. You are never without Him. He is always there, ready to listen, to bring you out of the darkness. He will always offer you exactly what you need, even if that may not be what you want.
We need only to trust Him. Every day. We need to remember His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.
And we need to be willing to meet God where He waits for us.
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