I know your prayers ain't been answered yet.
I know you're feeling like you got nothing left.
Well lift your head. It ain't over yet.
Hold on, hold on...Lord ain't finished yet.
Hold on, hold on...He'll get you through this.
Hold on, hold on...these are the promises.
I never will forget.
I never will forget."
~ from "Move (Keep walkin')", by Toby Mac*
I am not the preachy type, and it always annoyed me when Christians would testify to anyone who would listen**. At the time I just didn't get it. Now that I feel it in my heart and feel it in my soul (haha -- more Toby Mac lyrics), I want to shout it from the rooftops, but like I said, I am not about being preachy. People need to get there on their own, in their own time. I am still not super comfy talking about God, but I can write about Him. I have already begun work on a book called "Skipping Church: Confessions of a Reluctant Believer" but with all the talk of Christianity lately, I wanted to take a few minutes to share an abridged version of that story.
I did not take the traditional route to belief. I was not raised with God at the center of my life, although I did have to go to catechism and Sunday mass, and went through all the sacraments until I got to the sacrament of marriage (now wish we'd been married in a church, but at the time it did not hold the same meaning). Instead I took the scenic route to God, through Catholicism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Paganism, Gnostic Christianity, and others, but I still got here. Many people grew up practicing a religion that did nothing to feed their souls. In my case it was Catholicism. Now before you get all defensive, if being raised Catholic worked for you, that is awesome, but for me, it was ritualistic chanting that I had to drag my butt out of bed for on Sunday mornings. I knew all the words by heart, and I literally could have said the mass in my sleep, which would have been a win-win. It was not a social gathering like you see in many churches, and I did not leave feeling any different or more spiritually filled up than I did when I walked in.
I don't knock other faiths at all--if your religion gets you closer to God and you have unshakable faith, that it all that matters. It's like baseball. I don't care if you are a Red Sox fan as long as you love baseball. Just because I worship the Yankees, does not make your devotion for a different team any less valid. [Disclaimer: If you are a Red Sox fan whether they are winning or losing, I can respect you love for the team, but if you start talking about the Patriots in July because your team sucks, I will most likely call you a fair weather fan, and whatever you say about my Yankees is irrelevant because you are not a true baseball fan. Likewise, if you choose to worship a God that is okay with rape, murder and extreme gender inequality, I may not like you or your religion, but I still respect your right to freely worship. And if that God you worship tells you to put a gun to my head and make me renounce Christianity, pull the trigger, because it's not gonna happen. I'll give your regards to the 77 virgins...]
Trust me, I was no angel for most of my life...especially my twenties when I was trying to shake the good girl image I had fought my whole life to escape. (Cool typo--when I first typed that it said 'God girl image') At times I was afraid the church roof would cave in if I set foot inside. Once in college, I spent the weekend at my roommate Jude's house, and her mom made us go to church on Sunday. Jude's grandmother was visiting, and she was going to watch church on tv, and I remember suggesting I stay home and watch it with Grandma, to no avail. At church, a small miracle happened. It was stifling hot that day, and when it came time for the priest to say the homily, he stood up and said, "Do unto others." We all waited for him to continue when he said, "That's it. It's too hot for anything more." It seemed like God was trying to get me out of there before the roof collapsed. His angels' wings must have been getting tired from holding it up.
I have been seeking out something to believe in for over a decade, so this did not happen overnight. However, many miraculous things have happened over the past few years where I know that God was clearly taking over. It is probable that these type of things were happening before, but once I started paying attention, I saw these small miracles happening over and over. Because of this I know that even when I am gong through the worst times of my life, things will get better. I trust Him for the first time in my life. I know I was not put on this earth to struggle financially while working at a less than fulfilling job. Having seen how many times He has come through for me at the last possible second, I know he won't let me stay in my current situation. I never understood the whole 'let go and let God' or 'Jesus take the wheel' attitude, until I saw it work. I have seen God make a way when I couldn't see a way. I just have to have faith. And THAT is what faith is.
I have faith that my big break is coming. I have faith that we will not die in this crappy, run-down trailer. I know that we are only living here while we regroup, and now that we accept being here, we are thankful every day for this place. Out in the pond behind it there are swans, blue herons, cranes, ducks and peaceful solitude -- something that reassures and reminds me that God meant for us to be here. I have faith that this is the "water property" that my psychic Francesca mentioned in every reading I ever had with her. To appreciate success, you must have failure to have a frame of reference. This is my Behind the Music-type back story that I'll look back on when I am successfully living my purpose.
I was partially saved by Christian rock. I was missing Christmas music. Yes, you read that right. A retail manager just said she missed Christmas music. See, this particular Christmas I had started to pay more attention to the lyrics. Of course I knew every word to all of them since I was always in the chorus, but I had never really heard them until that year. Maybe it was because I was about to go through a very rough time. When the student is ready, the teacher appears, right? I was getting choked up listening to Christmas carols, the way I always get choked up when I hear Lee Greenwood's song "Proud to be an American". Now that it was January, I was missing that feeling. So I was searching for radio stations on my hour-long commute when I heard "Amazing Love" by The Newsboys. This was my first favorite Christian song.
I had just discovered KLove Radio. It was January 3rd, and they were talking about New year's resolutions and taking the KLove challenge, which is listening to nothing but Christian music for 30 days. It is supposed to improve your life because you are listening to positive messages. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy some good 80s Heavy Metal, and Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" is still on my top ten list, but I know about the effects of music on emotions, so I decided to give it a try. I only could tune in the station for half of my commute (Hello KLove? You need a station southwest of Boston), so I bought a WOW Christian CD that had Amazing Love on it for the rest of the ride. I swear to God doing the KLove challenge got me through that first month and I haven't turned it off since. Well, I used to switch it back to the rock station when I got home, in case my husband used the car after me. But sometimes I'd forget. He told me once, "You're Puddy in the car!", referring to the Seinfeld episode where Elaine's boyfriend David Puddy has all his stations preset to Christian rock.
So, yeah...I'm pretty new to this talking-about-my-faith thing, but because I let myself fall so far into it spiritually, I understand now how someone could choose their belief in God over a life-sparing lie. Or how someone could feel so intensely about doing something that goes against their beliefs. Or how we can feel like we want other people to know what we know, so that they can live with less stress and worry. I finally get it, just in time for people around the globe to start being decapitated for being Christian--and this outrages me. Call me self-righteous, but that would be untrue. I have done my share of sinning (and probably a few others' shares too), but that was the old me. The me whose identity was determined by other people. Who am I to judge the choices of anyone else? I no longer care if someone judges me unfairly. Now I only care about what my buddy Jesus thinks of me.
So when I finish my book, you can get the whole story, but for now, I just felt compelled to say #IAmAChristian.
*This song, in fact this whole album, is the current soundtrack of my life, so I felt the need to share the lyrics. If you have never heard of Toby Mac, you don't listen to Christian music! :)
**Not you Shanann Goodwin! :)