It seems like many great stories start out with childhood hardships. Mine doesn't. I have an incredible family - NOT a perfect family (where is the fun in that? ). We certainly have our problems and dysfunctions, but I love, love, love, love my parents for every moment they spent (and spend) raising me, and I love my brothers for being such hilarious and amazing individuals. I credit my parents for all my best qualities and myself for all my biggest faults and failures. I just want to be very clear from the outset that this isn't a story that should ever reflect badly in any way on my family. I am a woman grown, any faults, problems, issues or irritations that come to light in telling this story are my own. I say all this because in a moment I am going to make a statement that sounds like a judgmental one. It isn't. It's simply one fact in a sea of many facts and experiences that make up me. So here it is:
I did not grow up going to church.
For me, growing up, church was an occasional activity, one that I viewed primarily socially, but I wasn't ever "churched." I did grow up attending a Christian school, one that then and now I have some pretty diametric views regarding the doctrine of that particular denomination. For the most part, for me, Bible was a subject like any other. I did well in school, and I did well in Bible class. By age ten I probably knew most, if not all, of the major Bible stories, all my books of the Bible and had a basic knowledge of what could be found in each book. While none of this really affected my life much ( and that's not to say I was a bad kid, I was actually a pretty good kid. ), it later turns out to be a pretty solid foundation that God will use.
I won't name the denomination of the church under whose auspices I was educated. I will say that from early on I wasn't too pleased with many of the things I was taught: salvation was limited to only members of that denomination, a god who doesn't do miracles anymore; a distinct and clear delineation between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament (anyone who knows me knows I am now incredibly passionate about the immutability of God, this would be why ), no instrumental worship, no dancing...there were many legalistic things which for a time caused me to have a great disinterest in what I perceived to be a harsh God and a legalistic and often joyless pattern of worship. As an adult I have many friends who still attend this denomination of church, and I find them to be neither joyless, nor Spiritless, nor fake individuals, in fact, quite the opposite. I'm speaking mostly of an institution here. I grew weary of questions being answered with "because that's the way it is" even when the complete opposite could be cited in scripture. This irritated me. One thing I did take from my time of indoctrinating was that if I wasn't baptized, I would go to hell. One teacher went so far as to say that if a person died on the way to be baptized that it meant the person should have done it sooner and off to hell they went. I knew I didn't want to go to hell, so I got dunked. Looking back now I can say I was no more a Christian at that point in linear time than I would be a football player if I put on the uniform and walked out on field. I got wet. Nothing further.
Despite my distaste for the doctrine, I went on to go to college at a small private school of the same denomination. I didn't agree, and wasn't even really interested in hearing anything about it or God. But the school was small (I hate crowds), and the town and the people were familiar (I dislike strangers and new situations), so I chose the comfort of the familiar. I could attribute all of this to my own oddities of personality and behaviors, but I believe now what was really happening was God sending me to the place where I would meet, and later marry my husband. That's a story for another day, and maybe one day he will tell his own story because it too is amazing. College life was much the same for me in that I didn't care or honestly even listen much to the religious aspect of it. I took books to read through chapel, and studied enough to keep my grades in Bible class. I did well in school, was really never in trouble, and was very, very blessed to have an RA who was also my best friend, and who looked the other way when I was spending nights at my boyfriend's apartment, signed out deceptively to home and definitely not in the dorm, a behavior which would have certainly sent me packing had someone in authority known.
It wasn't until after I was married, had moved seven hundred miles from home, and had started a career in education that God began to pluck my heart strings. There really is no other explanation for the direction my life would take next. I was...relatively happy, newly married, newly employed in a job I loved, fairly successful by any standards, and God began whispering in my ear. I began reading my Bible, actually reading, for answers to questions I didn't yet know I had. I began to think about attending church, and at the invitation of a friend walked into a room where the pastor prayed for each and every denomination up and down the street. In that moment, my heart broke open and God took all the little pieces and began to mend them. This church would be my first home, and the only one I would know for the next fifteen years. The pastor there would go on to show me the best, and at the last the worst the church had to offer. I have chosen to keep working for the best and walk away from the worst. In a few months God took me from apathy to ecstasy. He had a great plan. Had He told me then what it was, I probably would have run screaming off into the night.
It's almost time to end this little chapter but before I write the last words, I need to be very clear that I take not even one iota of credit for the events that will follow in rapid succession after this. For reasons only God knows and which I don't need to, He had His eye on me from before time. There is no rational explanation for how I came to faith except that God drew me to Him in His gentle and inexorable way, and my heart could do none other than respond or shrivel to stone. I was hard pursued by God as a lover pursues His beloved and I am so grateful He did and still does. The faith He has placed in me is of His design and my searching, because He knew that my heart would accept none other than personal experience. To have someone tell me was not enough, to have another person teach me was not enough to dispel my doubts and quiet my questions. He is indeed the author and perfecter of my faith, a faith He still works on daily.