"And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears,
And Love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With Grace in your heart..." ~ Mumford and Sons
I have gotten over my hill. Yes, I am getting older, but that is not of what I am speaking. Today I signed a Statement of Faith. I first laid eyes on this statement shortly after I accepted an invitation to visit orphans with Visiting Orphans, which is a Christian based organization. My first hurdle was the application process, which I struggled to bring myself to fill out. Of course, I have always wanted to go to Africa, and my heart longs to serve those in need. What was stopping me was the request, "Describe your walk with Jesus." I had nothing to say. I did not feel worthy to answer the question as I watched my twelve-year-old daughter answer the request with such ease. My heart was heavy because though I wanted to go on this mission, I did not want to go as a fraud. How could I share the love of Jesus when I didn't know that love myself? Conflicted, I wrote the only answer I could think of..."seeking." And then began the most incredible journey.
I have always been a skeptic, perhaps even cynical. I have always relied on my own strength to get me through life, though I would acknowledge a higher Being, but could not (would not) give myself over completely. Honestly, I viewed faith as a sign of weakness, but mostly I did not feel I belonged. The few times I have attended church I felt uncomfortable, an outsider trying to get into an exclusive club. I prided myself on not needing this Love, this community or their compassion. I felt that if I was meant to be a Christian then I would already have faith and that it would come easily. I believed that Jesus was merely a great man, philosopher and teacher. Then I received a book that would forever change my life. "Mere Christianity" was written by C.S. Lewis. He was an atheist that became one of the greatest Christian advocates of our time. I accepted this gift with an open mind, but it was what I read inside those pages that opened my heart. Lewis quotes nonbelievers as stating, "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." He refutes this by stating, "That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell." Wow. I had never thought of that way before and suddenly I found what little foundation I had shaking under me. There were so many parts of this book that I felt reflected my thoughts, my struggles and yet made having faith seemingly attainable. Where do I go from here? I had a choice. I could completely let go of the teachings of Jesus and hopes of faith. Or I could do what I stated on that application, I would seek Him.
I was invited to join a small group that attends Christ Community Church of the Nazarene. Annabelle has been attending this church with the Braatzes for many years. I accepted this invitation with some trepidation. I knew the Braatz family loved and accepted me despite my faults, despite my doubts. I was afraid of being scrutinized for my lack of church attendance, lack of biblical knowledge, my lack of faith by the other members. Instead I was greeted with love and understanding. We began discussing "The Good and Beautiful God" by James Bryan Smith. I enjoyed reading the book and was amazed by what I found. I had expected to hear words of living up to God's standards, why I am a sinner and how I should be ashamed and repent. Instead, I heard nothing but words of love. Love! How incredible that even someone like me could be loved by God. That God so loved us so much he gave us Jesus. To save us from our sins, to be our salvation. That Jesus seeks me like I am seeking him. That He came for the weak, the weary and the broken. That He wants us to live in peace. To live as we were meant to by God. Nothing more, nothing less. I did not have much to offer during our discussions those first few months. There were no human words for what I was feeling. I was afraid to put my growing faith into words, that it would make it meaningless somehow. I felt my growing faith was fragile and if I spoke of it, it would shatter. I knew I had to keep feeding this faith to allow it to grow. I continued to read books about Jesus. I reread the "Case for Christ," and it was as if I were reading it with new eyes. I believed the arguments for Jesus. I read passages of the Bible, especially the Gospels. I began to feel a peace within me and at times would be moved to tears when I least expected it. Yet, I could not bring myself to say it aloud to anyone and was still unsure of where I stood. I began to wonder how I would know that I believed. Would I wake up one morning and just know? Would there be some kind of sign?
It took a national tragedy to solidify my faith, but not without first testing it. The shooting at Newtown was hard for me, as it was for many. I couldn't stop crying; seeing patients that day was difficult and I often had to leave the room to go wipe the tears away. I couldn't understand how God could allow this to happen. I returned to my readings looking for solace and answers. I was shaken and was afraid that all that I had gained would be lost. Then as I was discussing it with my husband a few days later I said: "I have to believe that Jesus was there. That He was taking those babies into heaven. It's the only way I can get through this." A revelation!
I confessed my love of Jesus to a friend at First Watch. Not a church, not to a pastor or even to my small group. It was not planned and it was very unexpected. My friend was asking me about the spiritual journey I was on and for the first time I finally felt I could put it into words. I told her that faith does not always come easy, that Jesus wants us to seek Him. That with seeking Him and believing in Him, we will have all the answers we need. I confessed, "I am a Christian and I hope to be baptized in His name." True story.
This past Sunday, I was driving home after making rounds at the hospital. Instead of taking my usual way home, I took a path that led me past Christ Community Church. I felt compelled to enter those doors, to hear more of Jesus and to feed my soul. It was after the service had started so I had to park at the farthest point of the parking lot. As I got out of my car, the church greeter spotted me and starting waving to me. It was as if he knew I was coming and was waiting for me. When I entered the church I was overcome by a sense of peace and tranquility. I did not feel awkward or uncomfortable. I looked toward the cross, fought back tears of relief and knew I had come home.
I would like to thank Kara, the Braatz family, my small group and especially Adam for supporting me on this journey. I thank God for believing in me..