My relationship with religion has always been a complicated one.
I started attending church services with friends off & on during sixth grade, and was eventually baptized in eighth grade. My grandfather had just received good news about his cancer, and had a longer life expectancy because of it. I remember thinking that God was so good. That He was actually real, that He was there for me, that He loved me unconditionally, and that He would solve all of my earthly problems. That was my testimony, that was why I got baptized. That was why I devoted my life to Christ.
In high school, I dated a guy whose family was extremely involved in their church, so I started going with them. I taught Sunday school in their nursery & pre-school, and attended services with them the weeks I didn’t teach. I performed on their worship team once or twice, which is where my heart has always been. Music flows through me, and is something I could never live without. Worship is my preferred method of connecting with God, I even directed a short & small Christmas musical with the kiddos in the pre-school.
My junior year of high school, my aforementioned grandfather passed away. I lost it. I battled anxiety & depression, and I ultimately gave up on God. (I’ve written about my mental illnesses before, but the part I have never mentioned is the religion aspect and how the two affected each other.) 17 year old me didn’t understand why this had happened. How could He let this happen? He had saved my grandpa's life once before, why couldn’t He just do it again? I stopped worshipping, stopped praying, stopped caring. At my grandfather’s funeral, I sang Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin, and I had a very hard time believing the lyrics. Instead of going to church friends & leaders to help me through my inner battles, I turned away. I closed myself off.
After I graduated high school, I become one of several leaders in their youth group, even though the aforementioned boy and I had broken up a few months before graduation. I really thought my heart was in it for the right reasons and it was, partially. There was still a small part of me that was doing it just so I could show people that I was doing okay, that I was still this strong, God-fearing woman. Around the same time, I started dating another guy whose family was also extremely involved in their church, so I attended Sunday services with him and led youth group at the exes’ church on Wednesday nights. In my new relationship, I know I was only attending Sunday services so I could spend extra time with my new guy and his family. I would volunteer to help run the slideshow so I didn’t have to sit there and try to pay attention to a full sermon. I was a mess. The truth is I was just going through the motions. As time went on, I realized my heart was definitely not in any of it. After a year of leading the youth group, I made the choice to quit. That was also when I stopped going to church altogether. I had no aspect of God or religion in my life for the next year.
When I finally stepped back into a church, it wasn’t my own choice to go. I went to Hope City at Memorial City High School with a couple friends in 2016. As the lights lowered and the worship team started, I just started crying. Tear after tear streamed down my face. I felt my mouth open and my voice come out, singing along. I didn’t even know the song, but my heart knew the words. It was Wake by Hillsong Young & Free (and boy, did I). I realized that bad things will always happen in this world, because it’s inevitable. Our world is unfortunately clothed in sin. Bad things will always happen around us, and sometimes we don’t get to know why. What is your choice is how you respond to it & what you take from it. You can turn to Him, or you can turn away. You can choose to learn, you can choose to not be bitter, you can choose to love. You can choose to turn your trial into a triumph.
Now, I worship freely and as often as I can. I pray before I go to bed or when I wake up. I ask Him for help in my struggles. I give Him glory for what I’m thankful for. I’m hopeful that He does have a plan for me, I’ve definitely seen that within the last year alone. I would not be where I am today mentally, emotionally, physically, without Him. I’m in great health, I have an incredible job, I have strong friendships, I’m conquering my anxiety & depression, and I’m receiving new opportunities every single day. I’m living, breathing, and thriving. God IS so good. He is there for me, and He does love me unconditionally.
This isn’t me pushing my beliefs onto you, this is just my story of how I found my way back. Whatever season you’re in, I promise you that your life is worth living. Find something to believe in. There is a plan, whether you feel like there is or not. It’s all going to be okay.