I took a Psychology of Religion course a couple of semesters ago; where we surveyed each major world religion. It was incredibly informative and I left with not only a knowledge of other faiths, but a confirmed foundation of my own Faith. I know most people are wary of the topic "religion", but I wanted to explain its role in my life.
I grew up in church, basically. Knew the stories of Noah, Abraham, and Jesus before I mastered my times tables. By 17, I could quote scripture, and even taught lessons for youth and prison inmates. At some point in my late adolescence, I finally mentally understood that there was something to religion that surpassed deeds. I felt something tugging at the strings of my heart.
I thought, mind you, that I was doing okay. I'd overcome depression, suicidal thoughts, a broken home, and the death of my brother...all without the depth of spirituality. Right? Why would a young woman, coming into her own and realizing her identity, need to grow closer to the God of her faith? I mean, I was a good, well-mannered teen. I volunteered places, didn't curse, smoke, or drink, and I was a virgin. I'd done all I could to be a good person, so what else is there?
As soon as I graduated high school, things started to happen. In me and around me.
I watched the church that I grew up in become more and more occultish and spiritually manipulative. Disunity ensued and people begin to stop attending. Families were broken a part. Those who stayed either began to take on the attitude of the leadership (by demonizing or shunning those who left), or became helplessly subjected to the others. My family was the latter. I struggled in my faith, but stayed and served on many ministries at the church. Saw/heard things that rocked me to my core. Witnessed ungodly, unethical, and illegal practices that made me question the sovereignty of the God of my faith. My life became like clay to my church leaders, and decisions that I made were guided by their counsel. Those church splits and that ministry as a whole has deeply wounded many people. Some of which have completely seperated themselves from Christianity. I considered it.
I remember numerous dark nights where I yelled and screamed at God; asking Him where was He when all of this was happening...or when my parents' marriage was crumbling...or while my brother lay on the side of the road dying...
Instead of getting an explanation from God, I recieved understanding. Now usually, an explanation or a reason for an event will give us understanding. But this time, I gained understanding (not right away) without getting a literal answer. But I had to be willing to want the understanding...
I could not be the same teenager who looked at my faith as a classification. Or a check-box on a job application. Because there is more. It is more.
It wasn't enough to give a percentage of my heart to God. Or my mental understanding. He wanted more. But how much exactly?
This has been the test of my entire life. And it continues to be.
Every trial and circumstance has been to make me stronger, better, and wiser...but also to draw my heart closer to His.
I am only 23 years old...so there isn't much that I know for sure about love and life. But there is one thing that I am absolutely sure of: God loves me.
This is my testimonial. Of what it is meant by "Not a religion, but a relationship."