It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on here- having a month of relaxation, of no responsibility, after my first set of college finals did wonders to stifle my motivation to write. After thinking about what I wanted my first post to be after over a month and a half of inactivity, I chose a topic that was very near and dear to my heart: my religious story.
I don’t remember exactly when I first started going to church, but considering that both of my parents went to Catholic high schools (and a Catholic college), I was seemingly destined to grow up going to Catholic services. At some point during my childhood, though, my parents decided to try to stop attending our local Catholic church- the fact that I fell asleep during a couple masses probably had something to do with it- and try to find a new church. After bouncing around for about 6 months, they finally settled on the Evangelical Covenant Church of Hinsdale, where I attended preschool, and we have been going there ever since.
At first, going to church meant having to sit through an hour of boring in order to get to have some really sweet cinnamon rolls after the service was over. However, my dad realized this, and gave me an ultimatum- I had to sing along with the songs, and pay attention to the sermon, if I wanted to get treats afterwards. So, begrudgingly, I listened to what he said, though I tried to drag out my commitment as long as I possibly could- I got away with just keeping my head up in the general direction of the singer or speaker and nod a few times before my mom caught on. As time passed, my minimal interest turned into a more casual interest, as I made an effort to memorize some of the songs that we sung. Growing older certainly helped, as well, as I finally began to understand the deeper meaning behind what the pastors were saying.
My maturation continued unabated through my freshman year of high school- I had memorized a good handful of Bible verses, had started participating in activities with the church’s youth group, and talked with friends and family about the depth of my relationship with God. And yet, soon enough, reality started to set in- I stood by, helpless and heartbroken, as my mother battled breast cancer while my dad tried to balance helping her with her treatments and finding a job to keep our family afloat. Three short years later, I said and did things that caused me to lose the best friend I had ever known, and almost all of the colleagues that I had in my town were too busy making the all-important decision on which college they would be choosing to build their future at to comfort me after my entire life turned upside down. I discovered the meaning of “depression,” and how unbelievably taxing it is on a person’s heart, mind, their very being.
During those trying times, and other, less stressful moments, I sought, and received, solace from many different places- from my family, from the friends that stuck by me, from the countless doctors and therapists that I talked to, from medication and meditation, from soccer, and from writing. But nothing ever gave me comfort as deep, or as strong, as what I received from God.
He provided me with unfailing love in a time that I believed I was unworthy of such a feeling. Love is very personal and very intimate, and because of that, it can get very messy. With God, it isn’t like that-Romans chapter 8, verse 28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” God saw the pain that I was going through- pain that was contrary to his will for me- and He showed immense patience in continuing to pour His love down upon me until I was able to realize its affects break out of my ignorance, to love Him as he loved me, and once I was able to do that, my misery started (and never stopped) fading.
He also showered me with compassion, which would be downright impossible for any human to match. Compassion is largely impersonal- compassion can be felt towards a person or creature that you have never met before, have never interacted with before- but for people, who are frequently in need of something in return for kindness, compassion is difficult to give, because nothing is expected to be given in return. God doesn’t care- in Matthew chapter 9, verse 36, it is written, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. “ Only a being as all-powerful as God, as truly wonderful as God, is capable of carrying out such a task, as he did with my helpless self, with great ease.
Perhaps most importantly, He gave me His mercy, which, deep down, I feel like I craved more than anything. The fact that humans are inherently flawed is quite obvious, and during my darkest hours, I took that idea to the extreme. I believed that I was entirely responsible for the development of my depression, and that I was, somehow, at least partially responsible for my mom’s cancer diagnosis. I acted out on those feelings, transforming myself into far less of a person than I was capable of. It took me a long time to fully realize my mistakes, and even longer to own up to them, to the people around me and to the Lord. As I’ve said, a lot of my friends were unable to forgive me, but my God did. This can be explained through another verse in Romans (Chapter 8, Verse 1), which states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (if you haven’t figured out that Romans is my favorite chapter of the Bible… I had to do a mini-sermon on a verse in the New Testament in order to get confirmed. I chose a verse from Romans). By expressing my faith, I was able to earn the forgiveness of my Savior, which was, and still is, more than I could have ever hoped for- it has kept me alive, and gives me a reason to live and sing His praises, to this very day.
From the time that our great country was created, when the good majority of Americans were believers, more and more people have begun to doubt the existence of a God. The doubt the story of Creation, and pass off miraculous healings (or something of the luck) as luck, or as a work of human hands, instead of as the will of the Almighty. I will never go out of my way to disparage those who don’t believe in God- that wouldn’t be very kind, or Christian, of me, and it is an individual’s choice to believe what they wish to believe in. But, I will not pass up an opportunity to use my story, and the Word, as examples of His existence, the greatness that He embodies, and the incredible life that can be found in trying to seek Him, because, as Chris Tomlin says, He is a “good, good Father.”