Do you ever have those nights where you stay up too late talking to your roommate and are exhausted the next day but don't regret it? Yeah, that's where I'm at right now. Thank you for existing, Dunkin iced coffee. (I took a break from my usual blueberry and it's coconut today!)
On to the journaling! This is #8 from Danielle for the week. And it's a good one.
Would you consider yourself a religious person? Quite simply- what do you believe happens when you die? Have you always believed this? Do your current beliefs align with what you were taught as a child? And if not, what was the turning point? This week, talk about your religion or spiritual beliefs (or perhaps your lack of), and try to sum up, if you can, what you believe happens "next."
This is a question I'm excited to write about. First, let me preface by saying that this blog is a space that does not focus primarily on my beliefs, but my beliefs are a very big part of me. All opinions are my own and are not intended to offend anyone. Let's keep an open mind, friends... I do the same for you!
I do consider myself to be a "religious person"; however, I hate the term "religious person." ;) I think that there is a very negative connotation associated with the word "religious." I am a Christian, and Lord knows that people have labeled themselves as such and ruined things for the rest of us. People like Westboro Baptist Church, people who are mentally disturbed and commit crimes in the name of Jesus, people who just make huge mistakes. But before I go further, let me explain exactly what I believe.
▲ I am a non-denominational Christian.
▲ I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior who died on the cross for my sins and is the way, truth, and life, and the only way we get into heaven is by following Him.
▲ I believe in the Bible.
▲ I believe in faith and prayer.
▲ I believe in tolerance for all people. I do not believe in treating people badly if they don't think the same way I do or do not share my beliefs. I believe in keeping an open mind.
▲ I believe that Jesus wants us to help make this world better, not worse.
Technically, I have always been part of the Christian faith. I was raised in a Presbyterian church by my parents. I spent 19 years going to the same church before I went off to college. What was different about those years of my life was that I hated it. I absolutely hated getting up every Sunday morning to be dragged to church, to listen to a boring pastor and being forced to hang out with the kids in my church classes. I didn't like going at all. I didn't get anything out of it except knowing what I was expected to believe.
I turned into an angry teenager regarding some stuff going on in my home life; my parents got divorced, my mom had anger issues, my dad wasn't super outwardly loving. To top it off, my family was part of a "scandal" (for lack of a better word) within my church, and I still had to keep going there. Basically, I wasn't the happiest kid. I had a good group of friends, though, and am still thankful to this day that I never got into drinking or drugs at a young age. I think I totally could have, but I was shielded from that. Instead, I was just angry. I had a mouth like a sailor and my parents were constantly threatening to take privileges away from me because of it.
Fast forward to going away to college. I was so happy I didn't have to get up for church every morning, for one thing. That was great. :) I was rooming with a friend from high school, and instead of getting placed in the usual freshman dorms, we were placed in two open slots in the upper classmen housing, the on-campus apartments. This was pretty unheard of, but we came in during the spring semester and two girls had moved out to transfer. So we were living with some junior and senior girls, one of which was Tif. She was a Christian (the only one in the apartment). After we became friends, she started taking me to the on-campus ministry Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru). At first I didn't want to go because I felt that being raised in church did nothing for me. But this place was different. It had better music and better people speaking. They made it fun. It was nothing like the dry, boring church environment I'd grown up with. I found myself actually paying attention for the first time in years, and I wanted to go back. I started meeting more people there and eventually they became my best friends. I had a lot of deep conversations (thanks, Lauren!) and searched my heart for what I really believed, and I knew that God had a place in my life and I couldn't run from that. From the first time I went to Cru until I graduated, I didn't miss a meeting. I ended up joining the worship team, first to run sound and later to sing. I am now the worship director at my church and the only reason I got to where I am is because of that experience.
This was another way I believe God worked: Tif also had a guitar that she let me mess around with. I had wanted a guitar when I was fifteen but my dad wouldn't get me one. I started teaching myself how to play on her's, then bought my own for $100 on eBay. After that, I was hooked. I taught myself everything I know today and I can't even begin to credit that to my own doing. I do believe it was God looking out for me and saying, "Hey, I know you had to grow up in the middle of something you didn't get. But I'm giving you a way to get it now. And you are going to be blessed by it." Cru changed my life in that it gave me the best friends I still have today, I developed new music skills that are everything to me, and I found the real meaning of Jesus in my life.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, there are people who call themselves Christians and make complete fools out of the rest of us. I am the first to say I totally understand why people are atheists or questioning. Honestly, if I hadn't grown up in church, I don't know that I would understand anything about God. But I know this now: God loves us all; we are all sinners and hypocrites because we are human; Christians are not "better" than anyone else; and there is no better example of Jesus than kindness and tolerance in today's world. I am all about standing up for what I believe in, but I will not look down on you if you don't agree. I think more Christians need to take on this mentality. Faith is a choice. You have to wake up every day wanting to give it a chance, to learn and grow, to accept and love those around you. And when it comes to putting your faith in God, I really don't think there is anything to lose. I think there is only something to gain.
I posted about the issue of tolerance here a couple of weeks ago if you have any interest in reading about that. :) Have a great Thursday, you guys!