Growing up, my grandmother took me to church every Sunday. I served almost every position within the youth committee possible through the years, from praise dancing to teaching, choreographing, speaking, and the list goes on. However, it was not until my adult years that I really developed a relationship with God.
Before I started my spiritual journey:
I felt stagnant, like I was participating but not getting fed the way I desired. I was going but not growing.
I used prayer as a problem solver. I prayed in times of conflict, and because of that inconsistency, I didn't feel confident in my conversations with God. Am I doing it right? Does he really hear me?
I read the bible, but I didn't find it relatable.
Here are the three changes I made that grew me spiritually, strengthening my relationship with God, and built my confidence in myself and my place in the kingdom:
First, I had to stop focusing on the people and focus on my purpose. Unfortunately, I referenced how I saw the Christians around me living as a blueprint of what it means to be Christian. I had to learn that being an adult didn't make someone a great role model or perfect. We are all learning, and that the best reference is the bible.
Next, I committed to learning to read and understand the Word of God outside of the church. During this time, I explored faith. I questioned it and picked it apart, compared to my experiences. I had to take a step back and, instead of questioning religion, work on my spirituality. And you may be asking yourself what's the difference. Spirituality focuses on individual practices. Before I drew any solid conclusions about Christianity, I had to get to know Christ better. The more I began to read, pray, meditate, and fast, the closer I felt to God. That feeling of connectedness, that sense of belonging, fueled my desire to live a more Christ-like life.
Last but not least, I found a community that reflected my beliefs and still challenged me to grow. I made friends who have prayed with me through some of the darkest times of my life, found pastors who want to build strong leaders, not just good followers, and witnessed the greatest of God through the way he blesses the people around me.
Along this journey, I learned that God isn't this strict authoritative figure who is just waiting to punish us for our shortcomings. The most powerful thing I have learned is that just like I believe in God, he believes in me.
I urge you to get to know God for yourself, start building a relationship with him by reading your bible and talking with him through prayer. Start small. Read a couple of verses daily; it doesn't have to be a whole chapter. Be vulnerable when you talk to him. Your prayers don't need to be grand! It can be as simple as "Lord, I open my heart to you, help me to know you better. Amen!"