My Spiritual Journey: To be or not be Christian
At the age of 9, I joined my home church. My family had attended there for years and so, joining felt like the next logical step. Shortly after, I was baptized and throughout the years I served in many different capacities. Initially, I started off as an usher and later moved to the young adult choir. DISCLAIMER: If you have ever heard me sing you might question that transition but, we will just keep in mind that God can use anyone. Periodically, I participated in plays, danced on the praise dancing team and even I choreographed routines for the up-and-coming youth.
Around the age of 20, I joined the Air Force and so consequently I moved away. After I arrived at my first duty station, I started to look for a new church home. Some of you may be familiar with what that process is like. Having a rich worship experience, a pastor that is relational in their preaching, and the service is less than 3 hours is a rare find. After a few months, by recommendation of a coworker, I found a service that felt a lot like what I was used to. It felt like a good fit but I could not bring myself to join. I considered it but I would always talk myself out of it. Until this day, my home church is still the only church I've ever officially joined.
In retrospect, I can see how some of my childhood experiences could be influencing my current hesitancy. As a child and even a young adult, I operated under this blanket of blind trust with authority figures, suppressing my feelings to a certain extent because I thought it was the respectful thing to do. Have you ever experienced that?
Throughout my 10 years of serving in this particular environment:
We underwent an unexpected change in leadership
I became one of the few youths after most of the older members left for college
It went from feeling like a family to having a really distant and fractured relationship with my leadership.
When trust is no longer on the table or integrity is in question, it's hard to follow someone's leadership. In my research, I found my experiences were among some of the top reasons that other young adults are leaving churches.
Friends if I can really be transparent with you, there was a point in my life when I identified as being spiritual rather than Christian. I have always believed in God but I decided to take more of a Buddhist approach. For instance, I know worship music or reading scripture helps some people feel grounded or connected. For me, I used meditation and breathing techniques and it helped me to feel centered, dialed-in and unshakable. I never stopped praying, or attending church altogether but just not regularly. In my exploration, I learned to have a more mindful outlook on life, not be too attached to ideas, how to practice non-judgment with self and others and how to really honor my inner voice.
Essentially, what I realized is that I didn't walk away from Christianity. I walked away from the way that I had been experiencing it. I was putting the weight of those experiences onto Christianity itself and allowed that to challenge my conviction that Christ is worth believing in. More importantly, I didn't feel inspired or filled up instead I started to dread it. Going to church was more of a formality than real corporate worship. Self-exploration gave me a better understanding of who I am and gave me tools that helped me interpret the world and other people in a much healthy way.
Today, I am proud to say that I am a Christian and grateful for my spiritual journey. I know there are some misconceived notions regarding meditation and I believe that those practices I picked up along the way are a way of life, not a religion. I also know that I am a better follower of Christ because of it. Through prayer, I talked to God and through meditation, I listen for what he has placed in my heart.
Now I serve and I believe because it's my choice based on my conviction and my relationship with God. I can trust my discernment and I feel comfortable using my voice. More importantly, I share this experience because I know that there are other men and women out there just like me, who carry guilt for questioning or wanting to explore. God knew exactly want he was doing we he gave you and I freewill, he wants you to CHOOSE him. Jesus came to that we can get to know the greatness of what it's like to be his child. So, I encourage you to do the work, so that you can CHOOSE this life and it will change the way you experience and ultimately it will change the trajectory of your life.
Why do I emphasize choosing? Because God knows the secrets of your heart.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Proverbs 16:2
As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.1 Chronicle 28:9
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
If you feel conflicted, unsure or you want to have a relationship with God I recommend starting with you. Starting reading your bible to find out what God wants from you and what he has promised you.