One year and eight months ago, I wrote this post about some fears that I had been struggling with for a long time. It started out as a commentary on my hesitations to begin a blog (a commentary I have since updated and resolved for you here), but it soon took on a life of its own in the crippling insecurities I had about my own faith.
To sum it up, I was lost, lonely, and confused. I was longing to be whole again.
Let me give you some back-story.
As many of you know, my husband and I met and dated in high school. We were together three years before tying the knot and our wedding ceremony and reception were beautiful, joyous, and memorable. But the ceremony was a little disjointed and awkward in that it took place in a church that neither of us felt particularly connected to, at least not in the ways we should have.
G grew up in a Catholic home, and I was raised in an Independent Baptist church my entire life. Before meeting my husband, I had never once stepped foot into any other kind of church, and I had my fair share of opinions about his (and he about mine) that gave us both pause about continuing our relationship. It was such a hot-button topic with us, even as teenagers, that at 5 months into our relationship, we almost split over it. One of us said, “I want two things in life: to be with you, and to raise a family that is (insert speaker’s denomination here).” And the other one of us said, “Well, what if you can’t have both?” And we were dead serious.
Obviously, we cared for one another too much to just leave over this. I believe it had a little to do with the attachment we had created and enjoyed together, and a little to do with realizing that neither one of us knew exactly why we were so attached to our perspective backgrounds. We knew we were meant to be together, even if we didn’t know details about how it would all work. We sorta resolved to “put a pin in it” and come back later.
Later came and went, many, many times throughout our dating, engagement, and early marriage. It would begin casually enough, with one of us bringing up a current event or something we’d heard someone else say and analyzing it through our own religious worldview. Then, as we tried to dig deeper, one of us would say something that offended the other, leading to some defensiveness, some outrage, and some (ok, lots of) tears. It never ended well. Ever. But we both knew it was important, so it kept coming up.
One year, we resolved to read through the Bible in a year. We bought two study Bibles: one that was formatted into 365 readings to make such an undertaking appear simpler, and another that was translated and commentated on throughout in the language of apologetics, so that we might have a better idea of context for our daily readings. It was a great plan that lasted all of about 10 days. Come January 11, we were weary and worn from our daily responsibilities. Our son was only a few months old at the time, and his sleep patterns were becoming less and less predictable, making a scheduled, nightly Bible study harder and harder to commit to. We promised to pick it up the next day. But we never did.
By now, that pin had been placed so many times it was wearing us both thin. We tried to find churches to go to together, but between his work schedule and our picky differences, that was even more exhausting than just arguing about it. When one of us liked something about a church, that was the one thing the other hated. We took some time off from church hunting to let the pin rest while we focused on parenting, school, and work.
Around the time that I wrote that post, I was desperately thirsting for something. I had always been so in tune with my spirituality, and assumed that my husband was so out of tune with his, that I put massive amounts of effort into praying that he would just get his act together and come around to what I believed. Why did he have to be so stubborn, anyway?
One Sunday, on my way to work, I prayed through tears that God would help in our search. “God, if you could please just make someone, anyone, invite us to church, then I will know that You haven’t given up on us.” Sure enough, as 6PM rolled around and I was finishing up the last of my closing procedures, someone asked for a bandaid, and as I gave one to him, he proceeded to ask me if we had found a church in the area yet and invited us to his. I was amazed. I had had prayers answered before, but never in such a timely (or, ya know, my kind of timely) manner. It was obviously a sign that we were about to find the church we had both been looking for. I called G immediately and, for some reason trying to mute my excitement, I mentioned that someone had invited us to church and that we should definitely go.
And go, we did. For two or three Sundays, we “tried out” this church. But we were mutually apathetic about it at best. It was a little too big and a little too showy for either of our tastes, the preacher a little older than the age he seemed to be trying to convey, and while the coffee from the bookstore smelled amazing, it felt a little weird to be sold coffee and books on the way into worship. But I was determined to give it a chance. Something about this place had to be for us. On our last Sunday there, we found it. And not in the way I expected.
There were a select few teenagers from the massive youth group who had recently been on a mission trip to an impoverished third world country. This particular Sunday was all about showcasing their trip and the things they had learned and done while there. We sat back, ready to be impressed by the mission work this church was doing, the lives they must be changing and the money that must be going somewhere other than that new building they’ve been working on for months. Instead, we were discouraged by the lack of physical help that these mostly privileged teenagers brought to a world in very literal need.
Yes, there is something powerful to be said about spreading the Gospel and winning lost souls for Christ. But what we didn’t understand that we both agreed on until that Sunday, is that the Gospel isn’t just about Heaven and Hell. Not to people who are already living in our world’s version of Hell. What those people needed in addition to good news was clean water. Sustainable food. Medicinal resources. And then to be told about a God so mighty and merciful that His love alone could save them from an eternity of an even more terrifying version of this life, but that His grace and His example are the driving forces behind the people who came to pour out his love to them, in tangible, immediate, and meaningful ways.
Little did we know that that agreement alone would be so powerful in our journey through faith together.
A little over a year later, we are in a new state and have found a church to call home, until of course the military moves us away. I will likely write more about our church in the weeks to come, as there is much to say about it and why we love it so much. Suffice it to say, for now, that our spiritual growth has exceeded what I thought was possible those first few times that we argued about faith and works, religion and spirituality. We are finally at a point of mutual understanding about some things we never did quite understand, and mutual respect for things that we never did quite agree upon. There is of course, still a long way to go. I don’t believe that anyone can really fully understand the complexities of the Divine in the short amount of time we are given here on Earth.
But I am no longer fearful to take on the challenge alongside my husband. And that is a resolution worth celebrating.