Monday, December 29, 2008

Dear Jess

*Disclaimer: I'm no theologian and I don't have all the answers. This is simply a discussion among friends and these are my thoughts and feelings as a part of that conversation. Some will agree and some will disagree and that's cool with me. Please accept my story as my experience, not as right or wrong.

Dear Jess,

I wish I had a nicely wrapped answer for you. With a bow on it. But I guess if it were that easy, you most likely would have received it already. :)

Most likely I will go on and on, but I want to get the conversation (on my end) rolling by keeping it short and sweet so you don't have to respond to a huge lengthy ramble. (Have you noticed I have a tendency to ramble?)

That said, I'll begin the story of how I came to a certainty of belief.

I did grow up in church (of the Baptist variety.) I never disliked it. I had fun with my church friends and found going to church on Wednesday nights and Sundays to be more of a social thing than actually learning about God. Because I was just a kid, and in my insecurity I cared more about what boy liked me than memorizing verses. But I did "accidentally" come to believe what I was being taught (for the most part.) My parents are also Christians, so there was a lot of talk of Jesus in my house too. I'm thankful that this foundation was there because it has really helped me as I've made my faith my own in adulthood. I'm simply admitting here that I don't think my faith was all that genuine until much later in my life. I was missing some very important things that would open my eyes and heart more than I had thought possible.

Early on, I was taught that a person needed to pray a certain prayer and "accept Jesus as their Savior." It seemed to me that was the most important thing because that gets you into Heaven (PHEW). From there, it appeared that having faith was about lifestyle. (Going to church, no drinking, no smoking, no swearing...)

(I must say here that this was MY impression, it's not how every Christian thinks, I'm sure. But that's how Christianity appeared to me as a child.)

So up until I was an adult, I think I "prayed the prayer" about a thousand times, every chance I got. I had this sneaking suspicion that I wasn't good enough so I should probably keep trying to make sure I wasn't going to Hell.

In my early twenties I finally started to see that walking with God was not just about an afterlife. I now believe that we focus a bit too much on that. Sure, it's very important to have an assurance of your final destination, but I think that final destination may take care of itself if we could learn more about freedom in Christ in this life. Coming to know that freedom means a person has come to know HIM for who He really is, and if we do that, I'm of the opinion He'll welcome us to Him in person one day cause we'll be friends and stuff. (I have no idea if that sentence made sense, sorry.)

I'll continue this possibly very boring story after your response. As I tell it, hopefully I'll answer your question of HOW a person comes to believe. I don't think there's a specific answer to that, like I said before. But I have my story to tell of how it's been for me and I hope that will help.

Lastly, I want to throw a little something in about the Bible. Because I'm a Christian a lot of the knowledge I have of God comes from His book. I have to admit that for much of my life I found the Bible to be somewhat...boring, unrelatable, and really confusing. As we carry on our conversation I'll tell you how that changed as well. I'm now finally understanding how God's Spirit works with we humans, opening our eyes to see things in a way that we couldn't if we didn't ask for His eyes. His word came alive for me and I was actually quite shocked (and impressed) by that.

Jess, I want to say that as I was cutting and pasting your emails in last night for the first post, I found myself more and more impressed by YOU. I appreciate that you aren't judgmental, you're so thoughtful, funny and just plain kind. Thank you.

I SO look forward to hearing from you,


Brooke said...

I, too, love how much thought Jessica has put into this topic. I think that God will reveal himself to you when you have put in the time, thought and interest in him. (Which it definitely sounds like you have been doing). I do believe that there is a God, a Heavenly Father who loves each of us. As I said in the last post, I have come to know this for myself after some difficult, but enriching experiences. I truly appreciate your thought, I hope you find what you are looking for. I have a quote from Neal A. Maxwell (I hope you don't mind me using a quote from my religion to make my point):
"We can say 'I know that God loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things'(1 Nephi 11:17). There have been and will be times in each of our lives when such faith must be the bottom line: We don't know what is happening to us or around us, but we know that God loves us, and knowing that, for the moment, is enough". My hope for you is that you will come to know of God's love for you. Good luck in your search!

pam at beyondjustmom said...

I love how you've led this conversation, and I'm really excited to jump into the forum. Only I can't think of anything profound right now except that I love respectful, faith-sharing, challenging, growing-through-the tough times conversations, and I'll be back!

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