I remember going to Chicago in middle school with my cousin to visit a friend. Her family was very religious so we, of course, went to church on Sunday morning. I was at the point in my church education that I was either just starting, or just about to start spiritual quest (our fancy way of saying confirmation). I remember a specific conversation I had in the car after the service. I admitted that I had trouble making it through an entire church service without looking at my watch, wondering when it would be over. I felt guilty for not being able to give my undivided attention and let myself get lost in time. I think the general response I got was, "pray about it."
I went through spiritual quest like any 8th grader does. I did my "homework" and studying, participated when necessary but didn't really get anything out of it. That summer I went to Lake Lundrgen Bible Camp with the same cousin and another one of her friends. LLBC was a pivotal week in my faith journey. I came back with a renewed sense of faith and was a self-declared Jesus Freak, listening to Christian Rock and reading teen devotional books.
Through high school I was very involved in the senior high youth group at my church. I traveled to Minneapolis, Alamosa Valley, CO, Rockford, IL, and Germantown, PA on work trips. I spent my Sunday nights in the youth room, attended lock-ins, and did service projects. I was Youth Deacon for a year, served on the 21st Century Church task force, and helped with the Stewardship Committee. When I went off to college, I chose a Presbyterian school and my church (both local and national) gave me scholarships.
I brought a bible and a young adult devotional book with me to college, but I had long since changed my musical tastes and I no longer wore the silver purity ring on my left hand. My faith journey was stuck at a crossroad, and there it stayed. I argued with my overly Lutheran freshman studies professor, resisted my friends' urges to go to bible study or other Christian fellowships (even though I went to Young Life in high school), and took a very academic approach to my New Testament Studies course. When I was home on the weekends, I'd go to church and people would ask if I'd found a church in Waukesha. I brushed it off saying the Presbyterian church I was more drawn to was farther from campus and I was just too busy.
I have now been out of school for almost two years, and I don't think my faith has moved from the crossroad it hit back in 2006. I have had conversations with friends about my faith, especially when I accepted the call to serve as the chair of MPC's Pastor Nominating Committee. Some of my friends didn't even realize I went to church (at this point, I went maybe once or twice each month), and many asked if I was really religious. Well, that turned into a complicated question for me, especially as the process went on...as backwards as that seems.
At first, I told people that yes, I am a fairly religious person in that I go to church regularly, try to spend at least some time in prayer each week, and the congregation at my church was like my second family. But then something changed. My weekends became busier...well, my life in general got busier. I didn't go to church as often, but I was still the chair of this committee. So then my answer changed. First it was that I didn't really go to church that often, but the congregation was like my second family and played a huge role in my development as a person. Then it morphed even further into: well, I don't really go to church but I believe in a higher power, and don't really know about all the other details. And that is where I am right now.
But I've made it a goal to get to church more often again. Why? Well, in part because we called a new pastor. A pastor that I got to know and interviewed and prayed about and for in trying to decide if he was right for our church. So I feel sort of obligated to be there to support him and support the PNC's decision. (Not that it is difficult...I wholeheartedly believe this man is what our congregation needs.) The other part is that I feel like if I can't put my life on hold for just an hour and a half each week to contemplate my spiritual being, there's something wrong.
The last few times I went to church, I was so antsy I could hardly stand it. I was fidgety and anxious and my thoughts were everywhere but there. I'm pretty sure I even checked my phone a couple of times (remember how I used to look at my watch?). This made it difficult for me to say yes to my mom when she asked if I'd be going to church. I seriously felt anxious when I thought about sitting for an hour and a half in one place without any socializing.
I went to church this morning. Just before the sermon I started to think about all of this and how I was going to blog it. I remember thinking about how I really don't know where my faith is, I don't know if I think Jesus is a divine savior or if he was just a really cool teacher dude, no different than John the Baptist or Abraham. And then Mike started his sermon and within the first three sentences he was speaking right to me. Have you ever thought that if you could just meet Jesus things would be easier? Do you find yourself questioning and doubting? Um...yes and yes. It was reassuring to hear that these feelings are ok. I don't know if I'll ever go back to where my faith was. I'm quite sure I'll never be a Jesus Freak again, but I'd like a little bit more substance to my beliefs than just, "I believe in a higher power."
My conclusion: I'm going to take time out every week possible, go to church, and let that time be for my spiritual growth and my faith journey. I suppose the whole not believing that Jesus was a divine savior cuts me out of the Christian faith, but my church is where I feel most comfortable, spiritual, and faith-full. So that's where I'm going to stay at this point on my journey.