Let’s talk religion.
Wait, before I lose approximately half my audience who are expecting this is to become a “Christianese” rant about the glory of God…give me a second of your time. Please.
This is simply cannot be a post about the wondrousness of God – because I don’t even know what that looks like yet.
Religion has certainly been an area of uncertainty for me, particularly during my college years. As someone whose church experience was limited to monotonous Catholic services and the occasional youth group session, attending a Christian liberal arts college was, to say the least, an interesting life choice. Nonetheless, I came in with the attitude that I would respect their beliefs, as I hoped they would respect mine.
And of course, I asked questions. Lots and lots of questions.
Which resulted in some pretty unbelievable situations among the four years:
- Being told that I would go to the hell during my first week in college
- Sitting in chapel 3x a week, with questions and retaliations and criticisms, and sometimes tears
- Drifting between four different churches because I felt like I “had to”
- An almost two and a half-hour long conversation between an atheist, Christian and agnostic. At midnight. On a school night.
- Spending most Sunday’s alone because I eventually chose not to frequent church
- Attending “Discussions that Matter” with my team for two hours after a three hour practice on a weekly basis
- Going to AFRICA on a team MISSIONS trip with Sports Outreach Institute
- Traveling the entire religious identity spectrum: questioning to agnostic to atheist to Christian. You name it, I was it.
You would think these were some of the most alienating and isolating times for me. And I would be lying to you if I said they weren’t (reference the lonely Sundays). But, in asking all these questions, I met some of the most amazing, empathetic, LIFE-GIVING people, who accepted me completely for who I am, even when I vehemently disagreed with their most fundamental beliefs.
Thank God (literally) for their patience and understanding, because it wasn’t until I left Westmont that I had what some like to call a “God moment.”
I had told one of my mentors that there was no way I could become a Christian until I left Westmont. Well, I guess God’s timing is pretty darn perfect, because literally, on my drive home from graduating Westmont, he pretty much smacked me upside the head with his presence.
I was cruising in my car, jamming to my good old rap songs and not feeling one ounce of remorse that I was leaving my second home and family in Santa Barbara.
Almost unconsciously, I decided to change it to gospel songs (my Christian friends often found it bizarre that I liked Christian music despite the fact that I didn’t believe in God). Within ten seconds after “This I Believe (The Creed)” came on, I started bawling. Literal, uncontrollable sobs. AND, at that same exact moment, the sun burst, and I do mean BURST, through the dark overcast clouds, illuminating the long stretch of freeway I was driving on.
Before, I probably would have chalked this experience up to “coincidence.” But after four years of questioning, a particularly convicting and powerful conversation during my final finals week, and a very real fear of entering the unknown future armed with nothing more than my own will and independence, I was utterly convinced this wasn’t merely coincidence.
I may just be starting my journey as a Christian, and I might not be too sure of much at this point in my life, but this is what I do know:
- God is real.
- Jesus died for our sins, which has given us the ultimate freedom.
- In sacrificing his only son for us, God shows us that the most complete kind of love is sacrificial love.
- God wants us – and he wants ALL of us.
The last thing I want to leave you with is this. For those of you who are believers, ask questions. It’s one of the ways I’ve seemed to grow closer to God in these few short weeks. For those of you who don’t believe, or what I like to call “questioning,” continue questioning. It was one of the ways that I got to grow closer to my people, the people that REALLY matter and who REALLY care. Because if they are meant to stay in your life, they will accept you for who you are. Dreams, hopes, fears, scars, insecurities, imperfections and all.
The people who matter want all of you. Just like God does.