After that first evening at Harvest, this is what I recorded in my journal:
“Went to church for the first time in ~ 30 years tonight. I saw an ad in a local paper for this church, Harvest Methodist. They’re doing a sermon series addressing many of the areas about church/religion/organized religion that I’ve had problems with. So, we decided to try it and it wasn’t awful. Frankly, I think it’s a good place to start to re-explore…what? My faith? Not sure I’ve ever had any. To find something? That is probably more like it. Certainly, it’ll be a way to get to know people, at the very least. All I know is this. I have to do something different. I can’t live my life looking forward only to vacations and getting pissed off when things don’t go right (or my way). I‘d like to be a nicer, kinder person, certainly, a better wife. Well, we’ll see. We went, and I think we’ll go back next Thursday”.
And we did go back the following Thursday (eventually switching to one of the Sunday services); and the rest, as they say, is history!
From weekly worship to gradually becoming involved in multiple Bible studies and other ministries, to volunteering to serve communion once a month to supporting other church activities, the two of us have most decidedly found a church home. Not that it’s all been easy because at times it’s been very painful facing ourselves, some of the things we’ve done (or not done), and forgiving other people who we thought we’d never be able to forgive.
It’s also been a challenge interacting with people from our lives who, if not thinking we’ve gone totally off the deep end, are, at the very least, indulging us with symbolic pats on our backs and a “There, there, there; if it makes you happy, I’m happy for you!” Still harder for me has been what to say to THEM. It’s true; those who are on fire for God, who’ve recently joined The God Squad; want to spread the word; want others to understand and feel the same way. However, over time, I am learning that this is not really my job or responsibility; I mean, I can share what I feel called to share, but in the end, it’s up to them what they chose to do with it. I’ll leave that up to God and these individuals to work it out (or not).
I’m in the middle of a study now where the author is discussing how there can really be no transformation (in a person’s life) without there first being a revelation. When I look back on all that’s occurred in the past two years, and, most importantly, meditate on who Amy was then versus now, I can see how all these little changes here and there have added up to a transformation.
A while ago, a dear friend of mine, whom I was associated with in the years I was married to my first husband and therefore I was then not in any way, shape or form associated with God, asked me the following:
Amy, how did you get to the point you are right now spiritually? I know I'm on my way, but you seemed to get it right away. Maybe I am just too negative of a person. Any suggestions?
Ok, the fact she was asking ME this question in and of itself is pretty rocking amazing! Here is what I said, and it’s what I’d say to anyone desiring a closer relationship with God:
Wow, what a question and a great one, too. I think the fact you are asking the question is a wonderful testament to your desire to grow in your faith. It's so interesting that you asked me this NOW, because I'm in the middle of a new study at church where we've been reflecting on exactly this; where we are today vs. "before". I think for most of us, as with most things, change/growth simply does not happen overnight. It begins with small adjustments and tweaks we make that at the time may not seem like much, but, when we look back, we can begin to see how they've built upon one another and grown to the point where we eventually are changed in significant ways. The author of the book explained it this way; "It's like watching a tendril of ivy as it starts out. If you stare at it, it doesn't do much, but if you go back every week or so to check its progress, you can see its growth. And, when you look at it a year or two or three later, it's totally taken over the wall". Speaking for me now, this was the right time for me to be planted. It's not that I never had the opportunity before to embrace God, I just chose not to. Two years ago was my time and I desired it. I think that's the most important thing. A person has to desire it. No amount of someone trying to coax you into it will help (I'm learning that, too!) YOU need to be ready. I am extremely blessed in that my husband was as eager as I to begin this journey. That's not to say someone cannot do this if their significant other (or family/friends) aren't coming along because I've met plenty of folks who attend church and yet their families do not. It's just easier, is all. Also, we found THE BEST church and church family. I can't stress how important this has been for us. THE BEST in every possible way. We walked in and have never left. For two people that hadn't been to church (save for life events) in 30 years, that's incredible in and of itself. If you haven't already, find a church where you feel at home. And GO. Yes, of course life happens and we can't always attend, but, try to go. Also, get involved in and with The Word. Go to Sunday School. Join a Bible study or join another team that speaks to your talents. Attend some of the special events your church might put on, like Advent or Good Friday services. Serve. Help out at events, offer to serve communion. Join a ministry team. All of this, little by little, bit by bit, opens your heart, mind and soul to receive God's Word and do His will. And PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY. However and whenever you can. Everyone does this in their own way and there is no wrong way. Even if all you do at first is recite The Lord's Prayer or read Psalms or recite back scripture you may have memorized, it's all praying/talking to God. One of our Pastors has a fantastic model to follow for growing in faith which he encourages all of us to try. 40.20.10. Be in worship 40 weeks out of the year. Read the Bible 20 days of the month. Pray 10 minutes per day. It's easy to remember and very doable. And remember, Christ desires perseverance, not perfection. Some days will still be not very good days; sometimes your attitude may not be what you want it to be. That's ok. Keep trying! As our other Pastor says, "Just. Keep. Swimming!" The fact that you are asking ME this question is just another wonderful example of how God works.
And the revelation that had to occur before any of my transformation occur? It came in the form of a toss away newspaper that I didn’t even look at most of the time. God revealed Himself to me in a message series that spoke to MY heart; that addressed all of my excuses for not going to church; for not opening the door to a relationship with Him.
God met me where I was, and He led me home.