For as long as I can remember, I was raised in the church. I went to Sunday school as a child, then junior high church class, next came the high school classes, and then finally I went to the adult sermons. I remember going through our church classes: 101 for membership, 201 for personal placement development, 301 to start teaching kids a few years younger than me, starting 401 for a small group, and a biblical music class to be on the worship team.
My parents always taught me right from wrong and how it all related back to the Bible. Sure I had some rebellious phases where I didn't want to go because I was confused on how there could ever be anyone who watched out over us and yet let so many bad things happen. Believe me, I questioned so much for a very long time.
It wasn't until I lost a loved one, and heaven gained an angel that I really came back to God; well that was after I got really angry with him first.
My senior year part of my church turned on me, I felt hatred like I never felt before, even high school didn't feel this cold. I knew that this wasn't the way church was supposed to feel, it was supposed to be warm and inviting. I felt anything but that.
It was through this journey that I realized, church and religion aren't for me — but a relationship with God is.
I no longer felt safe in a church, but I still felt safe in the presence of God. It was then that I decided that my relationship with God and where I stood with him was what I cared about. I didn't want the forced ritual of 9 a.m. breakfast and 11 a.m. service with fake people kissing your cheeks and hugging you like they are family, when really you just met.
I wanted something real.
I wanted to kneel on the floor in prayer till my body shook and I felt the power of God around me. I wanted to turn the worship music on loud in my shower and not care if I sounded off key because it was for Him and not me.
I wanted to pray like the warrior I was intended to be, and bring people to Christ without the pressure of the church.
It was then that I decided that a relationship with God was all I wanted.
So when people ask me if I am religious, I say no. Simply because I am not religious doesn't mean I don't believe in God. It just means I value a relationship of communication with Christ rather than with a congregation of people who judge each other every day.
While I know that many will think that my view is tainted by one bad experience, I have to simply ask them this: Isn't every choice and decision tainted by the experiences of the past?
Every decision you make is based on an experience that you've had, or lack of experience, in the past. Your decision to sit with certain people at lunch is based on friendship, good experiences in the past, or bad experiences like sitting alone at a table all of freshman year.
A single sentence like, “I love you" or “We've lost him," can change your next decision. It can change your outlook on life. This single instance within my church has changed mine. It has allowed me to see that I don't need to go to a service every Sunday to be able to talk with God.
I now know that for me a relationship with God is all I need, not the rituals, hail Mary's, or confessionals. I now know that for me, all I need is a place to kneel and pray. It doesn't have to be a chapel or a sanctuary. It can be a house, a school, or a sidewalk bench. As long as I have my time with God, I know that I'll be okay.