Much like many families I grew up with in the Bible Belt, I was raised in church. We were there every Sunday morning, rain or shine, and every Wednesday night as long as one parent was off work. The majority of the time I was excited to go, but only for my few friends that I had class with. It was never really about God or religion, but rather a social calling for me and required family time. As any good student, in class and out of class, I paid attention. I memorized Psalm 23, could distinguish different locations on a map and could tell you names of the twelve disciples. I went through the motions of being a believer for the sake of pleasing my parents. It was one of the best things my parents could have done for me.
Even though I was just going through the motions to please my parents, I learned a lot about Jesus and his love for the world. I would have never admitted it to them then, I probably wouldn’t have admitted it to myself either, but church gave me a lot of insight on life in general. By my parents making me go to church, they formed an incredible base for me, as an adult, to stand on. They taught me to pray even if I only did it out of selfishness when things didn’t go the way I wanted it to. They taught me to forgive even when every ounce of me said not to. And they taught me to have faith even in the midst of a storm.
But ever bigger than those things, they gave me hope for a better tomorrow. I stopped going to church sometime in high school. I was angry about life and how things had panned out. I had to move to a new town, make new friends, lose relationships, have my first heart break by myself and grow up in a matter of weeks. Everything about my life seemed awful. I even stopped praying. This went on for about three years. I didn’t start praying again until my world got turned upside down by someone I thought I loved. Again, I was selfish and didn’t pray until something didn’t go my way.
I spent years blaming God for deaths, for my parents divorcing, for my boyfriend not loving me the way I wanted him to, for basically everything that had ever gone wrong in my life. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized that all of this had led me on a certain path. Had none of those things happened exactly when they happened, I probably would have never met my husband. I probably wouldn’t have had my two beautiful little girls. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have found the best church I have ever stepped foot in.
Earlier this year, I was bound and determined to find a church where we belong. I wanted our daughters to have a solid base to stand on, even if they were just to go through the motions like I did. I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and praise God for giving me another day to live. I wanted to be able to show my daughters the same kind of love that He has shown me. I needed for them to be able to know how to pray, how to forgive, and how to be faithful. Knowing God through a personal relationship was no longer a solo journey for me, but a journey that I wanted my family to be a part of.
It did take a few different church tries to find the right one. While I grew up in a church with less than a hundred members, somehow the church we fell in love with is big enough to need three different sanctuaries. We have been going to this church at least two Sundays a month since February, but we aim for every Sunday. I will never know how anyone actually makes it on time to anything with two toddlers and a husband, but my intentions are always pure. With me being in church, my life has felt easier. I’ve started praying more, letting more things go and enjoying the little things. Earlier this week I went to my first small group and was able to pray with a dozen other women on our personal requests. It was amazing. The amount of freedom I feel now that I have found the right church is amazing.
If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, this is me extending an invitation to try our church, World Outreach. Pastor Allen Jackson is amazing and always knows just what to say. You can feel the love running through the building every Saturday and Sunday. If you aren’t sure that the time is right for you, you can even find Pastor Allen Jackson on television, listen to his podcasts and share our journey from the comfort of your own home. And if you just want to start off small, find a small group that they offer. I’ll see you there.