I Used To Cry In Church Until An Ex-NFL Star Became My Pastor

I used to cry in church. I used to feel sad and guilty during praise and worship. I used to feel misplaced because the messages never hit home for me. I used to be surrounded by people who looked exactly like me but had completely different values. I used to be judged for my appearances and the clothes I wore to Sunday services. I used to see church as a chore that I never wanted to do.

I have gone to church for as long as I can remember, and I grew up thinking that church was this awful, judgmental place where people go to gossip in the name of the Lord. I had tried many different churches, ranging from youth services to sitting in the middle of a retirement community and none of them felt like home. I longed for a place where I felt accepted and loved but I had given up on this idea.

In August, my roommate suggested that I go to church with her at The Rock. I had always heard about this church and the pastor who was an ex-NFL star, but it seemed too far fetched to be an actual church, but I agreed anyway. I actually was planning in my head to go that day and it seemed like a sign that meant I should go.

I was a little-overwhelmed walking in. There were so many people and they were all different than me, dressed differently than I had seen in a church and they actually looked happy to be there. The band was amazing. I was so excited for the next songs to play and didn't shed one tear. Then Pastor Miles came out and started a new four-week lesson on managing anxiety. I sat there in awe because this wasn't a topic that churches seemed to address. I had been to places that claimed that if they prayed over you, poof your problems would disappear in an instant. Of course, this wasn't the case and I felt skeptical about the whole experience.

This lesson was different, though. He talked about real things you can actually do to work through the problems you face, both spiritually and scientifically. This approach was unlike anything I had seen before and I really liked it. I started going every week, first with my roommate, then with my mom. She had had horror stories about her church experiences, but something was calling us to go there.

A lot of things changed for me when I found the right church. I felt like I had a new support system. People wait with open arms line the front of the room at the end of every service to pray for you or to provide a resource to help. I rededicated myself and was baptized. I felt judged at any other church; why would a 20-year-old still need to be baptized? But I did it, and I was so proud.

After being diagnosed with bipolar and BPD, I felt lost and abandoned but I gained a piece of me back once I walked through the doors to that church. The Rock Church and Pastor Miles built me back up and helped me gain control of my life again so now instead of crying in church, I lift my arms up in praise.

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