Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Baptism of Job

O.K. - a confession: I'm not actually "new" to faith.  Actually, I have attended one church or another off and on for years. When I was a baby, I was sprinkled and blessed in a Baptist church in Winston Salem, N.C., and I even got to play the angel Gabriel in the Christmas pageant when I turned 5.

After our move to Virginia in 1986, we started attending a Presbyterian church, and I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and Wednesday night potlucks and every Easter service.

I knew who Jesus was. And God. And I had heard of the Holy Spirit. I knew that Christmas was in honor of His birth and Easter was in honor of His death and resurrection. I even knew the words to the Lord's Prayer.

But after my parents got divorced, we just stopped going. I didn't really lose faith. I just forgot it.

In high school, I bounced around with an eclectic group of friends - no one really "bad," actually everyone was really nice. Some were religious, Christian even. I was friends with a small group of Catholics, some Quakers, some Mormons, a Methodist here and there... but not me. I was nothing.

Politically, I was raised to be a socially-liberal democrat, and as those politics mixed with the negative stereotyping of Christianity that goes with them, I developed a bitter taste in my mouth for religion. Not God - just "the church."

Now, to be fair, I identified myself as a Christian, and over the years, I had pangs of religious conviction, especially around the holidays. In my heart, I have always felt the tug of God telling me where to go, what to do, or how to live.

In the last five years, I've visited just about every denomination: Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Church of the Bretheren, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Church of God, and even several Catholic services (well, I was singing in the school choir, but it counts). And in some, I've felt the presence of God. Others, not so much. But I've always looked for it. I've always wanted it.

I've never lacked conviction, just faith.

Faith is a problem when you're an overly-analytical know-it-all. And I am. A horrible one.  It doesn't help that I've never actually been taught how to be a Christian either.

No, that wasn't a typo. I know how to look like a Christian. I know what a Christian says. I know what they attend. I even know the entire first verse to "Amazing Grace," but I can't honestly say that I've ever been a Christian, at least not in the way that I want to be. Not in the way that I admire in others.

I also have trouble with depression and anxiety, and that can make acceptance and belief in the grace and goodness of God difficult, if not down right impossible, at times.

This may be why I have always found the story of Job particularly relevant and convicting in my life. It's my favorite book of the Bible, and his prayer in chapter 42 is my prayer.

In the last two months, I've had a renewal of faith.  I don't know why or what happened to cause it, but for whatever reason, I suddenly wanted to find a church again, and more specifically, I felt called to ask my co-worker about hers.

So far, it's a fit. It's what I need right now - a body of energetic, young, passionate people who have welcomed me and my family with open arms. A pastor and music ministry with dynamic personalities and a strong, emotionally charged style. A friend and mentor who is giving me guidance and support to find my own walk.

I'm 32 now, and I find myself endeavoring to overcome this spiritually destructive past. I'm back in a place where I can feel God's presence again, and I am so happy to finally have that back, but I am also scared to death that I will lose it again. 

So, that's what this is about. I'm chronicling the difficulties, doubts, challenges, and questions that I have as I learn to be a Christian, a real one. Hopefully, I'll also be able to report on some successes.

In the mean time...

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

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