Lent.I grew up in a small Baptist Church- my life almost revolved it. My Mema had been a founding member of said establishment, my mom was a baby in the nursery, I was a baby in the nursery, I dated the pastor's son for years, and my best friend- my forever friend- was the pastor's daughter.
My Dad, originally from New Jersey - my Mema lovingly referred to him as Yankee- is Catholic. One of the stipulations my dad had to agree to when he married my mom, was that the children would be raised in her faith.
Oddly enough, this never provided any real confusion for me, if anything I liked that I got learn about another view point of Christianity. My grandparents were the real deal, the old-school - wish-masses-were-in-Latin, kind of Catholics. The never ate meat on Fridays, ever- and they gave up meat for all of Lent.
In the Baptist faith, or at least the one where I was raised, there is no observing of Lent. There was never any mention of it, as Christ did all the sacrifice for us, there was no need to sacrifice now. But secretly, I was always jealous when I would hear my friends and family talk about what they were giving up. It was like a bonding experience for them and provided many an awkward moment when they'd ask me what I was giving up. They knew I was a Christian, but when I'd say that we (Baptists) don't do Lent, I could read that their minds were saying "Oh, she's one of those Christians."
Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that used to be such an assured Christian, I didn't doubt what I believed- I knew it was true. I made it through all of high school and college without a doubt that entrance into Heaven required acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, that He died on the Cross at Calvary to save us from our sins, and that without Him we were doomed. I even went on a missions trip to Peru to help spread and preach the Gospel.
Oddly enough, my testimony thrived on interaction with disbelievers and skeptics. I used to love telling them how I knew everything the Bible said was true- it was like a challenge for me- to see if I could sway them to the light. When my faith crisis occurred, I was surrounded by other like-minded people. It seemed to me that everything I had been taught to believe was making me miserable, was responsible for everything that was breaking me.
I had so many questions, but no answers. Nothing would infuriate me more than having someone tell me "His Ways are not our ways." I became furious with my mom for raising me the way she did, because I was forever ruined - there was no way I could reconcile what I had been taught was true with what I actually believed was true. Even if I could convince myself that I had found "the real truth" there would always be that voice in the back of my head saying "this is wrong."
Since I had Spencer, my faith crisis has changed and evolved. I don't want to raise her with a constant fear of burning in Hell for all eternity, but at the same time, I know it's my duty to make sure she is raised to love and know the Lord and for her to know and believe she needs salvation. It's something I think about all the time, going around and around.
In the last few months I have begun feeling a shift. This entire time I have been using the excuse that since I no longer believe what I was taught, but also unable to actually disbelieve it enough to have faith in something else, then I'll just believe in nothing. But this hasn't worked for me either, especially since I don't really believe "in nothing." In my heart I do believe in "Something."
One of the main things I dislike the most about my spiritual upbringing beliefs, is the constant focus on the afterlife, that this is Satan's world and as Christians we should not be of the world. But I am of this world, I was born here for a reason and I don't think the only reason I'm here is so that I can go to Heaven one day. I believe that as a Christian the most important work you can do on this Earth is be an example of God's love- helping others, giving of yourself to those in need.
I've always been taught that good works will not get you into Heaven, so much so that it seemed that doing good works was wrong. One particular message that I remember vividly, was about NOT donating money to charities- donate to God. I guess I understand the original concept behind this (not letting good works trick people into thinking they're going to Heaven) but the execution of it went a bit awry.
I let all these things get in the way of, and almost destroy, my faith in God and Jesus. But, No More!
I have deeply missed the comfort of believing in something, I have missed not being able to pray because I was afraid if I prayed something terrible would happen. If lukewarm Christianity was akin to dog vomit, then I would just be icy cold; but this hasn't worked for me either.
I have been doing a lot of soul searching, book searching, Bible searching, Internet searching, and I think I'm ready to go back to church, to go back to God. I want to be challenged spiritually, but also challenged to be the best version of myself here on Earth.
For the first time in years I'm excited about my faith again. I still have a long way to go, a LONG way, before I'll be able to put aside the years I've spent putting up a wall against all things related to my Christian beliefs. But it's a start. A start that I felt important to share with you, Internet, on this first day of Lent.
I'm not giving anything up for Lent, instead I'm giving something to myself.
I'm going to pray.
I haven't said a real prayer in a long time but the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." I really feel that the best way to restart my relationship 2.0, with Him, is to spend some time everyday with Him in an "effectual fervent prayer" and I'm hoping the righteous part will start to happen.