I grew up with faithful Christian parents who impressed on me the importance of going to church every Sunday, memorizing Bible verses, and praying together every night and at the dinner table. I knew a lot about God and the stories of people like Noah, David, and Paul, but did not see how any of it had to do with me. Reading the Bible felt like a chore and praying was an inconvenience that kept me from going to bed early. I didn’t realize that all the “facts” I knew about God did not necessarily equate to having a relationship with him. I couldn’t understand how God could possibly fit into my busy life of trying to make friends, seeking validation from guys, and getting good grades to maintain my status of being “perfect.”
However, it wasn’t until a friend’s parents started Young Life during my senior year of high school that I realized I needed community and a place where I could talk about my struggles and faith. Some of my Christian friends invited me to go to the Friday meets where we would play a game, listen to a lesson from the Bible, then break up into small groups to talk about it and pray. Something stirred within me every Friday afternoon after school. There was something safe and secure about being amongst other Christians that made me feel like I could let my guard down.
As I prepared to go to college at the University of Kentucky, I promised myself that the first thing I would find was a Christian ministry to get involved in. During welcome week at UK, I found Christian Student Fellowship, a college ministry that seemed to be having fun events all the time. I quickly got involved, began attending the Thursday night worship nights, the weekly freshmen gathering, and a freshmen small group. It was amazing to witness the faith of other believers who really knew God and His Word and were not afraid to talk about it.
Worship music was how I felt more connected to God. I had a lot of emotions that were difficult to process, but as I listened to the lyrics that praised God’s character and retold the experience of being found by Him, I would get so overwhelmed that I would cry. The crying would mostly occur in my dorm room, but I was thankful that God met me in those moments, pursuing me, revealing more of my sin-nature, and showing me my need of Him.
Having community was also very important for me. Being in a small group with other believers where we would study the Bible, have accountability, and pray for each other, I realized how much I needed the space to be honest about my struggles. Having to be transparent was very difficult, as I was afraid that people would judge me for not being as “perfect” as I appeared and abandon our friendship once they saw all my shortcomings. However, when I would witness the vulnerability of them sharing their own struggles, I would be reminded that no one is perfect, God isn’t condemning us for our faults, and that He loves us just the way we are and enough to draw us to Himself and His people, where we can receive encouragement, support, prayer, and healing.
Even now, as I still struggle to remain transparent in Christian community, I know there is room for grace. My relationship with God is so full of depth, as I intentionally spend time listening to worship music, reading His Word, and being in communion with other believers. There are periods of my life where I think I can keep from sharing what I am dealing with and not attend a small group, but I know those are the periods when I struggle the most. I am thankful that God not only pursued me through worship, but also through His people. He created us to be in community with others and I want to keep running back to where I fell in love with Him in the first place.
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