Drawing Near and #WhyImStillaBeliever

A week or so ago, I was tagged in a Facebook post asking me to share why I am still a Christian (#whyimstillabeliever). I must admit that it instantly made me afraid to share. Not so much because I am ashamed, but because my thoughts are always so jumbled when it comes to those sorts of questions. I have a hard time explaining truthfully, and clearly. Like most stories of faith, mine is ever-changing and slightly messy.

I grew up in church and never really knew the feeling of being without Christ. I had no idea that I was not a Christian until someone (probably at church) told me so. I was all good with the God thing and the believing thing and the being loved thing. My “salvation prayer” was more of a full surrender prayer to me. I was only eight, so I remember the moment only vaguely. I decided to pray on my knees one night before bed. I had no intention of asking for forgiveness, but I did. Then I continued in a teary-eyed mess telling Jesus that I would absolutely follow Him for the rest of my life. That’s the part I most remember: declaring over and over that I had to follow Him. I needed him, not only for forgiveness, but for guidance the rest of my life. I was determined to be dedicated.

I was the type of youth that never strayed. I followed Jesus, not out obligation, but because I sensed a deep need within myself. I had no desire for parties or much of anything that was “secular.” In fact, I rarely listened to anything other than Christian music (I am forever grateful to my best friend for making sure that I had at least some knowledge of other music choices. I still listen to many of those songs from our Friday Night Mix CD).

Somehow in youth group, I never felt like it was quite where I belonged. I loved (and still love!) my precious church girls, but I remember us gathering in each other’s living rooms or in my little red car and talking about how we wanted to learn so much more. We were ready to go deeper in our faith. I participated in the adult Bible studies and even wrote some of my own in the sanctuary of my bedroom. I never felt like the typical teenager. I was told in high school that guys would not date me because they were intimidated by my faith, but they all thought I was kind. No joke, I was told that I was the type of girl a guy marries, not the kind they date in high school. Needless to say, I was so ready to be with people like me. The ones who wanted Jesus, needed Jesus more than anything else.

Enter college. I finally found my people. I met so many incredible people who were head-over-heels in love with Jesus. They changed my life and my idea of community and discipleship. Those years led to a crazy amount of growth in my faith and my understanding of God. I was finally studying what I loved in my Christian Studies major and I was surrounded by people that were passionate about the same things. I am forever grateful to the professors and friends that made college such a sweet time in my life, and I am so sorry for being horrible at staying in contact. Please forgive me.

There was one friend in particular that I believe confirmed my believe and helped me continue in faith. She died five years ago yesterday. It was her twenty-first birthday.

Ariane was the type of person that had so much passion, it was contagious! She was never the best student or cared very much about being the highest-ranked academic. Truthfully, she never needed that to believe in Jesus. She just needed Him.

The morning of her death, I sat with her at our school’s chapel service. We laughed with each other and enjoyed listening to the row of guys behind us sing “Happy Birthday.” She was as joyful as always, excited for this new year of life.

A mere three hours later, she was dead.

I am forever grateful that I was not in the classroom when she passed out. Instead, I’m left with a fond memory of sitting together, just the two of us, enjoying the morning.

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I find it compelling that most of these #whyimstillabeliever stories include grief or heartbreak. I think that is incredibly telling of our need for healing beyond ourselves. In grief, we find that we cannot pull ourselves out. We need something, someone apart from us. When we are broken and most vulnerable, we are more willing to accept what we do not understand logically.

I find it hard to answer the question of why I’m still a believer. Honestly, I hate pat answers. Always have. I find it hard to believe there’s an easy answer to such deep questions. I’m afraid my answer will be too simple for some, maybe even too simple for my own liking.

The truth is, I’m still a believer because there’s just something about Jesus. His radical love, his ability to sit with the hurting and broken, his compassion, his teachings, his healing. It all compels me to draw near to Him.

I’m sorry to say that I have never been convinced by apologetics or my Sunday school teachers. I do not mean to offend. The simple fact is that I am at my best when I am following Jesus with abandon.

If you were hoping for my deep, logical response, you must be sorely disappointed. I have never been great at debate or convincing. I do not think fast enough for that. Which is why I write.

Yet I am convinced that trying to figure out God and why we must believe in Him somehow misses the point. There is a mystery to God and it draws me to Him all the more. So I still believe.

 

Share your story with me in the comments below. I would love to hear about why you’re still a believer or why you struggle to believe. I get it. Our journeys are messy and often confusing. I’m totally with you.

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Why I Quit Writing and Why I’m Starting Again

Way on back in 2012, I sat in my dorm room probably doing homework. Maybe I was procrastinating on Facebook. Who really knows?

I got a message from a sweet friend telling me that he was sitting at his work study job, which he found incredibly boring, and stumbled across my blog. At the time, I had been blogging for maybe three years and hardly had any traffic. My posts were fairly short and always spiritual. I was encouraged by my mom to start blogging (thanks, mama!) just because she believed I had something valuable to say. So I did it partly for fun and partly because it just felt right.

That sweet friend of mine told me he read half a dozen posts and found my writing “very real and practical.” He even admitted to getting teary-eyed. He thanked me for my openness and for being an encouragement to him on that mundane day.

When I got his message, I was overcome. It was the first time I ever truly felt that my words were important. The first time I believed I could make an impact on people. Which of course is what every overly-devout Christian teenager could ever hope for, am I right?

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A year later, I was just starting grad school and a whole new world of transitions were taking place. I no longer lived in that close-knit community of people who were so like me. Not to mention I was figuring out how to thrive in school when I was already feeling a bit burned out (I can only handle so many 20-page papers, y’all). Of course there was also all of the worry about finding a job that I enjoyed and a husband to share life with and a church that I could REALLY get behind.

Somewhere in the worry, I lost all motivation to write. I stopped journaling (except when it was required of me for class). I stopped jotting down ideas on my sticky notes and church bulletins. My blog fell apart.

I told myself it was because I was too busy. To begin with, I was taking classes that required a great deal of writing. I was already thinking theologically for my professors. I was busy with groups of friends and figuring out how to make a new place nice and tidy. Let’s be honest, I was also entirely fascinated with TV. I had never binge-watched anything before in my life until graduate school. Seriously, I went through New Girl, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey like my life would be incomplete without those characters.

I told myself I wasn’t writing because I was busy. Really, I was just afraid.

Afraid that no one would care to read my thoughts. Even more afraid that someone would challenge my thoughts in a harsh way. Afraid that my words would inadvertently hurt someone. Afraid of rejection. Afraid that my words are not good enough, that I could never compare to someone else.

I was afraid despite encouragement from my professors and my mom (thanks, mama!). I was given opportunities to write for my church and an Advent devotional for my school. Some people must have believed in me, but I could never quite believe in myself.

Despite my fear, I couldn’t shake the yearning to write. For me, writing is therapy. I think more clearly and creatively through writing. The simple truth is that I NEED to write. I feel it deep in my soul where all of my passions reside. I cannot go through one more day of meaningless television and cleaning and cooking without writing something, anything.

Somehow, I think that writing for myself is not enough. I believe that there are other people crippled by fear. I think many people want to be honest and have a safe place where they can express their true beliefs. I am convinced that we all need encouragement and grace in this crazy life. I pray this little corner of the World Wide Web can be that kind of place for someone. That sweet friend of mine convinced me that it’s possible. As we sat at our kitchen table last night, that sweet friend-turned-husband convinced me again.

I hope that you can breathe easy here. I want us to discover truth and light here. Let us not live in fear, but trust that there is purpose and peace through God.

Peace to you,

Anna

 

I would love for us to connect. You can share your fears and doubts here, but don’t feel pressured if you’re not ready. I am all about resting in God, and I hope you can do that here. Join in the conversation through the comments below or feel free to contact me.