I started going to church when I was 3 years old. My mother had grown up in church, and when she married my father, she wanted to return to church and devote herself to the love, worship and praise that was there. My dad wasn’t really into the idea–he wasn’t completely against church, but he was adamant he wouldn’t go. Against my father’s wishes, my mother found a church nearby and then took me. Finally with his wife and daughter convincing him that church could be a good thing (which who knows what 3-year-old logic I used, I mean honestly), he decided to go. Not shortly thereafter, my father was Saved.
The church was a nondenominational Christian church, but all nondenominational churches in Georgia certainly still lend themselves towards a southern Baptist style–especially in the ’90s. So, being Saved isn’t abnormal. Neither is baptism, depending on the church, but for me baptism has never been the only path into Heaven as some denominations teach.
My father has always been the type of man to dive head-first into something and commit as wholly as he can to it. He’s always been a great example for me. When he was a teen and wanted to play guitar, he did it. He had bands, he played in the Masquerade, and he still plays today–still trying to learn new songs and styles. (He called me the other day and said he’s working on “Johnny B Goode” right now, and I laughed because he’s such a metal head.) When my father wanted a better job, he worked his way up from a dock worker at Watkins (which was later bought by FedEx) and became the operations manager. He’s even proven himself as a cop–well, he does casework now instead of patrolling, but still–he just got officer of the year from his department. And when I was 3 years old, he did his best to learn as much Greek as he could so he could read the Greek Bible–to digest God’s word as organically as it came.
Unfortunately, in recent years, I haven’t followed that same example. I’ve learned a lot from being a member of a few churches over the years, and even visiting friends’. I know what I like, what I don’t like, and I have a pretty solid idea of what I think worship should be at its core. But I’ve fallen off of my devotion.
When I moved out of the Bible Belt, it was a stranger experience than I thought it would be. God and religion is pretty heavily encountered in the South–even if it’s just something people say, like “Thank God,” or “Bless your heart,” those expressions come from a rooted upbringing and culture devoted to Christianity (or at least, religions that observe the same God, typically). You don’t really understand how different it can be until you’re not there. We make jokes that we’re in the Bible Belt, but it really can be a culture shock to be out. And because I was out, I suddenly wasn’t around the Bible like I had been. And even more than I ever did in college, I ran into way more people who didn’t believe or were vehemently against religion here. It’s hard to find comradery in faith when you look around and there is none. That’s when all of the fault of your faith lies on just your shoulders.
Just as the verse above says, God didn’t give us a timid spirit, He didn’t raise us to not be in control of who we are and what we do. He wants empowerment. I want to make Him proud. You know when your parents say “I’m disappointed in you,” and it’s the worst thing they could ever say? I never want to hear those words from God. I do my best to live with love, and that is the Bible incarnate, but if I’m also not carrying his Word on my tongue then I’m only doing a fraction of the work.
I don’t speak much of my faith here (on this blog or in this city), because I didn’t want to step on toes–that’s not a good enough reason to just not say anything, to not stick up for yourself. We’re so passive as people, but we have to learn to be active and involved. And I have to learn that with and through God. My church is my home, my Bible the Word and my God my everything. I need to take that more seriously, and stop acting as if God will understand if I just stop praying as much and keep my mouth shut.
I’ve written about what the song “Amazing Love” means to me before. The words are as follows:
Devotion to God can come in many forms: praying every day, praising God in the moments you are reminded you are blessed, reading the Bible, singing worship songs in church or in your most intimate moments, and sharing the Word with others. I still believe that everyone should experience faith, religion and/or spirituality at their own pace–even if in the end they decide that it’s just not for them. I still believe, and God believes, that we all deserve that freedom. But I’m tired of being afraid to serve God. How could I possibly be with the love He has shown me?
You may also want to read: “Your Word, My Word, The Word, a Word,” “Have Faith” and “Amazing Love“