*Disclaimer: These are my own personal feelings about God, Religion, etc and if I offend anyone....so sorry!!!*
A couple months ago, I wrote about being hungry....physically hungry. I had done a Hunger Challenge through church and although it was difficult, it seemed to make me acutely aware of a different kind of hunger....a spiritual hunger.
I grew up going to a quaint little Baptist church in my hometown. It was a perfectly lovely church and being a small child, I never questioned anything I was being told. I learned my Bible Verses, I learned the books of the Bible. I sang songs, learned lessons. I am not saying anything I was taught was wrong, but by the time I was in middle school, I was confused, and when high school came along, I was indifferent, and angry, and didn't want to go. I quit going sometime around my junior year.
It got really easy to just not go. I moved out of my parent's house and in with my ex-husband and we didn't go. I got married in a church and still didn't go after that. I had a child and didn't go. Our first babysitter was very involved in her church. She took Evan with her when he was still a toddler. He went to the Awana's program and eagerly learned Bible verses and brought home bags full of candy as rewards, recited them for me, asked questions which I answered, and still I didn't go. I had another child and in the meantime my marriage was unraveling. This would have been the perfect time to go. I even suggested that maybe going to church would help us....we still didn't go. I got divorced, moved out and moved on and I still didn't go.....I was in a relationship that was completely unhealthy......after that ended I felt like I had come to the bottom, I needed something, I just didn't know what that was.
Let's back up about 28 years......One of my clearest most vivid memories of church growing up, was being told by a well-meaning elderly Sunday school teacher, that every time I told a lie; to my parents, to a teacher, even a friend, God was going to punish me. God would always punish me when I did something wrong or bad. Now, I don't like to say I was completely naive but this sweet old woman seemed to know what she was talking about. I mean she had been teaching our class and seemed to know Jesus very well, so whatever she said must be true right? That followed me for a long time and every time I messed up, intentionally or otherwise, I awaited God's Wrath, knowing that at any moment he was going to strike me down, make something horrible happen to me for sinning.
Forward about five years......I was a teenager....listening to rock-n-roll, reading everything I could get my hands on, and (horrors) dancing. All of these were a big no-no. I was told everything I was doing by just being a teenager was a sin, and of course if you sinned, you know where you are going,,,,that fiery brimstone place called H-E-L-L. The end of me going to this church came when our youth leaders showed this horrifying movie about the End of Days, where Jesus comes back and all unsaved people are under the control of Satan. If that lovely viewing wasn't enough, they then made it very clear that anyone in our family who wasn't saved was going straight to Hell. I went home crying and my mom told me we didn't have to go anymore.
So about a year ago, I knew that my life was missing something. I had gotten divorced, bought a house, was raising these two boys, I was in control. I was calling the shots. I needed NO ONE to help me or tell me anything, because I had it covered. My friend Carol suggested I come to church with her. It's a large church. I think that initially is what kept me away. Big churches to me meant anonymity. No one knew you, they just wanted you to hand over cash. Sometimes when I walked into a church I felt like I had a bulls-eye on my forehead. I felt like fresh meat.
So one sunny day in May I packed up the boys and off we went. And yes it was big, but it wasnt' scary. There was a band??? No stuffy choir. People were wearing JEANS! What? Then I am pretty sure the Pastor came out in Jeans. And he appeared to be my age! Where was I?
As the message started, I began to relax, my shoulders coming down from my ears, and all of a sudden this feeling began to come over me. I cannot tell you any words that were said that day. I only know that by the end of the service, and when the band came back out to play, I was almost in tears. I couldn't have told you why, but I can tell you for the next month when I went I felt the same way. I wanted to cry, not with sadness, but with an overwhelming sense of relief, of being exactly where I was supposed to be.
Over the next few months, I installed the boys into their classes, started really listening and reading my Bible and started taking my own classes. As I listened to the Pastor's of the church talk about God and Jesus and his Love for me, for everyone, how anyone can be re-born, realized how I can screw up on a daily basis and it's going to be OK.
These thoughts, these words, richoted around in my head. I could screw up and not immediately be in line for the depths of Hell? I knew Jesus died for my sins, and accepting him meant I was supposed to go to Heaven, but no one had ever explained it that Jesus came for the poor, sick, the down-trodden. My whole life ,Jesus was someone who was a reward for the good, the best, the holiest. Because of my sins, my choices, I didn't think I was a worthy person. Why would I get God's glory when I had left my marriage? Why would I get a second chance? What could I do to change that? As I took these classes, had conversations, I found that most people there had a past, had past sins, and no one judged them for it.
Now a year later, I cannot wait for Sunday. The people of New Covenant have made me feel as welcome as if I'd walked into a family members home. The youth leaders are wonderful with my kids. I want to learn everything I can. I want to hear all the idea's and I want to bring everyone I know to this church. I want to do something bigger than things just for myself and teach my kids the same thing. That we can be good people, with faults, and we are not condemned for being human beings.
I am Hungry.....and it's a good feeling