Friday, September 20, 2013

Because God is love.

The topic of faith has been on my mind a lot recently. I wouldn’t say I lost my faith these past few years, but I had lost my way. Just as I had found a path and started walking, someone who was trying to keep me on that path came and knocked me so far off that I couldn’t tell which way was up, never mind which way was forward.


The year leading up to my first relationship was filled with Sunday night walks, arm in arm with my best friends, to the small chapel on our college campus. It was easy because they brought me with them, and since it was Sunday evening, there were so few distractions that I had no excuse.

I sat in the chairs linked together to form makeshift pews, listening to the pastor who always had a funny story to tell. It was obvious his calling was to preach to college students because I was rarely bored or out of focus. I felt welcomed. I felt warm. I started to feel at home.

Just as soon as this happened, it seemed, a boy came into my life. This is not your typical story, though, of a boy who wrecked my faith because of the terrible, un-Godly things he did. No, this is the opposite.

This boy was a Christian – he had the same root beliefs that I did – but he scared me into thinking I wasn’t good enough. I had to say this specific prayer or else my faith wasn’t real; it didn’t count. He was sad because his non-Christian friends were definitely going to hell. Eventually, he became concerned for my family and my friends because, well, they were all going to hell too, and we really should save them.

None of it made sense. None of it felt right. And yet, I followed through with it. I said this prayer because it was what I believed, even though it made me uncomfortable to have to prove myself. Almost as soon as I said it, I felt like a fraud – even though it was the truth! – but we had conquered this one obstacle and now we could be together.

What made the least sense is that, as important as it was for me to profess my beliefs to him, once it was done it seemed no more important to him than it did to anyone else I knew. I expected an avid church-goer with an unshakable faith, no matter what life circumstances he was in; someone who sat and prayed with me every night and who always looked to God for comfort.

Perhaps that was my own error; perhaps he misrepresented himself. Perhaps I simply caught him at a bad point in life, where it was easy to tell someone else to have faith, but difficult to have it yourself. Whatever the situation, I felt that the angst over proving my faith was all for naught except that I was good on paper:  now I was ‘saved’ and that’s all that mattered.


Two months ago, I witnessed a miracle (well, heard about it on Facebook). I sat alone in my bedroom, scrolling down the Facebook page, refreshing to see what mundane statuses my friends were all adding. Then I read the words that proclaimed “Emily’s got new lungs” and burst into tears.

Prior to this announcement, I had been praying harder than I ever had. Emily, a dear friend of mine with cystic fibrosis, had gone to the hospital because her lungs were failing and things weren’t looking good. Every few days we had an update of stagnant or worsening conditions. I spent nights begging God to give her lungs, to give her breath, to take every complaint I made about being tired and transform it into energy for her.

Because before all of this, before that boy, before those walks on my college campus, Emily was my best friend and she was a living, breathing, spirited witness to God’s greatness. She suffered from illness her entire life, yet thanked God for each and every good thing, even when it was hard to see those good things.

She brought me to her church without any pushing, assumption, or pretext. She simply said, “come with me, we get to sing, you’ll like it.” She sat with me in the cushioned pews, sang along with the songs, told me what was being discussed if I didn’t understand. She simply showed me – both in behavior and through my trips to her church – what it was to love God and have faith.

I learned a lot about my faith from two people who shared the same beliefs but practiced them in far different ways. The way to lead others to God is to live such a faithful and God-filled life that others will follow, something that Emily has done her entire life. That was something my ex-boyfriend did not understand, though I hope he one day does.

In the end, it took a drastic situation to put me back on my path and facing the right direction. I watched hundreds of people pray for Emily – some who were total strangers – and that, along with her own strong faith, called God down to heal her, to give her new lungs.

I sit here today praying a little more often, having a much stronger faith, and making plans to start going back to church, because one girl – one friend – showed me what it’s like to have faith. But more importantly, that’s all true because God is love.