My parents didn’t find us a church to go to when we moved to Arizona. For the first time, I had the option to say “no” to church, and that’s just what I did. At fifteen, I focused my energy on making eye contact with people instead of scouring the campus concrete for loose change. I was determined to trade in my glasses for contacts and anxiously awaited the removal of my braces. Basically, my attention turned to the outside and I ignored anything deeper.
God was with me enough to keep me out of trouble, but I didn’t do anything to grow a relationship with Him. As the years passed, my closeness with God faded. I took religion classes in college to fulfill degree requirements, which created more distance. I still wanted to believe, but doubt and confusion crept in because I could see the validity in the other religions. I wondered how every religion could be so sure that theirs worships the one true God.
During college I waitressed to pay bills. Every Sunday, the “church crowd” flocked to the restaurant after services concluded. The men wore their suits and ties; the women donned crisp dresses and high heels. Many of them were courteous, fewer of them were generous, and a handful caused me to develop a dislike of religion and the hypocritical nature of people wrapped up in it.
In church, I remembered being taught about kindness and compassion for mankind. I recall the message of spreading Christ’s word, but not passing judgment. The comment that stung the most came from a church-going couple on a Sunday morning. The man had been demanding and rude to me, and as I turned to walk away, his wife told him as much. His response to her: “It doesn’t matter. She’s just a waitress.” Lucky for him, this waitress was more interested in letting it go than plotting revenge.
I met my husband my last year of college. We were in agreement about the hypocritical church folk. He believed in “something bigger than himself,” but never attributed that “something” to God. Five years after we got married, I started wondering, “What am I supposed to be doing in life?” I felt lost, like something was missing.
After several years of treating God like a distant relative seen only at weddings and funerals, I now looked to Him for direction. If He was a mortal person, he probably would have told me off and showed me the door. Of course, He didn’t do that. But He didn’t reveal His plan for me, either. Then again, maybe he has shown me and I just haven’t noticed it. I am a little slow that way.
I searched for a nondenominational church rather than the Baptist church I grew up with. I only went to churches with a relaxed dress code because I associated ‘church clothes’ with hypocrisy. (At one of the churches, the young pastor even wore flip flops! Seeing the pastor’s toes went a little too far – I never could get used to that and ended up staring at his feet during the entire service).
My husband has come along with me on this journey, but I don’t know if he’s any closer to believing in God. I pray that one day he will. I’m no longer that stubborn (young) girl who had pulled away from God in favor of the illusion of personal control. I humbly admit that I can’t do it alone; I got lost and am asking for directions. My mind is finally open again – possibly for the first time since I was eight years old. I’m eager to learn and ready to grow and prepared to follow the path He leads me down.