As a child growing up in the Assemblies of God church, I remember feeling torn between two views of Christianity. I understood the phrase regarding the Trinity, Triune God, but I lacked any awareness of how it played out in real life. The pastor on Sunday evening would tell the congregation of the heathen ways we’d spent the last week. He would call us down to the altar to repent, to be saved from the wrath of God. And yet, in the morning Sunday School class and children’s church, the youth minister would tell me of His great love. I’d sway to the melody and cling to the words of Jesus Loves Me. The two were separate. And the Holy Spirit was just there, between them, acting as a buffer.
Throughout my adult life, I struggled with the conflicting perceptions and wondered if I could even call myself a Christian. I searched for answers, took long breaks from attending church, and withdrew from society at one point to have solace and find out what I believed. Because if I wasn’t a Christian, who was I?
When I studied Criminology in college, I took a spiritual counseling course. The instructor was an Episcopal Priest and he had each student take a personality quiz that would guide us to the religion most suited for our inner self. The answer was the first discovery in a decade and half journey to finding my (religious) identity. It told me I should be Catholic. My eyes opened a little bit that day and I didn’t feel so bad about not always wanting to raise my hands, speak in tongues, and run up and down the aisles of the church. I was simply a fish out of water in a charismatic setting. I needed order, tradition, and liturgy.
When I married, my husband came from a Southern Baptist background. I tried to be the good wife and attended services for a few years. When he said we should become members, I had to come clean. I told him I hated the philosophy of the church and didn’t want to adhere to an organization that I opposed so strongly.
We found a new church, 45 minutes away from our house. But it kept us attending as a family, which we both valued. The next 10 years challenged me in ways that shook my faith to its core. We moved overseas and built a resume of living across four continents, five countries and traveling to nearly three dozen others. We served in Central Asia, West Africa, The Balkans, USA, and Western Europe. Human rights violations were a daily occurrence and my utopian idea of heaven seemed so far away it must be a fantasy island.
After moving home, I slowly healed, open to the idea of attending bible study. I volunteered with a preschool for homeless families, and even joined the flower guild at my church. Eighteen months later, the heavy weight I’d been carrying for ten years seemed to finally be lifted. I read the creation story in Genesis. I saw a new side of God. A compassionate side. I saw that when he sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Paradise, it was a blessing.
If we were to stay there, we would be destined to live forever with the knowledge of good and evil. I had carried that burden for a small part of my life and it was too great. To never die, to live with the truth and reality of evil things people do to other people, that is no life. I had a real epiphany and moment of clarity. I can die, release this knowledge and live in paradise, reconciled and restored.