A couple of days ago, I expressed gratitude for my job. I’m also grateful for the church I serve, Pilgrimage United Church of Christ in Marietta, GA. Here’s a beautiful testimony of a new member, someone who thought being “spiritual but not religious” was enough. I am so grateful to be part of a Christian community that—though not perfect—does live God’s welcoming love with integrity and grace.
After reading a very inspiring essay by Seth Adam Smith entitled, “Marriage Isn’t for You,” I substituted Seth’s words and expressions into a thought that God isn’t for me. See, I have not attended church regularly for 25 years. I did not think I needed church. I consider myself a “spiritual” person with a solid childhood of mandatory church attendance three times a week courtesy of my parents. I make donations to worthwhile charities. I try to live a gentle life and obey laws. To me, church was a social gathering of people who felt a need to belong and a have a sense of security. In addition, I don’t like labels and membership comes with labels.
All of this changed for me in April 2013. My husband and I hit a final wall in our quest to become parents, and the result was devastating. In my mind, my world had imploded. I was void of hope. I lost my purpose. My identity would forev…er be “childless.” No grandchildren would ever affectionately call me, “Nanny.” I gave up on life, as it had betrayed me.
After a week of existence in the bed, I realized a needed a life line, if I was going to survive. So, I prayed. I prayed again and again and again. With each prayer, I felt strength and a will to continue. I kept praying and God led me to a church I visited seven years prior. I listened carefully to the minister as she spoke. I listened to the words of the choir as they sang. I was greeted with warm handshakes and smiles. I kept visiting the church every Sunday, and I kept praying.
During my enlightened stage, I became aware of how much I changed. I was kinder to people and more patient. My soul felt compassion and tenderness. I had a deeper desire to help others in addition to writing a charitable check. I no longer censored myself on saying “God” in front of others or praying in public. I felt doing these things made God pleased with me. It was then I realized that God isn’t just for me. I am for God. I have a true desire to become the person God intended me to be. I wake every morning with a drive to be the kind, gentle, patient, loving, and forgiving person that God created. I live every day now with the goal of making God happy with me. I discovered living to please God brings more meaning and purpose to my life than chasing after my own desires and expectations.
Did I join the church? Yes, and it was definitely one of the best decisions for me. I am a proud, label-wearing member of my church. We pray, eat, laugh, and cry together. I am finding ways to be of value to my new church, and I believe this pleases God. So, I will admit that God isn’t for me. I am for God, and life is better than ever.