For oneof my assignments on Spiritual Formation, I was asked to think reflectively over my life, and the seasons or occasions I would place in the category of movements toward God, or away from God, as well as how can reviewing these events in my life through the lens of those two concepts change the way I perceive these experiences. I thought I would share a section of that assignment with you…
First, I would like to relate a story that encompasses both a time in my life when I moved away from God as well as my move towards God. When I was a teenager, my father pastored a Spanish church in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We worked at this church for about 8 years. Our time with this congregation proved to be trying, difficult, painful and yet meaningful in many ways. My father was very strict about the norms and rules of the Spanish Church of God and during that specific time, there was much emphasis on the outward appearance of the person.
One specific memory I have of that time hurt me deeply. I was chatting with some of the young people after a service, when one of my friends asked me, “Are you wearing eyeliner?” I responded affirmative, thinking nothing of it. Well, little did I know this would become an opportunity for some of the young people to teach me about doctrine and why I needed salvation. One of my friends went as far as telling me only prostitutes wear eyeliner. Ouch!
I can honestly say that since I asked Christ into my heart, I have never felt any inclinations to break off my relationship with God. However, that day, I felt such rejection and condemnation that I questioned the validity of many things I had been taught. Although, I didn’t resigned from the faith, I felt myself moving slightly distant and quiet, like a boat that’s left untied at the dock; after a time and with the rocking of the waves, eventually it drifts away. Interestingly enough, I found myself holding on to the word of God like a man drifting at sea. I needed reassurance that I was loved regardless, and that I had done nothing to shame God, the gospel, or my father, who at the time was not too encouraging.
Although, I cannot truly speak of what is like to move away from God in an outwardly way, I can say I thought about the reasons why those who were not Christians had it better, and why I had to put up with such treatment by those who claimed to be full of the love of Christ. I thank God daily that I learned to have a deep appreciation for the Scriptures since I was young, because that foundation carried me through such a difficult time. I learned to dismiss judgmental criticism and accept God’s view of me, according to the scriptures and according to my well-spent time in his presence. That was my moving towards him.
I see this experience as a catalyst in my view of humanity and the need for God’s pure love. Humans are easily affected by criticism and rejection, but God’s intensions are never to alienate, or reject. I’m sure we could all share similar stories of a time/s where our feelings were hurt, and our faith challenged. What should our response be when circumstances affect us in such a way that we can sense ourselves moving away from God?
- Hold on to the truth you know as your anchor. You have to get to a place where you can accept that “nothing could ever separate you from the Love of God…”
- Understand that this world is not your home. Circumstances come and go, but stay focus, you are heading somewhere.
- Know the word. People are unkind, and sadly some of the most awful and hurtful things you will hear might very well come out of the mouth of those who profess to speak for God. You need to have a good and strong foundation.
- As God draws close to you, you need to continue to move towards him. You will need to work hard at this, but that is where you will find the strength you need.
See you next time, at the Invisible Gazebo!