My story is rather typical. Unfortunately, probably a little too typical.
Mine is the story of a young woman who adopted her parents’ faith, strayed from the church, made her faith her own, and returned. The “returned” part is perhaps the greatest part of this story. And perhaps the part that is still, and will forever be, unfinished.
Mine is a story of finding myself, losing myself, and finding “church.”
I was raised in church, as so many are. I went to Sunday School, Sunday morning church, Sunday night church, and Wednesday night church. I was in AWANA and youth group. I went to Church Camp and served on mission trips. I was “all in” as a kid/teen can get. I became a Christian at a young age and had a thirst to know more about the Bible and be as involved as possible.
As I moved away to college, I had every intention of staying connected to the church. I had heard the age old tale of teens who move away from home, and subsequently, away from God. Throw in the fact that I was attending a public (gasp!) university, and many folks who cared deeply about me feared I was headed for the devil’s playground. But I was determined not to be one of those teens. During Freshman Week, I attended events at the Baptist Student Union and other Christian student groups. I signed up for Bible studies and ate lots of free food like any good Baptist college student.
Well, I got busy. I joined other organizations, got bogged down by school work, and preferred my Sunday mornings be spent in bed. I would go to Church occasionally when I had a ride and went to the BSU on the chance nights I didn’t have an event to work or homework to do. And so, I quietly slipped away from the Church.
That summer I got to spend a month with a missionary family in Australia. I was nervous the family would see through my facade. I was worried I wasn’t “Christian enough” for them. But a month in Australia was pretty cool and I thought this might help me get back into the Christian life I wanted. And it changed me in ways I still cannot describe. We didn’t hand out tracts or evangelize on the street–we did life with people. We met them where they were. We journeyed together. This was the first time I saw Christianity in this way–fully authentic, fully loving, fully free of guilting people into a relationship with Jesus.
When I returned to college I was on fire! I signed up for discipleship, participated in retreats, led music, and even taught at our weekly service. My faith grew more as I spent another semester in Australia with the same missionaries. When I returned to campus my senior year I continued my involvement and grew deeper in love with Jesus. Even through the breaking off of my engagement during my senior year, my faith life thrived. Possibly because I needed hope and love and a Savior more than ever before.
But as I shed my old college life and moved to Chicagoland, I shed that depth of a relationship. I had a job which required me to be on call frequently on weekends, so going to church distraction-free was a problem. It took forever to find a church that I felt called to attend and I knew I wouldn’t be in the town for long, so I avoided committing. I continued this same pattern when I moved to Chicago, as I was again in an on-call role and in a heart space that wasn’t ready to commit to a church community.
When my fiancé moved to Chicago, we were finally in the same city and committed to attending church and getting involved in the community together. It was important to grow our relationship with each other in Christ. We attended a marriage class through our church and felt convicted to get involved in small groups. Six months after we were married, we made the leap and are now involved and engaged in small group faith communities. We’re meeting new friends (something we’re both not good at), we’re engaging with Jesus on a daily basis, and we’re growing our faith.
I’m definitely not in the same place I was in college. But I don’t want to be. I’ve learned more about life, about different social problems, about different ways to engage with Christians and non-Christians. My faith is not that of my parents. It’s not that of my 19-year-old self. It’s a little more liberal. It’s a little more rock and roll. But it is just as Jesus-centered.
It’s not like I “found God” again. I never lost Him. He never let go of me. But I’ve found a community of faith to call home. I’ve found a way to engage with Jesus. I’ve found a new relationship with my husband in Christ.
I’ve found “church.”
Kat lives in Chicago with her husband, Chris, and pup, Riggins. She enjoys running, yoga, cooking, and eating. Kat has her Master’s degree in Higher Education and works as an academic advisor. Kat and Chris attend Park Community Church in Lincoln Park.