Falling in love, for real

My journey to faith has been a while in the making. I have always had an affinity with Christ – and I say “affinity” because to be honest, until recently I couldn’t say ‘’love”.  I was searching, albeit in an ad-hoc manner, for something that I wanted to feel, but just couldn’t.

I was baptized a Christian and grew up in a house that was very relaxed about God. We called ourselves Christians – the type that ticked “Christian” on questionnaires, if asked.  And, that was about the extent of our collective faith.

Despite our apathy towards God I chose to attend Church as a young girl.  Perhaps it was because my best friend went. I had a good time and especially enjoyed youth group.  But Church? My heart was never in it. I day-dreamed and didn’t really take much in – I just thought being there was enough.

I struggled with anxiety and depression during adolescence and stopped going to church around 16 years of age.  Why waste my time on somewhere I felt I didn’t belong? Church was not cool, and God didn’t really figure in my life.

However, when my husband asked me to marry him, I insisted we marry in a Church.  I wanted my marriage to be blessed by God – in His house. I did a quick ‘refresher’ on Christ before I met the minister who would marry us.  He asked a few questions and we discussed faith. But, again, I didn’t have my heart in it.  I think I just loved the idea of a church wedding, or perhaps it was just the right thing to do.

After the wedding I didn’t attend church until I had my first child.  I insisted he be baptized.  I came across an Anglican minister when he was officiating at a funeral of a friend. He must have said something quite profound and I was captivated by his message at a time of great sorrow.  Ah, I thought to myself, he’s the one I want to baptize my son.  About two years later, I tracked him down. He talked to me about my faith and asked me to attend Church BEFORE he would baptize my son.  I obliged… nothing ventured nothing gained.

I attended Church almost every Sunday for about 18 months – until just after our second child was baptized.  I did enjoy Church and found myself in tears on occasion – so overwhelmed I was with the message. And yet, I still didn’t feel I belonged in Church. When the Minister moved to another parish, I found the excuse I needed to stop going.

Then last year a friend invited me to Alpha, which offered a “free feed”.  I said to myself that I would go along for the first one – just to see and appease my friend. I was greeted with a big smile and even bigger ‘welcome’. So far, so good… and the people looked okay – they looked ‘normal’, and happy.  The room was warm and inviting. And yes, the dinner was good too.

The video commenced after a short introduction from the minister.  I was secretly wishing for a stiff drink to help me through it.  It was a great production – with good music and imagery and snippets of conversations from people ‘on the street’. The presenters were young, attractive and amenable. And here’s the thing… the message was exactly – EXACTLY – what I was looking for.

The first night’s topic was “Is There More to Life than This?” It was presented in a laid back, refreshingly friendly and contemporary way.  And for the sceptics, like me, there was some sound, solid evidence to support the message.  “Oh my,” I thought, things have changed in the Church!  And I liked it.

I was disappointed when the video ended. I wanted more.  I joined a small group made up of about eight ladies. We sat in a circle and our group leader, asked us to introduce ourselves and tell the group how we came to be at Alpha. I was a little bit embarrassed at first – I admitted to being a fraud.  The group of ladies all laughed, and someone said, “I love your honesty”. And someone else said, “Don’t worry, that’s how I feel too”.  Really?  The session wrapped up at 9pm and I didn’t want to go home.  I left feeling lighter and happier than I had felt in a very long time.

Alpha became the highlight of my week.  I learned something new – and exciting – about Christ, and about Christianity each week.  I enjoyed the videos – and the people who told their stories.  These were REAL people with all sorts of tales to tell.

I loved our group chats, and I love the ladies in our group.  We are all different, and yet, we are all the same.  We all contribute in a respectful and harmonious way.  We are all on the same page – or should I say – path.  Some of us are well along the path of our journey to faith, others, like me, are just at the start. It does not matter.  I have been overwhelmingly embraced by the people at Alpha and St Mark’s.  It’s like coming home.

And after Alpha?  I read the Bible as often as I can.  I didn’t make a promise to read every day – because I’m good at breaking promises – but as often as I can.  I pray – or talk – to God every day, sometimes all day, it seems… He doesn’t get tired of me!

I am no longer a spectator watching from the sidelines – I’m in there – I’m part of the fellowship. And, most importantly, I am there because I want to be there.  I belong. And it’s amazing.

I am a Christian. I love Jesus. For real this time.

By Pip Nielson