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