The Bible. Have you read it? Do you understand it? Do you believe?
I just joined a 5-week bible study group at church. The one thing I was really hoping would NOT happen is that we go around the room and talk about ourselves. Of course, that is the first thing we had to do. I do not like attention drawn to myself, nor do I speak well in front of people; it is all so very uncomfortable for me.
What we needed to do was to give a brief description of our journey and what brought us to the study group. Thankfully I was about the 10th person so I had a few minutes to try to figure out what the heck I was going to say!
In all honesty, I’m not sure I HAD a definitive reason for being there.
And what exactly did this leader want to hear about my journey, how much did I really want to share.
When it was my turn, I briefly stated that I was brought up in a strict Catholic religion from my fathers’ side of the family and that in my adult life I always had a strong faith. But it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I really dove into my faith and scripture when a Deacon that I knew gave me his Catholic study bible that he used for the bible study groups. It meant the world to me and it was filled with some of his notes.
Then I mentioned that my faith and belief is now stronger than it ever was, and I had never imagined it could be like this! I never knew the craving I would have for scripture; I never knew what it meant to give my life over to Him and be reborn in faith.
The rest of the day I reached deep inside my core, deep inside of my heart to find a better answer.
Some of it I didn’t like.
As I mentioned, I was raised a Catholic. I attended a private Catholic school for the first 4 years of elementary before switching to a public school. After that transition, we had weekly Catholic classes through the school week in the evening and then Mass on Sunday.
But there was nothing at home with religion, scripture or faith. We did say a blessing before our meals, that was it.
By the time I was a teenager, I protested the weekly classes and even church on Sunday. I stayed in bed until I got yelled at, and then like a slug I got ready for church.
When I had my kids, I switched churches and I took my kids to Sunday school but no church service right away. By the time they were old enough to actually sit still for a church service, I was divorced. For several years I did not attend church, nor did I take my kids to Sunday school.
Eventually I found my way back to church and took my kids every other Sunday when they were with me. They fought me, just like I did when I was a kid.
I did the same as my parents; church on Sunday and no bible reading or scripture verses through the week. We even stopped saying the mealtime blessing.
When I was in church, I attempted to read scripture from the bible, but I didn’t understand it and it didn’t make sense to me. I hoped I was getting enough from what the pastor was saying, and I hoped my kids were getting something too.
Then my kids were grown and on their own. They had no religion or spirituality in their life, which I blamed myself. I did manage to get them to attend Christmas Eve service for a few years but then that stopped when they started having kids.
At that point, I was on my second marriage and my husband’s work required us move to Maryland and then Virginia. I stopped attending church again, but I did my occasional praying and thanking God for my blessings.
I knew the basics from my upbringing and had my faith, and I always thought was enough.
By now I had drifted further from the church and I was “open” to the possibility that biblical times were not quite what the bible stated.
I was satisfied with my faith and spirituality. And then it all changed.
By the time we moved from Maryland to Virginia, our marriage was in trouble. And I was realizing that I was in a damaging, selfish and controlling marriage.
I was working in convalescent center in Virginia and the residents and staff were very “religious”, spiritual, and read the bible daily. I became good friends with the Deacon there, and a few other coworkers. And my life was changed.
When I saw how strong everyone was in their faith and the bible, I started asking a lot of questions about Jesus, the bible, heaven, and the path that God had planned for me. One of my friends suggested listening to Joyce Meyer. I was hooked. I craved learning from her, she made things easy to understand. And sometimes, depending on her topic, I swear she was looking through my eyes and into my soul. What she said just resonated with me and I was finally able to understand.
I had a lot of conversations with the Deacon, I craved those intense and deep conversations. I would challenge him on the bible, whether it was really God’s word or just an interpretation from man what they wanted us to believe. It didn’t take long for me to change my views on the bible, so I started looking for my own bible. But there were so many versions, I didn’t know what to choose.
As my faith became stronger and stronger, I prayed for my marriage and what direction I needed to take. I had told my husband not long after we moved to Virginia, that we really needed to work on our marriage. I won’t go into details, but he did nothing to fix us. I suggested we go to counseling, he told me to go instead. So I did, unbeknownst to him.
Between the counseling, the praying and talking to the Deacon; I eventually made the difficult choice to ask for a divorce. And just like that, I was single and living back in my hometown. As I mentioned earlier, my Deacon friend gave me his personal Catholic study bible to take with me. For a few years, I picked it up on occasion but never really did any serious reading.
Now that study bible and another bible are always out; either on my sofa, bed or dining room table. I crave reading it and learning the scripture, I crave learning the culture.
After I moved back home, I did go to my old church a few times, but it had changed. The pastor and choir had changed, the service had changed. And honestly, I got nothing out of it. I sat there listening to them “preach” but heard nothing. I missed my conversations with the Deacon, I learned more about God and the bible from him than I did sitting here in this pew at a church that I once loved. So I stopped attending.
Last year I discovered we had a Christian rock radio station. I have been hooked ever since! I love that station; it is now the only radio station that I listen too. One Sunday morning I was out running errands and on two separate times within 30 minutes a song came on about going to church. I got the message loud and clear.
One of my girlfriends had been talking about making plans for me to attend church with her but we never confirmed a date. When I told her about the message I had gotten, she said “OK, I’ll pick you up Sunday!” I have been going ever since, and in September I joined as a member. I cannot imagine NOT going to church on Sunday.
I have cried during the praise and worship songs; I have been touched by the sermon in such a way that I was brought to tears. I have also made new friends and found some friends that I had lost touch.
Now here I am, in this bible study group for the next 5 weeks. Pondering the question I was asked this morning. Thinking back over my life and my faith journey. I am sad that it took me this long to get where I am in my faith journey, but I am so happy to be here and not back where I was.