I have been thinking a lot more recently about the relationship between words and actions. There seems to be a running conversation about such a relationship everywhere I turn, but most especially within the Christian community. Every Christian that I know finds themselves pulled in a thousand different directions, especially between evangelism and leading by example. Much of this, I can completely relate to. My stance on outward evangelism isn’t by any means hidden from the public, but at times, I feel as though the lines between preaching and leading by example get seriously blurred in ways that I am not sure I can tolerate any longer. My summer in California taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson that I will ever learn in my lifetime – that being a Christian isn’t about saying the right things or having a record number of converts to your name. In fact, I’m not sure that these things will get you anywhere in the long run. I can tell, from personal experience, that saying things that might be perceived as the right things really don’t matter in the end. Or rather, saying that you believe something just to fit into a certain crowd ultimately will come back to haunt you. Not saying that such a thing has happened to me, but I feel that during my time at Smith, I have done two things – explore my faith in ways that I would never have had the opportunity to back at home, and as a result of these explorations and experiences, I have made conclusions about what type of Christian I don’t want to become in the years to come. I am not going to make a list of the statements that belong in either category, but I feel it necessary to make the point that college, without a doubt affects one’s faith and also how they relate their faith to the rest of their lives. This leads me to say something that many might find risque or ridiculous. Over the last 3 years, I have had the tremendous opportunity to explore my faith and beliefs, growing up and out in various directions as a result. At times, I find myself falling prey to saying what I think should be said, rather than what I believe in order to appease others or, as I thought earlier, to appease myself. I know this may seem unpopular to some, and for that I apologize. But I find it completely necessary to come clean about faith, and specifically what I believe, especially since I am approaching the end of my time at Smith College, and the beginning of another greatly desired and long-anticipated chapter of my life.
Back in the 9th grade, my RCA church required us as confirmands to write a faith statement. You might ask, what is a faith statement? It is exactly what it sounds like. My faith statement was probably the first time I knocked personally on God’s door without the help and prompting of others. In this statement, I described what I believed in explicit detail as a 14-year-old. I probably should have done another faith statement at the end of my high school years, as much changed in my spiritual life between the 9th and 12th grades, but now is a better time than any, as I am going to enter a new environment in July. Over the last 8 years, I have learned that a faith in God is not like swimming in the shallow end of a swimming pool, where the bottom is always within reach. Rather, having faith in the divine is like swimming amongst the waves of the ocean – it ebbs and flows, comes in and eventually goes out, but no matter what, the “waves” always come back in to shore. My faith has been much the same way; I have gone through periods of extreme devotion, where I have spent every waking, unoccupied moment in the Bible, in prayer and doing devotionals and worship services. But as is the human condition, I have also had moments of doubt and confusion, or as I have often called it, God and I are “on a break.” Our relationship had by no means ended without the possibility of reconciliation. Rather, I felt distant from God, when in reality, it is highly likely that God was right there with me. But regardless of God’s geographical location, I have experienced faith highs and lows, as most devout churchgoing Christians have. This phenomena is also not uncommon among college students, who are subject to constant stress and pressure. During the moments when stress is especially high, they seem to unintentionally list from God.
I suppose the topic I want to address most is the phrase, “God’s will.” This is by far the most puzzling “Christianese” phrase I have encountered since I came to college. I grew up probably not hearing that term at all. But since I came to Smith, I have been inundated with the phrase and its common usage. My favorite example is that my torn cartilage was “God’s will.” RCA theology does not believe in the complete control of God in our lives. Rather, as is a factor in Calvinist theology, we as humans have some element of freewill and are under the control of God to some extent. In response to this, I believe that my torn cartilage isn’t a part of God’s greater plan for my life, and I will never state that it is. I think that I became too eager and too zealous during a cycling event and as a result, became injured. God didn’t injure me, I injured me. I can understand why this might be a challenging bite to swallow for many of my Christian colleagues, but let me try to explain it this way. I think that God most certainly has a plan for my life in ministry, but I think that I have to step up to the opportunities that God has set out for me. I am not a passive observer to my life, I have to step up and take control of the opportunities presented to me. For example, I think (and I’m sorry to keep using that phrase…but this is my blog after all…) that God creates certain events in my life, and it is up to me as to whether I select to take advantage of them or not. However, at the same time, I do believe that certain things in my life have happened for a reason. Like coming to Smith in the first place. 4 years ago, my biggest desire in life was to play field hockey at Colby College in Maine. Little did I know that I was supposed to be somewhere else and meet different people at Smith…(seeing as at the time, Smith was my last choice school. The women’s college thing was a challenge for me at the time…) I didn’t realize that this was what was meant to be until I applied, came to accepted students’ day and saw all the opportunities Smith had for me.
I know it seems like I’m running in circles, but the biggest thing I want to lay out in this post is that my faith is dynamic – ever changing and evolving. But ultimately, what I believe all boils down to one thing – I believe in God the father, Jesus Christ, his son, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the Word of God and has much to teach me, but is greatly up to interpretation; Not everything in the Bible is applicable to 21st century Christians, but most of it can serve to order and aid us in our every day lives. I believe in the power of prayer, and that prayers are answered in their own time according to God’s plan. But perhaps the most important aspect of my belief is that God has given me the free will to choose Him, to choose a belief in Him. I don’t have to believe, no one is forcing me to declare my faith – my faith comes from my own heart and mind. I believe in God’s purpose for my life, and that no matter what, God will have my back and best interests in mind. But it is up to me to continue to follow the signs that God is sending me. Most importantly, if something bad happens in my life, I don’t necessarily believe that it is a sign from God that I screwed up or sinned terribly. Perhaps this may be true, but it could also be that I made a dumb decision or took too risky a chance and the bad event is the result. This may be offensive to some, and for that, I’m sorry. My faith and beliefs come from the church I was raised in, and I couldn’t be more proud and passionate of what I believe in. Believe it or not, God created each and every human being with a purpose in mind, and perhaps it is a part of my purpose to state what I believe out in the open for all to hear. This post may seem like an expose of my beliefs, but I absolutely cannot continue going along with things that I don’t believe in or can’t stand for. I am a Christian and will never deviate from that. But I am also a human being, and as a human, I have the ability to choose how certain aspects of my life play out. As for the rest of my life, that is up to God. I’ll let Him take care of the rest.
For He knows best.