Together. Always

This year I’ve come to understand what it means to be content. Not complacent but being able to look at my life and smile truthfully. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, in fact this has been one of if not the most challenging year of my life. I’ve had to balance multiple commitments with work, church, fellowship and a thesis that may have robbed me of most of my brain cells and self esteem.

What’s responsible for this contentment has honestly been the faith community I’ve found myself in. Not only did I find a women’s fellowship which has taken me leaps and bounds over the limits I had put on myself and my relationship with God, but I’ve found a community of young people where Christ knits us together in love and fellowship. Both groups have lifted my confidence in myself and have helped me address my own insecurities. They’re not the reason I’m writing though.

I watch a lot of faith conference talks, apologetics and sermons on YouTube and on occasion I’ll look into the comments. YouTube comments 80% of the time contain the less attractive traits of humanity but these video are almost always filled with encouraging comments and thought filled discussions. On one such occasion there was a plea from a 13 year old boy who explained how he kept trying to follow Jesus and be good and holy but he felt like he was never good enough for God’s love. My heart broke for him because if you’ve ever been accused of being too hard on yourself this boy was exactly that.

The response was the most honest out pouring of love for this boy who felt so alone and so persecuted in his own heart. I commented as well and afterward he wrote to me in thanks. I told him that I could empathise with his fears and that the response from all those who commented was exactly what family is. The church is a family. Not the building, not the denominations, not the arguments but the individuals who live and love Jesus are a family. God through his love gave us a family we never would have thought to ask for. Brothers and sisters who want to walk with us on the path to holiness and people who genuinely want to see us get to heaven.

I was telling my dad about the youth group I’m part of and when I described it to him these were my words:
“There’s such a genuine atmosphere of love and acceptance. I think this is what it was like for the early Christians. They were a community of believers who loved God and each other.”

I really believe the Holy Spirit gave me that.

It’s because of this experience that I’m so passionate about church. It’s not just time out of your week to sing some songs, say some prayers and listen to a encouraging words. It’s an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries and be part of a community that doesn’t pressure us to be anything other than what God made us. It’s friendship, faith and family.

It doesn’t always play this part and no church is perfect, they’re all lacking in something but they are human. If God is the foundation then they will not fall and instead He will raise them up.

We all need to get our churches to that place. As individuals we need to be those people who love, encourage, serve and support all leaders in the faith not just those in our respective churches and denominations.

Family doesn’t begin in the united joys of heaven. It begins in the day to day wanderings of this life. Take from this what you will saints, but all I ask of you is to love. Love like Jesus. Love like a friend who would give everything up for the sake of a neighbour.

Wellness at 21

A few weeks ago I turned 21 and at last I felt like my physical age matched my mental age. I’d felt like I was older than I was physically since I was about 16 or 17 and when I revealed my age I always felt embarrassed because I wasn’t as old as people assumed I was.

Looking at me now I feel like I fit in my body and my mind is working as it should be at this stage. In many ways I feel that I’m okay with where I need to be and in other ways I’m still a work in progress. I know the latter is the truer statement but humour me while I reflect. I’m coming from a talk given by two comedians on ‘Wellness’ and they each shared their stories and experiences with their personal wellness which got me thinking. How well am I?

I know mentally I’m in a much better and stronger place than where I was five years ago. I practically live off of stress  and my self-esteem takes a punch almost weekly. I still have urges to self-harm when I feel overwhelmed by life and I still don’t pray as often as I know I should. Just thinking about today, I’ve done things which weren’t kind for me to me but I know myself well enough now to know it will pass and I’ll be alright.

I finish my degree in a few weeks and everything around me will change. I will possibly move in with my brother who has a very different belief system to me and we often clash over it but we love each other. I will probably stay in a society which is very different to the one I want to be in simply because going home isn’t an option right now. I will definitely face a lot of fears and things that will terrify me.

For the past three years I’ve been pushing myself towards my career as a journalist and I feel like I’ve drained myself already. Like I need to take a break and just be young and not have my life planned out. I have an idea of what and where I want to be in five years time but I don’t have a strategy or a set of tactics. I just want to feel my age and maybe work in a shop or cafe and not be rushing into the business of life just yet. I still need to get to know myself better.

I made a list of unpopular (as in not widely held/supported in the Western Context I’m in according to my knowledge) beliefs I have at 21:

  • I don’t support same sex marriage. Putting that out there. That doesn’t mean I have hate for those who experience same sex attractions. We are all human and we are all deserving of the same amount of love and respect. I support you in your humanity, but I don’t agree with every decision you make. Isn’t that just part of life?
  •  I don’t support war.
  • I don’t support abortion (I’m stubborn about this one but there is no condemnation in my heart for those who choose otherwise. I just feel all human lives are equally precious, from beginning to end).
  • I didn’t enjoy The Notebook.
  • I’m saving myself for marriage, so sorry fellas how about we pray for our chastity instead?
  • Everyone’s a little racist and/or is allowed to have unfair beliefs. No I don’t like the fact that someone can look at my skin and think it’s right to call me an ape or think I deserve a lynching. I’d love to squash those ideas out of humanity but I don’t realistically think that will happen completely. I think the spectrum of beliefs define the peaks and lows of being alive in a society. The light can’t exist without the dark and vice versa. Even then where do you draw the lines and when do you steal away people’s rights or freedoms? It’s a hard question but as I write this, this is where I am.
  • I don’t believe we, as in humanity, are the centre of the world. I believe that position will always belong to God.
  • I don’t believe in luck.
  • I do believe in witchcraft.
  • I don’t like swearing.
  • I don’t think there’s a point to shaving my legs.
  • I believe modesty (as in not wearing revealing clothing) is charming.
  • The greatest compliment I can get is being called a woman of God and a follower of Jesus.

That’s what I came up with and maybe on my 25th birthday I’ll look back at this and laugh. Some of these points are defined by my faith, heck I think all of them are influenced by it. It’s still the most important thing to me and always will be.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds and I’m nervous to think about it. I will however take what it throws at me and I will throw it right back at life. I have a great support system and a deeper understanding of the woman I’m becoming. There’s still a long way to go but I’m alright with that. I’m scared but hey, everything I love to do is a little scary. I’m terrified before speaking to an audience, or singing in front of someone, or clicking ‘Publish’ on a post. But they all make me so happy and it’s in those moments that I’m sure it is well with my soul.

I have something to hold on to and I have scores of people cheering me on and I still get scared sharing my beliefs with others but that’s part of my experience right now.

That’s where my humanity and mentality is at 21. We’ll see where I’m at at 22.