I am so grateful for the Church. I don’t join the chorus of those who claim the Church is dead: as long as believers are living and breathing, and as long as God is present among them, the Church is alive, and it matters. It has mattered in my life. As one of three daughters born to an Irish Catholic mother and an American Protestant father in New England, I had a unique footing in the church world. Guess what? I found Jesus through the influence of both Catholics and Protestants among the “frozen chosen” in mainline churches.
For most of my life I have known there is a God, and my belief began among other believers in a church. In my early years, we attended a tiny Episcopal church where I was taught Bible stories and developed a respect for God. When I was about ten, two things changed in my life: my Irish mother began taking us to a Catholic church (my father remained Protestant), and I began to pray on a more regular basis.
I had noticed my young neighbors prayed before bedtime, and I thought this talking to God was probably something I should do.They prayed the Lord’s Prayer every night, so I would pray likewise, but I also would just talk to Him: “Lord, please let that boy like me.” “Please help me to pass this test.” Nothing very deep, but I enjoyed the “conversation” and thinking that God was listening.
The Catholic church we attended was a wonderful community of believers, a place in which I felt welcomed and loved. Looking back, I can see how God had His hand on my life and gave me many people who were positive influences in my journey toward Him. Despite my belief in God, I was still your typical self-centered teen. When a fellow high school senior wrote in her yearbook that her goal was to become more righteous, I could not even fathom what she meant, nor did I want to. Being righteous sounded like a real snore to me!
At the age of nineteen, I began to understand that faith in God was more than just attending church, or making good choices. There was a need for relationship, and a need for me to acknowledge that God was good and I was not. My parents started taking me to meetings where people gave testimonies about Jesus Christ radically transforming their lives. Hearing these stories, I simply believed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I just knew that what these broken but healed men and women were saying was real and true. My life would never be the same. I suddenly wanted to live for Jesus, and follow His direction for my life.
My life is no doubt different now than it would have been without Him. He radically and steadily transformed my heart, goals, desires, and eyesight. Yes, eyesight: He has had to help me grow in walking by faith and not by sight. If God had shown me at 19 all that would happen in the next few decades, I think I would have run for the proverbial hills. At that time, I was afraid of taking risks and facing challenges.However, throughout my Christian life, I have grown most deeply when I have accepted a challenge God gives me.
This is not some “cupcake” story: there have been difficulties and challenges along the way, right up to the present time. Life is not easy; it can be perplexing and ugly, beautiful and strange. But God is faithful to carry us through the difficulties and through the joys. And He is so kind as he gives us the Church--His Holy Spirit and His people--to encourage us, comfort us, and challenge us as we walk by faith and not by sight.