Thursday, March 9, 2017

My faith: its personal and unshakable

Recently a close friend of mine asked me what the purpose of my spiritual practices is, even after I answered her I still thought about it. Beyond my attempts to read the Bible every day (some days are so busy that I forget my daily reading) and my prayers throughout the day, I really don’t have spiritual practices. I don’t attend a church regularly. I don’t light candles. I don’t participate in the common practices that most people may think of. I don’t because my faith is very personal. It is different than anyone else’s. And I say I have a faith, not a religion because religion is a set of rules, traditions and customs that many are man-made and not Biblical (i.e. Lent). I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant and had my first Communion at 8, however, we didn’t really attend Mass on a regular basis. When I was 9, I began to question my mom about confession and she couldn’t answer me. It was the first and last confession to a priest.

My first encounters with a true relationship with Christ was when I was visiting my aunt while on Spring Break. I don’t remember how old I was exactly, definitely in my teens. It was Saturday night and I was lying in bed. I was praying about the struggles in my life. Struggles with family, friends, school and life in general. The next morning, the pastor was teaching from Romans. He read this verse: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I sat there stunned. Three little words were the answer to my prayer: patient in affliction. God had answered my prayer. The Creator of the universe had heard my feeble voice. From then on, I read all I could, I asked questions and even looked for a church to attend in my area. I accepted Christ into my life on August 16, 1997 at a Harvest Crusade. And while I struggled with what it meant to be a Christian and I studied different Christian thought, it wasn’t until college when I learned I had to do it my own way. I read the Bible for myself and use the words of well-known pastors and teachers as supplement rather than the focus. My experiences with God and Jesus is very personal. He has seen me through very difficult times. I’ve felt his presence in my darkest moments.

A big part of my faith is prayer. Before reading my daily chapters, I ask him to guide me and open my eyes to what I need to see today. I don’t pray at set times, like Muslims are required to do. I pray whenever I feel I need to reach out to him. I pray in bed, in the shower, at kitchen sink as I wash dishes. Sometimes there are no words in my prayers. My tears and the ache in my heart speak for me. While he doesn’t always answer prayers with the answers I want, he does answer them. God answers prayer in three ways: yes, no, and not yet. Many people will focus on the yes answers to prayers. I see the no and not yet answers as more significant. I’ve received a no when my daughter, Ziva, passed away shortly after birth. I’ve received a not yet when I prayed for a certain relationship to become more. Each time, I’ve received a no or a not yet, I have received something greater in the future. You may think wait, how can something be greater than your child? The way I look at it, without the death of my daughter, I would not have had the capacity to meet and counsel so many women in similar situations. And I’ve met some amazing women and remain friends with them today. My ability to help these woman gave my daughter’s brief life meaning beyond anything I could have imagined.

There is nothing anyone can say or do that would tear down my faith because He has been a powerful presence in my life for 20 years. When someone asks a question and I don’t know the answer, it shows me where I need to do more studying and more prayer for God’s guidance. It doesn’t mean you’ve won the argument, you are the tool that God uses to show me where I need to know more. Do I always act and speak in a way Jesus would want? No, I don’t. I’m human and I will fail. I do my best to learn from my sins but I know I could stumble in the future. Which is why I need a Savior. Recently, I heard that faith, religion and essentially God is all made up to comfort people about death. While I am assured that I will be in Heaven with Jesus, my faith doesn’t comfort me about my death. I still think about and worry about my death. The thought of not being here for my husband and my daughter still frightens me. Why, you may ask. Because I’m human. It isn’t because my faith isn’t strong. It is because I am human and do not want to leave my loved ones behind.

People may ask how I can believe in God when there is no evidence he exists. But I do see evidence he exists. I see the wonders of science and see God. I see the laws of physics at work and see his design. I believe in the power of modern medicine and the power of prayer. I see the brilliance of man who creates wonderful machines which have led to the conveniences of life and I see guidance of God. I saw a meme recently that said that atheist claim not to believe in God because it was written by men and at the bottom of the meme says tell me about who wrote their textbooks. Yes, the Bible was written down by men but it was inspired by God. When atheist and non-believers try to use the Bible to how crazy beliefs, they focus on the Old Testament. For me, the Old Testament law was fulfilled and done away with when Jesus died on the cross and resurrected. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” What he talking about the ceremonial laws, specifically in Leviticus, and the offerings. Jesus become the ultimate and final offering for our sins. His blood covers our sins as the blood of the offerings in Leviticus covered the sins of the Israelites.

Some may still read this and think I’m foolish for believing as I do. That I cannot think for myself. The funny thing is they don’t want to believe that I do think for myself. I don’t blindly follow a pastor who claims that all non-Christians need to be killed. I certainly do not interact with only Christians as Jesus did not only associate with the religious leaders of his day. And yes, there are scriptures that I struggle with but I trust God to guide me and show me how to apply the scripture in my life. So when you spout off about Christians these days, be careful because not all Christians are the same. There are some who are in your face and using the word of God in all the wrong ways. There are some Christians who are comfortable in the limelight and doing God’s work. And there are Christians who are honorably doing God’s work with whispers, quietly in the background that you never would know they were there.