My Story: My Walk with God
I was raised in the church. Some of my first memories are from going to church. My parents were involved in starting a number of churches while I was growing up and my dad now serves on the elder board of their church. They were always close friends with our pastors and I have very vivid and positive memories of my parents (my dad in particular) having theological conversations with my pastor as a young child. I think it’s where my interest and love for theology and philosophy first started. So, that’s a little bit of my parents and the background I was born into, but what’s my story…well…
I “accepted Christ” when I was 5 years old because they had talked about hell at church. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs with my mom and praying “the sinner’s prayer”. I was terrified of going to hell and my decision to accept Christ was based almost solely on that fear. The fear of hell then haunted me for years; I remember asking Jesus into my heart nearly every night for most of my childhood.
In 8th grade my mom baptized me in a friend’s pool. That was the beginning of what I could call the “God years”. High school was for me a time when I deeply pursued God and felt his presence. I was involved in everything and would spend long hours praying and reading scripture. I was good – I did my devotionals, I obeyed my parents, I didn’t party, I got good grades. Looking back I can recognize that in many ways I thought I could earn my way into God’s favor and out of hell.
It wasn’t until freshman year of college that things started to really fall apart and I had what could classically be called a “crisis of faith”. I think I had always carried a lot of doubt and questions in my mind and heart when it came to God, but there were some things that happened during this time in my life that really brought those questions to the forefront. Suddenly nothing seemed solid and God didn’t seem to fit in the nice neat box I had been told (and had believed) He should fit in.
There are a lot of things that eventually lead to the quieting of those questions (notice I said quieting and not resolving). I think one of the most significant things that brought me through that time in my life were a handful of very dear friends. God surrounded me with people who weren’t afraid to let me really dig into the questions. He brought people into my life, who really listened to me, and spoke truth to me and were willing to share their own struggles with God. I don’t think I had ever before that time seen someone honestly and authentically struggle with God and that made my own struggle seem so terrifying. But, in a few close friends in particular I saw people who struggled openly with God, and people who loved God desperately even while they struggled with him. And that gave me incredible freedom to wrestle with God myself.
This was also when I first began to realize that the narratives and theologies that I had grown up with weren’t the only Christian answers to the questions. I became to discover that Christians had answered theological questions differently throughout history and there was not a consistent theological narrative like I had always thought. But, I also began to see that even with all the diversity in the church throughout history God was still clearly at work and His spirit was clearly moving among his people.
It was also around this time that I began blogging and reading blogs and I discovered that there were other people out there were in the same boat I was in. Knowing that others were asking the same questions, wrestling with God and with his church, was incredibly freeing for me. Knowing that others were also re-thinking what it really means to be a Christian, to walk with Jesus, to love Him and love people was incredibly encouraging to me.
Eventually I came to a place where I could love God for Himself and not what I thought he was or should be. Eventually I came to a place where I could choose to follow him even if I didn’t understand him. Since then God and I have been on a wild journey of discovery. He continues to take me inward, allowing me to ask all the difficult questions that arise in my soul, allowing me to live the questions, and walking through them with me.
There is still so much farther I have to walk with God. He is still so unknown to me. There are still places of my heart that I keep hidden. There are still questions that I haven’t found answers for. There are still places of brokenness in my soul that need to be healed. There are still sins in my life that need to be washed. There are still journeys God and I need to take.
So, I just keep walking, clinging to faith and trusting that God walks beside me.
Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman