In the context of religion, faith means to have confidence or trust in a particular system of beliefs. It is having a secure belief in God and trusting God's will. For a Christian, this definition is not just words on a page it is a way of life. Faith is what we cannot see but feel deep inside of us. Faith is believing that one day we will stand before our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
For Christians, believing is not seeing. Our world is revolved around the fact that God came to earth, died on the cross, rose again on the third day, and then ascended back into heaven. As Christians, we naturally believe what the bible says. We were not there when he died on the cross, yet we believe. We were not there when Jesus rose again, yet we believe.
Ever since I can remember, I have gone to church every Sunday with my family. My siblings and I would go to Sunday school while my parents went to the church service or their adult group. For a couple years my parents even taught Sunday school. Sometimes I would go into their classroom when my class was over and help with crafts. I was very involved from an early age. I went to youth group activities, helped in the nursery, went to church camp, and was an acolyte for a couple years. An acolyte is anyone who performs ceremonial duties such as light candles and says a prayer. I was raised in a very religious family who always tried to practice what they preached.
My faith journey all started when I was a baby and they did a dedication at church for me. My parents dedicated that they would raise me in a Christian family. The church we went to at the time did not baptize babies. They wanted the family to dedicate to raise the child as a Christian and then you choose when you want to be baptized and follow Christ. A couple years later we switched to a Methodist church. Part of growing up in a Methodist church meant I would go through baptism and confirmation. I chose to be baptized when I was about 12 years old. My parents did not want to baptize me when I was young because they wanted me to remember that day.
They waited until I said I wanted to do it. My parents also wanted me to know and understand why I was being baptized and not just because my parents want me to but because I want to. After being baptized, I went through confirmation. Confirmation was for eighth graders only and it was basically like a Sunday school class. I went to this class every Sunday for a whole year. At the end of the year, they had a church service to confirm us in the church. This meant we were officially members of the Methodist church. This was a huge moment in my life because it was the first time I got the courage to pray out loud in front of people. It was the moment that I realized how connected I felt with the church and with God. I felt like my life was in such a good place.
From a young age, I experienced a sense of belonging and like I had a place in my church. I grew close to many people including kids my age and their families. I learned leadership skills and how to take on new tasks. I loved to learn and I absorbed everything I could. I remember when I was in fifth-grade Sunday school, we learned a song to remember all the books of the New Testament. I was beyond excited that I knew all the books. That was one of my goals when I was younger. Then, we stood in front of the whole church and sang it for them. Of course, I was a nervous wreck but I did it. One of my favorite things about the church, when I was younger, was learning different songs, hymns, and memorizing books and stories of the bible.
My parents felt very strongly about making sure their children had a relationship with the Lord. We would pray every night at the dinner table before we ate, and my mom would remind us to say our prayers before going to bed each night. They made sure that we accepted Jesus into our hearts at the right age. We were young, but not too young where we did not understand what it meant. I still remember the night I asked Jesus into my heart. I was sitting on my bed at night with my mom. She would say the words and I would repeat them after her. I remember feeling this calm throughout me like nothing was going on in the world. There was this sense of joy like Jesus was present in the room with us. It amazes me how I was so young, but I clearly remember that moment. It was such an important part of my life that I hope I never forget.
Then, my family went through a tough time when my Aunt Cheryl was diagnosed with Leukemia eight years ago. She battled for many years, but sadly she lost her life about two and a half years ago. She was always selfless like Jesus. She put everyone before herself even when she was fighting for her life. My mom would call her every time she was in the hospital to check in on her and see how she was doing. My Aunt Cheryl answered and said, Hi Kathy, how are you? and every time my mom would think It doesn't matter how I am. I want to know how you are and talk about you. That just shows how selfless and humble she is. Her faith has guided her and shaped her into whom she was even while battling cancer. She was the strongest person I knew.
My Aunt Cheryl never complained once when going through treatments and procedures. Anyone who has gone through a disease like that knows how mentally and physically tough it is. God gave her the willpower to keep fighting. She could have given up many years before she finally let go. The only reason she did was that she went through two bone marrow transplants that did not work and was in and out of remission twice. My Aunt Cheryl was getting signs from her body telling her she was slowly shutting down and she knew it was time. The most amazing part of her story was that she still prayed and stayed strong through every procedure.
This took a huge impact on my mom which had a major impact on me. For a couple years my mom could not even go to church. She would start to cry and could never sit through the whole service. My mom has always been mine and my families rock and support through everything. She made sure we went to church every Sunday. After my Aunt Cheryl passed away, it seemed like our faith slipped away as well. We would go to church every now and then over the span of two years, but we would never go regularly anymore. It got to a point where nobody recognized us from church anymore.
I felt like I did not really have a relationship with God anymore. I slowly started to get wrapped up in life and not pray anymore, not go to church, and not live through Jesus. In the article Jesus: The Ruler of the World states, Jesus rescues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended (61, N.T. Wright). N.T. Wright is saying that we make decisions and actions that show Jesus is working and living through us. My family would not make the right decisions for a while by not going to church and forgetting to pray. It became such a bad habit. There was no assuming or asking if we were going to go to church anymore. We just knew we were not going to go. Also, my mom would go to The Hospital University of Pennsylvania frequently to visit my Aunt Cheryl, so she would go on Sundays sometimes or she would be exhausted and not want to go to church the next day. I feel like no matter what it was we always came up with an excuse to not go to church.
Nobody deserves to go through what my Aunt Cheryl went through and that is what my mom struggled with the most. Especially towards the end, my mom was always by her side. She could see the pain and suffering my aunt was going through, and my mom just could not understand why God would let a sweet, humble, kind-hearted person suffer like that for many years. Seeing my mom go through this time was eye-opening for me. I personally witnessed suffering and how it could impact someone's faith. I always hear stories about how people either grow deeper in faith or lose their faith after a loss of someone very close and special. I was worried for a little that my mom was going to lose her faith because God took her sister from her. She struggled with not knowing why God would let her sister suffer and take away her life. In my mom's case, she lost her faith for a little but was able to bounce back.
With family support, my mom was able to get through it.
My Aunt Cheryl was the most generous, kind hearted, and loving person you would ever meet. While she was battling cancer, she could not work so they were slightly financially unstable. She and her husband lived a very plain life. They did not want or need many things in life to make them happy. I specifically remember on my sixteenth birthday my Aunt Cheryl was healthy and was out of the hospital. She came to my birthday party and discretely handed me fifty dollars. I was absolutely shocked. I never expected anything let alone fifty dollars from her. They were struggling to pay for the hospital bills, but she still gave me money on my birthday. She had faith in the Lord that even though she gave me a lot of money that should be going towards bills, she knew she would be rewarded in her afterlife and that is all that matters.
I never realized until recently how lucky I am to have grown up in such a faith-oriented family.
We definitely hit some tough times in our lives, but we figured it out together and with the help of God. If I have learned anything it is to never give up on God or turn your back even if you are going through a very tough time in your life. There is a reason God put you on this earth and he has a plan for you. James Choung states, Because no matter how the world came to be, the Christian story says that when we look at eucalyptus trees, windy rivers, majestic mountains, the shining sun, starfish, polar bears, Dungeness crabs, duck-billed platypuses, and (especially) you and me, you can see that all of it was designed for something.
All of it has a purpose (24, James Choung). It is easy to drift away from faith and the Lord, but always remember that he is there for you even when you do not think so. I had a very strong faith when I was younger and I thought that would never change. As I got older, I would focus on everything but Jesus. I got caught up in my dreams, goals, and problems in life and became distracted by what truly mattered which is following the Lord our Savior.
Going through the time in my life when I was separated from God really made me think about my faith. I recently started to question my faith and what I truly believe. This only helped me to grow closer to the Lord. I have learned that questioning my faith is the beginning to grow in my faith. I have felt that in the past month that I have been in college. Since I am so independent in college, I am learning how to create my own faith and what I believe in. I do not necessarily have to believe what my parents taught me growing up any more. I would not change anything that happened to my faith throughout my life because it brought me to a realization that I have my own faith to grow in now.