New Year, New Goals

The past few years, I’ve really struggled with my faith.  Part of it was a struggle with the church I grew up in and with my frustration with the particular brand of “church culture” I had been immersed in for so long.  Part of it was a struggle with depression and anxiety and exhaustion.  I felt dead inside, and even when the pills and the therapy slowly began to coax the rest of me back to life, my connection to God remained mostly dead.  It would flicker occasionally from one end or the other in a sudden moment of inspiration or my own dogged attempts to find a prayer/worship/Bible study routine that I could stick to, but like a fire built with green wood, it would quickly die out.  I struggled to attend church, sometimes getting up on Sunday morning and driving to service, only to sit in the parking lot and cry, unable to make myself go in because of the crippling anxiety I felt.

For a while, I gave up.  I decided to put that part of myself on the back burner and focus on getting the rest of my life together, trust that when it was time to pick it all back up again, God would let me know.

Recently, I’ve been feeling that tug, feeling that it’s time to start working on my relationship with God and the church again.  I moved away from my home state in August to attend graduate school in the field of public health, and it’s given me the space I needed to continue recovering.  At the same time, I’ve been exposed to a significantly wider range of ideas and opinions than I had previously encountered, and I’m finding myself challenged to really think through a lot of things that I wouldn’t have touched when I still lived at home.  It’s exhilarating and intimidating at the same time, and I find myself pressing closer to God as I ask these questions, hoping that proximity to the source of truth will make things clearer.

In the context of all this upheaval and change, I found myself struck by a verse this morning:

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”  II Peter 1:5-8

It’s so easy to get caught up in issues of orthodoxy.  Growing up in church, I was regularly reminded that in the end times, even the “elect” would be deceived (Matthew 24:24), so I developed a terrible fear of believing the wrong thing.  Now, as I begin to really search for my own understanding of the Word for the first time, this verse is incredibly comforting.  It reminds me that God accepts my best effort.  He is not waiting to strike me down at the slightest misstep.  He is not waiting to hurl me away at the first sign of misunderstanding.  Instead, he asks only that I seek to add good things to my life, to grow in my knowledge of Him, and to love those around me as He does.  That’s the best possible goal for the New Year.

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