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I think the simple answer to the question ‘Why am I a Christian?’ is ‘Because of God.’ I did, I admit, go looking for Him, and He found me. I know that sounds confusing, and probably a bit over-spiritual, but I’ll share a bit of my story.
Having grown up in a Christian home, with Christian parents, going to church every week, I never really questioned the existence of God. What I did question was what I saw as a fairly restrictive lifestyle: a lifestyle where my teenage version of having fun was disapproved of; a lifestyle where my friends (none of whom were Christians) wouldn’t fit in; a lifestyle which looked very much about duty, and very little about joy.
I think a big factor in that way of thinking was that I didn’t have any friends my own age who were Christians. I was pretty much on my own in my parents’ church. Now, I look at groups of teenagers from my own church, and hope that they are actually friends, that they do hang out together. Anyway.
At University, I went to church occasionally. I didn’t join the Christian Union, or do any of the things that a Christian student is supposed to do. I found my friends eventually, and connected with God through music – I was part of the Gospel Choir and then the Chamber Choir – but my own personal relationship with God, which was never consistent on my part, had fallen by the wayside.
Then, in 2003, I went to live and work abroad for a year. I had a lot of time to reflect that year, and decided to give God ‘one last go,’ as I told myself. I would read the Bible, pray and go to church.
So I did. In that year, God spoke to me in so many completely unexpected ways, and always with such grace. I would start to pray, expecting to feel completely guilty and condemned, and instead, I would feel completely, inexplicably loved. This is a pattern I have found repeated again and again. I would wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I had heard an audible voice, with a strange, wonderful sense of peace.
I kept a prayer diary – just a notebook with a record of things I prayed for daily. I started having to add a praise column, as so many of my prayers had been answered.
I also really started to enjoy church. I went to an English-speaking church and made some real friends there. For the first time, I was becoming more consistent in my relationship with God. I won’t say it was easy, as it took discipline, but I enjoyed it – or, to re-phrase that, it was a source of joy for me.
When I moved back to the UK in 2004, I moved to Manchester. There, I chose a church for myself – a large, lively, active church, where the worship was great and the teaching was sound. Most importantly, my faith in God grew. I had different experiences – worshipping and praying with different people, learning from more experienced Christians – and my understanding of the nature of God grew. Repeatedly, I experienced God’s love and grace. Whenever I was unsure about something, particularly something big, like whether to apply for a job or where to live, I sensed God guiding me, and making decisions more and more obvious to me.
At this time, for the first time in my life, I had brilliant Christian friends who I could be ‘normal’ with. Unlike in my teenage years, having a faith was no longer living a lifestyle filled with duty, but living a lifestyle where you could talk to your best friends about boys, prayer, clubbing, work and Jesus. As well as your latest Bible study and your favourite pair of shoes.
Eventually, one of those boys we discussed was Tim, and we got married in 2009. Since then, we have moved houses, counties and churches. We are about to have our second child. Being a Christian isn’t always easy, and it’s certainly not usually the first thing I think about when I wake up, but it’s still brilliant. God is still there for us. Prayers work. Reading the Bible works.
It changes your perspective completely, although perhaps I didn’t realise this at the time I became a Christian. You’re much more motivated by love, by kindness, than you were. There is a sense of duty, but it is a joy-filled duty – a chance to show God’s love to other people. I go to church because I genuinely enjoy going. When I look for God, He is there: He shows himself in all kinds of ways, whether I’m reading the Bible or listening to a speaker at church, or whether I’m scrolling through my Twitter feed or preparing another snack for my ever-hungry 3 year old.
I think one of the biggest things is that I’m not alone. God is with me, even when it feels like He is not. I have a terrible fear of loneliness, and can often feel lonely when I’m with lots of other people, or with my family. God has helped me and comforted me through this. More than that, He has given me a community that I can, with a bit of effort, be a part of.
He also gives me a purpose. I’m a mother, and there is huge purpose in that, but I’m also a teacher. I can get caught up in the details of which child has made expected progress and why, but my faith helps me to keep this in perspective: ultimately, I’m there for the whole child, not just the bit of the brain which can analyse poetry. He gives me a purpose within my church, and He has given me the confidence to step up and say, “I’d like to have a go at doing this.”
I do really enjoy being a Christian, and try hard to make it a natural, normal part of my life. I really hope that my children see that too.
Naomi is a 33-year old mum of one, who is currently expecting her second baby any day. She works as a teacher and blogs about her life in Lancashire at Life by Naomi.
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