Growing up, I never really had a relationship with God. I had heard about him, and often heard others talk about praying and "religious" things like that but thought it was kind of weird to be honest and didn't really appeal to me. Things like reading the Bible, going to church, listening to worship music and all the annoying rules that came with it sounded more like prison and so boring.
It wasn't until I was 20 years old, so most of my life until now, that I truly discovered what it means to have
a relationship with God and why it's actually not about religion at all!
Before I get to that point, I want to give a quick little background. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, my dad was atheist most of his life. My mom, being from Colombia, was raised Catholic. I was about 12 years old when my parents both became Christian (my mom first and my dad many years later), and we started going to a non-denominational church as a family.
I would always go with them to church, and to the church events, but it wasn't until I was out on my own after college that I realized at some point I would have to choose the life that I wanted to live. I was living a double life from about 15-19: going to church on Sundays and partying and going crazy on the weekends (actually sometimes during the week too). Up until this point, I was living my faith through my parents; just saying I'm a Christian because that's what my parents were.
Once I left the house and had a wild year away at college and ruined my GPA, I came home to study at community college. I realized that staying closer to home would keep me from partying so much and be a bit more responsible with my life and the direction it was going. It also helped me to stay away from those who were having a negative impact on me. The people you choose to have around you are so, so, so important! You will become like them whether you want to or not...it can actually be a good thing if you are choosing to surround yourself with people who will uplift you :)
One of the main reasons I decided to come home after that first year of college, was because of the people who were close to me at that time, and were having a negative impact on my life/decisions. I needed space away from them to figure out who I really was because I didn't know who I was. I was reflecting who I thought my parents and my friends wanted me to be, which wasn't really who I was.
Being home from college, life was so different. I was very lonely for the first year home because I was intentionally distancing myself from previous relationships that I knew were toxic to my health and my life at that time. When I thought hard about what I wanted in my friendships and those I allowed close to me, the place I remember having the closest relationships with people who genuinely cared for me was at church when I was younger.
I began going to church, just to find friends in the beginning. I didn't find friends for over 6 months, but I kept going to church and volunteering and during that time I actually recommitted my life to Christ but this time it was my choice, not my parents or anyone else's.
Shortly after, I got connected with a group of friends through a community group at church and they were the closest group of friends I had ever had. We had dinners together, had honest conversations, prayed for one another...it was the most amazing thing ever! There is nothing like having a close group of friends who you know genuinely love and want the best for you.
I was and believe I still am, a completely different person. It's a very weird thing when you truly give your life to God, your desires and the things you used to care about do a complete 180 turn. I started wanting to stay home and spend time cooking with my mom or talking with my dad on the couch on a Friday night, I wanted to wake up early on Saturdays just to read and learn as much about God as I could. I was hungry to know and understand everything I could about who Jesus was and what it means to have a relationship with him. It's safe to say my parents were completely shocked and probably very confused how their rebellious daughter had changed so much and all I can say is: God changed my heart.
So what have I learned about having a relationship with God in the time since then? You don't have to try so hard! I think society has this image of Christians that has been formed over the years that they hate gay people, can't drink, are boring, have a list of things they need to do to be "perfect" and a list of things they can't do.
I think I've actually learned that having a relationship with God is the opposite, I became more free and alive than I have ever experienced. I realized that God just wants you to know and love him and allow yourself to be loved by him. How do I know this? I have been blessed with an incredibly loving, sweet and supportive earthly father who has shown me so much love and you know what is crazy? God loves me even more than my dad!
Listen to this: "So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." Matthew 7:11
If my dad on Earth wants the best for me and wants to see me succeed in life, how can I not believe that if I ask, and am willing to trust my life to God, that he won't give me abundantly more than I can think or imagine?? How do I know this? I have seen examples that are so real in my life and in others.
"Now to him who is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" Ephesians 3:20
The older I get, the more I realize that God doesn't want religion, he doesn't want rules or our attempts at being perfect. He doesn't require that you give up everything and go on a mission trip (although some people may choose to do that), or that you avoid anyone who doesn't believe the same as you. In fact, the opposite!
God is love and I believe when you are filled with the Holy Spirit that love will overflow into the lives of others in unique ways such as: through our gifts/talents that God given each one of us, past experiences that God has redeemed, miracles, simply being a good friend or parent to someone. You won't have to strive to be a perfect example, because you won't be. There are times when you will mess up and God understands, He gives grace and forgiveness and He is quick about it!
It can be difficult for us as humans to wrap our mind around such a loving and forgiving God because it doesn't make sense, but then again there are plenty of things in the world that don't make sense and we still believe in them: gravity, wind, the complexities of the human body keeping you alive, the connection between a mother and her baby, feeling the sun-rays on your skin but never actually seeing them.
It's okay if you don't necessarily believe what I do, I wanted to share this anyway and let you know that you are loved either way. There is a purpose for your life if you are living and breathing. Lastly, having a relationship with God doesn't need to be so complicated; He simply wants to know you and you to get to know Him.
Do you have a relationship with God? Maybe a different belief? Let me know down below if this resonated with you!