The first time in four years that I attended church was, incidentally, the day I went into labor with Seth. The pains were already starting and I couldn't really concentrate. I think I went because I had a desire to figure out what I believe before I had a child asking me questions about it. The second time I went was over a year later- we visited this huge local church, and my inner critical commentary was switched on the entire time, recognizing the cliches and questioning the big production of it all. My heart was not there. I left frustrated and disillusioned and I didn't want to go back.
Here and there over the next year I felt tugs on my heart towards God once again. By chance I joined an awesome group of other female professional photographers, and it turned out that many of them were Christians. Topics of faith came up in the chitchat after our meetings sometimes. It was the first time since graduating from college that I had been surrounded by people talking about God. One night I remember listening to their conversation about faith and I just sat and listened, dumbfounded- struggling within myself. I wanted what they had. It was real, that I knew, and I didn't know how to find it again but everything in me longed to figure it out.
Another night- I can't remember if it was before or after that meeting- I was driving down the highway late at night, by myself on the way home from shooting an event. I had been depressed and stressed, and I felt so alone. I cried as I drove, and then suddenly I was praying- talking out loud to God for the first time in so long. And I knew He heard me.
Those two instances were the beginnings of my heart opening again.
I have been to church three times recently. I found a church I like quite a bit, where people seem more real then I remember most church people being. Each time I've gone I have teared up more than once. Each time, I have literally felt the rigid walls in my heart being torn down. I cling to the words that are said. My heart recognizes Truth.
One day it just kind of hit me, that nothing is outside of the grace of God. Nothing. And just like that I realized that He has just been waiting for me to see that. That I have been His all along- a prodigal daughter- always loved and never forgotten. Forgiven, redeemed... before I even realized I could ask for that. Of course I am not worthy. That is the point of grace-- it covers everything. The joy and peace I felt the day my heart internalized this truth, I will never be able to fully describe. It changes everything.
So a new chapter of my journey has begun. I have no idea where its leading. I still have so many questions about God and faith, and issues with organized religion and the church. I just know for sure that I'd rather live my life with God then without Him, now that I have experienced it both ways.