“Christianity is by and large, an experience” - Gary Clarke
For a long-time I assumed that I was a Christian because of my upbringing. My life was pretty normal and I was going through the motions like most people. I thought Christianity was something you ‘did’ and going to church every Sunday (but not being really engaged) was enough. I was still living a life that didn’t seem to have much meaning or direction. In 2010, I went to a new church with some friends, thinking it would be just another normal Sunday ritual that that had no real meaning or impact on my life during the rest of the week. It wasn’t.
That day, I had an undeniable sense of God’s presence which was great, but I didn’t really know what to do with it or what it really meant. I eventually forgot about it and continued to live my life just as it had been. Everything went back to normal, but in moments of solitude and self-reflection it still felt like something was missing. I was happy, but it wasn’t enough. Deep down I knew, but I didn’t really know how to get there, or how to experience God again. I've seen that a lot of us have felt like there is ‘more’ to life, a feeling which is sometimes difficult to put into words or resolve. That longing, the empty space is due to the fact that "eternity is planted in the human heart" - whether or not you believe in God or not, the desire is within us all. It is sometimes temporarily drowned out by the demands of our daily lives, but when that passes, the longing remains.
Fast forward to summer 2014, my friend Seun invited me to her house for a goodbye dinner before going to New York. We had fellowship - a casual gathering where everyone sings, prays and chats about pretty much anything. I didn’t really know many of the other people who turned up, but I still got involved. Again I experienced God personally, just as I did four years before, and since then nothing has been the same. I was opened up to a new world where I understood the relevance of the Bible and learned how much a relationship with God can give you access to the ‘full’ life that you know you’re meant to live. We have so many choices, turning points and challenges throughout life that can be daunting and difficult to navigate. With Jesus, things become clearer. I want to highlight the fact that there's not much I did except for showing up and keeping an open mind. You don't have to do or be anyone special, you just have to be yourself and God does the rest. Looking back over the last year or so, I can confidently say that it has been the best year of my life. I have had some trials (Jesus warned us of this, but also gave us hope) and made some mistakes along the way, but despite it all I am genuinely content with life in a way that I've never been before. Have you ever tried to fill your life by being busy and in demand, pursuing various endeavours only to continue to feel a strong sense of longing for something more? A life with Jesus is the 'more' you're looking for, and that fulfilment lasts.
“I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” - John 15:16
Even Solomon, one of the most accomplished and wise kings realised that while his accolades made him happy, they were never enough:
“I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards [...]
I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces [...]
So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me [...]
I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labours.
But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” - Ecclesiastes 2:4-11
While we are supposed to make the most of our lives and have all these wonderful pursuits, all of that is secondary to the lasting effect of a relationship with God.
What if you’re thinking something along the lines of “this all sounds great, but I’ve tried being good, I’ve tried going to church and all of that but none of it has really worked out for me yet…”
Firstly, give yourself a chance (and probably, many chances). This is a lifelong process which takes time. When it comes to continuity, building strong ties with others makes the road smoother. It's easy to assume that as you build a personal relationship with God you don't need other people but actually, meaningful connections with other people on their walk with God is essential.
“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on” - Hebrews 10:24-25
As the metaphor goes, we are all unique parts of the same body. In the last year I've established new friendships and strengthened old ones; through this so many of us have made leaps and strides in our relationship with Jesus. I expect that this has been the key difference between why things fizzled out in 2010, and why they haven’t since last year. In life, we all bring different perspectives, interpretations and experiences which can enrich your understanding of the Bible, your personal relationship with God and means that we can support each other when the road gets difficult. So reach out and speak to anyone on their journey, you can start here if you like.
Finally, commit to trying. A life of more is squarely in your reach, but like anything worth having it does take an intentional choice to get fully stuck in.
“Commit to the path, and don’t draw back from it” - Bobbie Houston
What I have experienced myself and seen in the lives of others who have been on this journey is that a life with Jesus does not disappoint, it does not let you down. This doesn't mean you won’t have questions, that’s completely fine and a healthy community will welcome this. If you have that desire for a life of ‘more’, a fulfilling and abundant life, start (or restart) your walk with God today.
“This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach [...] So choose life” - Deuteronomy 30:11;19
What I love about this verse is that it highlights how accessible this life is for each and every one us, you’re free to make the choice and it doesn’t require more than you are able to give. Sometimes you have an off day, but don’t let that deter you, keep coming back. Transformation doesn't happen overnight; it is a road that unfolds in front of you with every step you take.
So choose life, you won’t regret it.
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© Noterie, 2015 - Images taken by myself, please do not reproduce or distribute without my express permission