Faith

by swellsbennett

I know that I share a lot of my life here, but I usually keep my faith out of my writing entirely. I don’t want my readers to immediately recognize who I am or what I believe by reading my works of fiction. If they do, I believe I’m doing it wrong. One of the best compliments I’ve received is that one of my books (An Unassigned Life) has been called both too Christian and anti-Christian by different readers.

Recently, though, an acquaintance asked me about my walk with God and I took the time to share my story with him. After I had done so, I realized it was a story that was both very personal and universal at the same time. I am not saying that what I believe is what you have to believe. I merely want to share my spiritual walk with you.

When I was young, my parents took me to a small home church. One Sunday, I felt pinpricks in my heart during the altar call, but when I tried to go forward, my mother held me back, believing I was too young to understand what I was doing.

After that, I sought spiritual fulfillment from other sources. Eventually, I turned to the occult, even studying astrology and reading tarot cards — quite accurately, as it turned out.

In 1997, I married my first husband. Within his extended family were five preachers. The next year, I volunteered to compile and edit the family stories for their reunion. Within those stories were numerous testimonials to the power of Christ. I was moved by their words, and I began to wonder if Jesus was who I was missing.

At the reunion that summer, I met some of the most wonderful people. During an impromptu praise service on Sunday morning, I swear that the believers were glowing! The unbelievers, however, looked like dark spots in their midst. I came home determined to figure out who Jesus was. I promised myself that I would read one chapter a day, starting in the New Testament. By the end of the week, I had sought out a woman at work who glowed like my husband’s family did. I asked her where she worshiped and she invited me to her church. That Sunday, I went — alone. My husband refused to go. Sitting in that strip-mall makeshift church, I felt the pinpricks again, but I didn’t go forward. I managed to keep my composure until I got out of there. I spent the rest of the day in tears.

The next day, I made a deal with God (note to self: don’t bother…He always wins). If Mary (my glowing coworker) was still at her desk when I finished working, I would go talk to her. At 5:15, she was still at work. I found more to do around the office. At 5:30, she was still there. I took care of some tasks I’d been putting off. At 5:45, Mary still hadn’t budged. I walked over and sat down at her desk. I told her I thought I needed Jesus. She was a little flustered — that was the one day she didn’t have her Bible in her purse — but she found a Romans Road tract in her desk drawer and led me to Christ right there!

Because I felt it was important to understand fully what I was professing when I called myself a Christian, I read the entire Bible in the next nine months. My husband claimed to be saved, so I hoped that our marriage, which was a little shaky, would be strengthened by my new belief. Unfortunately, it was not. After a few more years of misery, I finally decided to divorce him.

My divorce earned me disdain from many of my fellow Free Will Baptist congregants, but I persevered. Then, one Sunday, the preacher’s wife used a passage from the Old Testament to “prove” that God disapproved of interracial relationships. I disagreed — vocally. That passage was clearly meant for the Israelites, whom God considered a race apart. The New Testament, on the other hand, says that all believers are equal, no matter their race.

After that, I left the Free Will Baptists. I have attended a number of other churches, but I haven’t found a place that feels right to me. I still hold my faith in Christ close. I maintain strong friendships with good Christian men and women. But that doesn’t mean I exclude non-believers from my life.

I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me from my sins. I believe he did that for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. However, I also believe that this salvation is a gift that every human must accept for himself — we, as Christians, cannot force our will on our fellow beings. To do so is to usurp God, who gave us free will in the first place.

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in the former Mosque (Cathedral) of Cordoba, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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