You guys. I had the weirdest experience last week.
I recently made a temporary move to New York for an 8 week internship (I’ll fill you in on those details soon, promise!). I have been presented with this incredible opportunity to make strides toward the future I want. While I’m growing personally and professionally, I also made the decision to be intentional with my faith and really focus on the Lord. I’m delving into Luke and Acts, and I’m just really excited to learn and grow as much as I can.
While I’m excited, I’m also a little nervous. Leaving Missouri for the summer meant leaving the church I had come to call home and the small faith community I had started to build. It also meant leaving the most important person in my faith community (and my favorite person in general). Stress. Thankfully, we have luxuries like texting, phone calls and FaceTime, so we’re still able to talk through things and share our faith together. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the same as actually going to church together, but it’ll work for now!
So, with the lack of a familiar faith community and my intentionality, I was (and am) determined to find a community here. When Tom (the significant other) was here, he pointed out a sign for a bible study at a Christian center in town. Perfect! I missed it the first week, but went the second week, last week.
I was nervous because I’ve never been to a bible study before, and I really didn’t know what to expect. It started out nice enough. I was the youngest person there by a solid 30 years, but that’s ok. Everyone was really nice and welcomed me as soon as I walked in the door. There were only about 20 people there, so it was real obvious that I was new. We started with some worship, which was alright. It makes sense that I didn’t super connect with it when I didn’t fit the demographics or personality of the regular congregation, my needs are a little different.
Then things got a little weird for me. A woman sitting in front of me sat down and started sobbing and rocking back and forth while another woman behind me starting speaking in tongues. Honestly, I was incredibly uncomfortable. Growing up in the Catholic Church, I’m not used to experiences like that. I didn’t know how to process the experience, so I just tried to focus on scripture and silence my fears and biases to better hear what the Lord had to say. Unfortunately it didn’t get much better. I couldn’t focus and my mind kept wandering. The woman in front of me was still rocking and the woman behind me was still mumbling. The bible study ended, and I was ready to leave, grateful for the experience, but having decided to never come back. People surrounded me when I tried to leave, hugging me, welcoming me and asking questions. It was sweet. Overwhelming, but sweet. Through conversation, I mentioned that I’m working with Prevention and I have a passion for college students, specifically those struggling with high risk behaviors around alcohol and other drugs.
The woman who had been sitting in front of me embraced me and started crying again. She hugged me and told me that she was 9 years sober. Wow.
Nine years sober. Talk about inspiring.
I congratulated her and instead of accepting my praise, she gave it right back to the Lord, exclaiming her love and gratitude for Him and the way He intervened in her life. She went on to thank me for the work I do and want to do. She mentioned she wrote a book and walked me out to her car to sign a copy for me. She continued to shower me with encouragement, saying people like me give her hope, and all sorts of nice things, but she said two things in particular that really stuck with me. She said she appreciated me for seeing her and valuing her as a person and not as an addict or a recovering addict. She said the way I showed her love and respect doesn’t happen often and that it meant a lot to her. She said she believes I have a loving heart and the potential to make a real difference in the lives of others, especially addicts.
Woah. That’s a lot, right? Especially when you consider the fact that I just met this woman moments before and had put her into a box with an experience I didn’t like and didn’t want to encounter again.
Then she told me I was a blessing.
I was completely overwhelmed. She gave me a copy of her book, hugged me, thanked me and walked away. I got in my car, called my friend and left the craziest voicemail trying to make sense of it all. I got back to my place and told my roommates about it, and they mostly just laughed and told me not to go back. I was so confused about the whole thing. I kept trying to analyze the situation and understand what it meant and what The Lord was trying to tell me.
You guys, I was shaken to my core. This experience completely uprooted me, and I had no idea how to respond or make sense of it. I talked it through with Tom, and he told me to pray on it and really pour into the Lord. He suggested meeting up with this woman to hear more about her story, and praying on whether or not to go back to the bible study. He said the best thing I could do, and the best way to find an answer is to pray.
So I did. I prayed a lot, but it was still super confusing and I just couldn’t shake my feelings of discomfort. Then I went to church on Sunday and everything sort of fell into place.
Oddly enough, the sermon was about speaking in tongues. As the pastor was talking about Pentecost, she said a very simple phrase that stuck with me.
Experience over cognition.
You see, faith is about trusting and believing. It’s not always about analyzing or making logical sense of things. Sometimes it’s about throwing yourself into a situation and allowing yourself to feel every single aspect of the experience. It’s about letting yourself be consumed in the emotions of your faith.
As a processor, that’s real hard for me to wrap my head around. I want
things to make sense. I want there to be meaning and a reason for things. I want to gain meaning and tangible value out of my experiences. I’m also a huge feeler, empathy is one of my main strengths, so you’d think I would be able to just accept an experience for the feelings it provokes, but it’s such a struggle.
In thinking about all of this, I’m drawn back to one of my favorite verses.
Trust in The Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
This verse guided me before I became fully in touch with my faith, and I find myself turning back to it now. You see, my life is in good hands; the best hands. The Lord, our God, is incredible, you guys! He blesses us and guides is and cares for us when we least deserve it. Now that makes no logical sense, but I believe it and I trust in His grace. Faith is a feeling. A good feeling. A strong feeling. I don’t try to make logical sense of His love or grace, so I don’t need to make logical sense of all of my experiences. I can just trust in His ways and relish in the experiences He gives me.
I don’t know that I’ll go back to the bible study. I will reach out to that woman. She is very much a blessing in my life. I want to know her and her story. I want to pour into her and let her pour into me.
I don’t understand my experience at the bible study, but I’m forever grateful for the experience. That bible study taught me to live in the moment and appreciate every feeling that comes with every experience, whether it’s comfortable and familiar or not.
Experience over cognition.
Trust over understanding.
Faith over logic.