Growing up, attending Sunday school and bible study groups in the neighbourhood, I was sure that God cared about us, little children, and we would have these fun bible studies and play games. We also watched Christian videos with children singing at the Colby clubhouse, Kids praise and others. These made Chrsitianity so much fun. We learnt and recited bible verses and even had a dance group.
In secondary school, God was righteous and was to be revered and worshipped. But he was also cool, we had what I could call praise parties, then intense worship. Sometimes some of my school mates went overboard with the righteousness thing but I preferred the cool part so I stuck with it.
As I got older, God was portrayed as holy, in whose presence there was meant to be no sin. God would not shy away from judging whoever was found wanting. For me that judgment was done through his agents in church as examplified by people who worked in church. It was also the time when I saw that one or two girls who were slightly older had gotten pregnant. There was so much talking amongst mothers that it felt like the girls had committed the most unpardonable sin. God was somehow mirrored in that way to me at that stage of my life.
By the time I got to university, I knew God was all these and more. I enjoyed going to christian concerts, where there would be lots of dancing from different groups, rap, singing, the joy in these venues always filled the air. We genuinely loved being in Gods presence and having fun. But I was also exposed to the new crop of pentecostal churches that were becoming popular. The one things I found most strange was how people would pray so loudly to everyones hearing. I was raised in a conservative church and many times in my head, I liked to believe that the church I was raised in was an orthodox one but eventually, I was content with just saying I am a protestant for people who probed to know which faction of Christianity I belonged to.
After university, I started living on my own and I tried to find out more of who this God really was. The more I searched, the more I found that God was a loving father beyond everything else I had found. I started to relate with God the way I would relate with my father. I know my father loves me unconditionally and I have never had any reason to doubt his love for me. He is also willing to do what is within his power to ensure that I be all I can be. However, my parents raised us with choices, they woud spell things out then let us choose with the realisation that there were consequences to deal with for every action. So naturally, I have always had an inquisitive mind. The more I read the scriptures, the more I found that God was like a parent, like my parents. He is patient and would allow us to choose. He is loving but would discipline as needed. I merged all these aspects of who God was from the different stages of my life. People told me that I was not to question God, but I would ask my father questions when I had doubts and did not see why I could not do the same with God. If he chooses not to respond, that would not stop me from asking.
On many occasions, I have found myself wondering if God actually exists, I have asked him why he could be mean sometimes, why he allows some of the things that happen to happen. For these questions, I guess when I finally get to heaven, he may be able to respond to me then. I do not consider myself to be religious, but I prefer to see myself as someone who searches to have a personal relationship with God. At different points, I have volunteered in church and I have always had people who treated me (and said as much) like I was not holy or spiritual enough. Some people have not necessariy approved of my being inquisitive or how I won't just jump on any band wagon if I do not have a conviction. But peoples feelings have not stopped me from staying true to what I believe.
I worked with young adults the last time I volunteered in church and I saw how many of them battled with who they were, what people thought about them, their parents approval, self awareness etc. Many of them just needed people who would speak to them in real terms and not from a spiritual high ground. I was misunderstood on many occasions, but my approach was to get them to do the thinking and find the solutions which they had in them. Some just needed a little nudging or simply needed to have conversations with their parents. However, the fear they had of speaking to their parents held them back, and this broke my heart so many times. Many of these parents stood tall in church as leaders but could hardly spare time or a kind word for their own children.
I was raised differently and a lot more exposed at their age. I questioned a lot and was fearless, hahahaahaha. I would like to think I still am! If I didn't agree with something, I wouldn't be forced to accept it.
I see people who volunteer or work in church get so carried away and worn out by church activities that there ceases to be real depth to their relationship with the actual person they claim to be working for. I got to points where I was drained and I walked away and took time to recover and recharge before going back. The people I served under did not necessarily approve of it but I was also accountable to myself, so I did what was right for me. I remember one time a few people tried to force me to serve in a unit I didn't feel like I connected with, being the person I am, it was dead on arrival. Of course I said no, after trying a few times to persuade, coerce then eventually force me, I told them that even if they called the senior pastor of the church to ask me, I woud give the same answer.
I've got to a point where I think I have a good sense of my relationship with my heavenly father. I've gone for long periods away from home or been in places where I've been unable to set foot in a church. It is amazing to physically be around people to bounce ideas around with, and to be encouraged. But my relationship with God has remained because I speak to him and feel him with me, I also read his word and get insights on situations.
There are a lot of things I see and do not agree with that people do in the name Christianity: church as a money making venture, divisions based on factions, people turning other human beings like them into idols, being so judgmental, the list could go on. Then there is this 'spiritual' way of speaking that used to get me confused...you could see someone visibly unwell and ask how they were but they would reply 'I am strong' or in the face of such misfortune, you would hear 'it is well'. Or someone would say 'I am who he says I am'. Concretely, what did all this mean? New converts hearing such talk would only be left with more questions. Eventually, I got to understand that people were affirming themselves or reassuring themselves in the face of difficulties.
God lives in us but is all the way up in heaven. We are his agents and are to be him to the world, we need each other. I prefer to show the loving God to people as I continue to discover him. I make loads of mistakes and I fall out of line more times than I can count. But like my father would nudge me to go on, I know God is doing the same so I keep trying. If you doubt, it's ok. if you ask questions, it's ok too. God loves you regardless and will continue rooting for you.
Who is God to you?