Do you ever have moments when you find yourself reminiscing?
This past week, I decided to go on a search for my husband’s baptism picture. I didn’t know him when he was baptized, but I had seen the photo many times on Facebook and wanted to save it for my kids to see in the future. Unfortunately, when he deleted his Facebook a few years ago, the picture was lost with it.
As I searched the photos of all of my friends from 2010-2011, I found myself looking at photos I was tagged in from the time and looking back at the friendships I once had.
To be honest, it made me sentimental. I missed those times.
I remember writing in my blog at the time that I had FOUND IT! I found a church like the church in Acts! I was so excited to attend College and Young Adults, staying till 1 AM diving deep into theology with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I worshipped on Sunday alongside people my age who loved Jesus more than anything else in this world. I would go to my friend’s home, surrounded by as many people as we could fit in the living room, studying the Bible together. My boyfriend (now husband) was interning to become a pastor and, knowing he had this special calling on his life, I was excited for what the future held for us.
What could be better than that?
Yet, when I put the phone down and turned it off, I took a sigh of relief and said to myself “thank God I am no longer that person in those photos“.
Because if it wasn’t through the struggles that were yet to come, the trials I had not yet faced, and the lessons I had not yet learned, I wouldn’t be the mature, seasoned Christian I am today.
And that’s not to say “I’ve arrived”, as Paul would say. I’m well aware I will never “arrive”. I will always need to approach the Bible with a sense of humility and say “I don’t know everything”, but God has taught me a lot in these past 10 years.
I would not give all of the lessons learned to get back my youth, my fellowship, and my “friends”. Never.
I soon learned that youth is fleeting. Jobs, marriages, kids, and careers soon start taking pieces of your time until you have none left to spend. Staying at church until 1 AM every week suddenly becomes impossible.
I soon learned fellowship is an amazing gift from God, but things aren’t always as they seem. Rather, no church is perfect. People will hurt you. Leaders will hurt you. Your church will make choices you disagree with. Your identity shouldn’t be in the church you attend.
I soon learned friends are a blessing, but some friendships don’t endure past trials. I learned some friendships are built out of convenience and, when push comes to shove, some people will pretend they never knew you if you mess up. I learned how badly bitterness will cloud your judgement and make it impossible to hear from God.
It’s easy to worship God when everything goes right, but the real joy comes when you can worship God when everything is falling apart.
Seeing all of those pictures really made me miss Christ Fellowship (my church in Miami). It was a great church then, but it’s an even better one now. I am overjoyed and praising God to watch it from afar and see God’s favor all over its people. (If you live in Miami and are looking for a church, I highly suggest you visit Christ Fellowship for yourself).
I am blessed to call my church in Arizona, Sun Valley Church, home. It’s as close to Christ Fellowship I have ever come, and I am blessed to be a part of this community. I know it has faults (because every church does) and I know it’s congregants aren’t perfect (because no Christian is), but having gone through many fires, so to speak, I know now how to love a church and not idolize it. I know how to accept people and their faults, because they’ve accepted me and my faults in return.
I know what the TRUE meaning of fellowship is.
Similarly with love and marriage or long friendships, fellowship is not just intense moments of passion and fun. It’s not just zeal. It’s time spent. It’s work. It’s consistency. It’s weathering storms together. It’s holding up others when they are weak and accepting someone else trying to hold you up when you are.
True brotherly love and fellowship, the kind of love we should have for brothers and sisters in the faith, is long-lasting and tested, time and time again.
It’s a kind of love that, once you’ve known it, you’d never want to give it up for a promise of something “more exciting”.
That takes dedication. It takes accepting people and their faults. It takes understanding that you won’t always agree with everyone who loves Jesus, but that doesn’t negate their status as your brother/sister in the faith.
And even knowing all of this, I hope, when I turn 40 and look back on 20 years of following Christ, I can say to myself “I am so glad I am no longer the person I was at 30 years old!”
The memories are wonderful. The people are all amazing brothers and sisters in the faith (that I do still speak with to this day). The church is incredible and has a heart for Miami that I can only wish other churches would see and imitate.
But why waste time looking back when I can look at what God has in store for me today, and if Lord wills it, tomorrow?
May the Lord continue to sanctify the Church as we seek to make Him known.
Grace & Peace,