Friday, October 25, 2013

A Journey To Faith

By guest blogger Heather Brown

My Mom has given me quite a bit of good advice over the years. You need to "overcome your genes," she often told my brother and me. When I was faced with dealing with criticisms, as we often are in this world, she told me to evaluate the criticism and see if it was relevant. If it was, do something about it. If it wasn't toss it out.

She is one of three very faithful Christian examples in my life. The other two are my Grandma and my Godmother. Through the years though, I have had my periods of utter faithfulness, and my years of complete denial. Throughout my 20's I was a declared Atheist. My Uncle Wayne said that I was too smart for that. I guess in my 30's my neurons reconnected, and I realized that he was right. I am too smart for that.

The thing that I have always struggled with is that it seems so hard to have faith. Some people just have it, like my oldest daughter. She just gets it. She reads her Bible, and writes it down in her reading log for school. She sees the Bible as her guide. She seeks out what it says, and applies it to her life. Man, I wish I had her faith. For her, that's just the way it is. She doesn't have to try so hard.

Lately, my perspective has changed. In my early 30's (when my neurons reconnected) I decided that I was going to turn back toward God. So, first I had to retrain my brain. Step number 1, change the way I thought. For 6 months I listened to nothing but Christian music on the radio. I remember the first month was like torture. I don't know if it was the music, or the message of the music but it drove me crazy. Finally, I started to enjoy it, and some of the messages started to resonate with me. Eventually that is what I listened to the majority of the time, and I didn’t feel this immediate opposition when I heard the word “God.” Brain reprogramming step number 1. Check.

Step number 2; change my philosophy. I have two clear problems that make it hard for me to have faith. 1) I have an overactive brain. My friend Ann says that I need to write an idea book, because I have an idea for everything. 2) I am a problem solver. I can't see a problem without trying to come up with a solution; but, what I learned in my late 20's (which is what ultimately ended my Atheism) is that I cannot solve every problem. In fact, no human can. So, to change my philosophy I started repeating the prayer "Thy will be done." This actually came to me while reading one of Jan Karon's "Mitford novels." It's a simple three word prayer, but it has power. Brain reprogramming step number 2. Check

Step number 3; figure out what this whole God thing is about. I was going through a book at my Church called The Jesus Creed by Scott McNight. Basically, I figured out that what it really boils down to is this, "Love God, and Love Others." (Matthew 22:37-40) Now, for me, that is really hard. I am a natural cynic, and I am very good at critically evaluating everything and everyone around me. In fact, I come from a long line of excellent critics. So loving God, I am getting pretty good at that. But loving others? That's a little bit harder. Brain reprogramming step number 3. Well, I am still working on that one.

But, this whole Faith thing is still really hard for me. It's so ambiguous to say "have faith." So, I tried to make it concrete. I focused on praying for God's guidance and peace and to help me have faith and not worry. I prayed and prayed. It just seemed so hard, and I couldn't feel anything. I didn't feel like my faith was growing, and I didn't feel like I was doing what I needed to be doing. And that's when it hit me. I needed to slightly change my focus. Instead of focusing on what I was supposed to be doing, following the rules (I am a rule-follower. Pretty sure that is genetic because my brother is too), I changed my plan to simply focusing on Jesus. There is an old song "Turn your eyes upon Jesus...and the things of earth will go strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace." (Hebrews 12:1-2) So, this is Step number 4 of my brain retraining program. Focus on Jesus and let everything else fade away. I'm sure there will be a Step 5. But I'll let Jesus worry about that one.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6

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