Small, scary steps…Part I

It’s been a while but I recently got a spark of inspiration to write about my faith journey…enjoy Part I as you wait for Part II’s arrival tomorrow.

Small, scary steps leading to Fearless leaps of Faith…this is my journey.

I grew up Catholic.  I had to go to church every Sunday.  I couldn’t wear jeans or shorts or jean shorts and definitely could not leave after communion like all the cool kids did.  Most of the time church felt boring to me.  When I got to Boston for college, I chose to party on Saturday nights and sleep in on Sundays.  God was a neutral figure in my life.  I didn’t love Him.  I didn’t denounce Him.  I just didn’t think about Him. 

Fast forward to my mid 20’s and life was just not working.  I was into triathlons and had a great job but was struggling with depression and an eating disorder.  I looked “normal” on the outside but was dying on the inside. My saving grace?  These 12 step meetings that a friend led me to.  I attended meetings frequently and it helped me feel so much less alone.  Those people got me.  More than the Catholics.  More than my friends.  More than my family.  At one of those meetings, I met someone who went to a non-denominational church.  She was outdoorsy and super stylish and I wondered what the heck she was doing in church.  Church people were boring and judgmental.  She invited me to church every few months in the least pushy way but I always responded with a quick no.  Sundays were reserved for running 10 miles or biking 50. 

After about a year, I got to a point where I was desperate for more peace and fulfillment in my life.  And since I wasn’t finding that on my bike or in the bars, I told said friend “Fine.  I’ll go.  Direct me to this church you speak of.”

I’ll never forget the day my Catholic schoolgirl self walked into that door.

Is this really church? Where’s the altar?  Where are the pews?  Why is there a rock band?  And why are those freak shows waving their hands in the air?

I followed my friend down the aisle and did a half genuflect and discrete sign of the cross as we entered our row. 

I was confused.  And uncomfortable.  I wanted to leave.

After the music stopped (thank God!), some bubbly person made announcements and then this young, tall man showed up in jeans and flip flops and began in his very deep voice to speak. 

You mean this garment-less guy is going to speak to us about God? 

And speak he did. 

I couldn’t believe it.  He made the bible come to life in a very practical way and I felt like the neutral God of my upbringing was speaking to me personally.  

He finished.  The band came back on stage for one last song.  The weird people (and my cool friend) started waving their hands in the air in “worship”. And I didn’t know whether to be excited or scared. 

I left church that day feeling 49% judgmental of those Christian weirdos and 51% curious.  The scale tipped just enough for me to come back a few weeks later. 

Before I knew it, I was rearranging my triathlon training schedule and going to church every Sunday.  I had to hear what the deep voiced surfer dude was going to say.  I got comfortable. 

Then, people started talking about this home group thing and that made me feel really weirdYou mean a bible study?  You want me to join a bible study??  I was still obsessed with the cool radar and cool people definitely didn’t go to bible studies.  But apparently that was what you were supposed to do to get to know God more and develop a community. But I met another cool girl (there were only 3 of us at the church at the time) and she told me about a home group that was full of cool people just like us.  So I went.  And I got uncomfortable….again

I was used to 12 step meetings where people bare their soul so that is just what I did.  Turned out it was a breath of fresh air for these Christians who had more surface level talk at these bible study things.  But I didn’t know the rules.  So I broke them, often, by over sharing and going over my time limit. 

I grew in that group.  I learned more about God and Jesus and community.  I learned that even with a severe eating disorder, God loved and cared for me deeply and just wanted to be my friend.  I spent three times per month with this group for a few years and began to love them as much as I loved my Sundays at church.  I started volunteering with the refugee community in City Heights. I started praying more and desired deeply to know why God had me on this earth. 

I decided to take a leave of absence from my medical device job to volunteer abroad.  I reached out to some friends and eventually a friend of a friend introduced me to a nurse who worked at a children’s home in Kenya.  I applied to volunteer and went to Kenya in 2012. That month turned my life upside down. . .

*Please consider a monthly or one time donation to support the BEAM Kenya mission to advocate for the emotional, spiritual, and education needs of impoverished children in Kenya*


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  1. Joan Hession says

    I am loving reading about your journey. I know that many, many people can relate to your mindset in those rough years. It’s really hard to « get » God and your relationship to Him when all you have to go on is your experiences as a kid, simply following the rules set out by your parents or the church they belonged to. There
    Is often one person ( your angel person ) who leads you to an experience which awakens your heart again and opens your ears to God’s message of love. When I used to hear people use the expression « born again » I would roll my eyes and want to move away from the crazed Christian who was making me feel uncomfortable. But then i heard a minister (in jeans, surrounded by screens and a rock band ) explain that expression – as the moment when your handed-down idea of « knowing God » becomes a real, solid, self-created connection so that while you’ve always been a child born of your parents, you are suddenly also a child born of God. Sending you much love, Colleen, beloved child of God.

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