I was talking to a friend of mine tonight about "Who we are" and growing spiritually. This is something I've (well Chris too of course) questioned MANY times as we got involved in this journey of ours with the whole "Christianity" thing.
Okay, so those of you who know me will be able to follow my thoughts as they go all over the place and for those of you who don't know me, please bear with me and follow along. :o)
Chris and I were both raised Catholic, he was definitely more involved in "church" than I was. He was an alter boy for goodness sake! LOL But even still, we both were typical Catholics, you know church on Easter, Christmas Eve, and whenever we needed to "light a candle" or have some quiet time with ourselves or confession to the Priest. Chris totally had more religion and influence from his family members during his upbringing than I did. When my father remarried ( I was 10), he married a "Born Again Christian", which is of course what they labeled themselves during the 80's. Well, I pretty much hated her and most of what she stood for and being pushed into a Christian Church and all the "falseness" that went along with the people around me made me sick! So needless to say, I looked at "Christians" as a bunch of wacky, phony people who didn't really like anyone that wasn't involved in their circle. They seemed judgemental and critical all while they put on those smiles and told you how much "Jesus loved You", but their words always just seemed empty, almost lifeless to me as an adolescent and teen. Now granted, I had a ton of other issues besides coming from an abusive/broken home, never feeling loved or wanted, teenage hormones and all that other fun stuff that comes along with that age so that definitely played into my emotions and feelings during that time. I didn't focus on Church, I didn't focus on God, I didn't focus on Spiritual Growth or anything like that... I just couldn't. I struggled to just make it through the next day and figuring out how I was going to do that on my own.
So now giving you that little bit of background, hopefully you can understand why I initially cringed when I found out a new couple we met and really liked were "Christians". Not only were they Christians, but he was a PASTOR!!!! But they really seemed nice. They really seemed genuine. They really seemed to care! So, despite the uncomfortableness of my past and my previous thoughts and preconceptions of their LABEL, I (we) still pursued a relationship with them.
The biggest challenge for us though was changing the Chris and Gina that we were. We didn't want to change, we were proud of the people we were. We didn't hurt people, we worked hard, didn't break any rules/laws, we lived a good life. I mean come on, I am ITALIAN and from the North, so of course I CURSE! Sure, I'm confrontational and outspoken. Yes I hug everyone I meet and befriend, yes I love to kiss all little kids...they are just so sweet! Of course I talk about sex, grope my husband, hug and kiss him no matter who is around, yell at my kids when I've had enough, get mad and flick people off while I'm driving (although I've stopped that since my 4yr old picked that one up a little too quickly), enjoy having drinks with friends and love to have a glass of wine by myself too! But all of those things aren't ALL of who I am. I am much more than that list, more than the label of being an Italian born in New York. Which is why I am much more open to not labeling and prejudging people that label themselves Christians. Kyle and Erika are the ones who helped me with that one for sure. Sure they're quieter than I am, they don't curse like I do, they don't like to be confrontational and they may not consider going out for Martinis a Fun Night Out, but it's not because they are Christians, it's just because that's not who they are. I know plenty of my friends and even family members who behave JUST like they do and they aren't Christians.
I guess my point is that you don't have to change the person you are to get closer to God or to grow spiritually, God has loved YOU before you were even born. It's those around you who judge you, who label you, and it may even just be you doing that to yourself too because you don't really have a clear picture of what it means to walk the real walk with Christ, to live the life He lived, the life God intended for us all to live.
Chris and I have not changed who we are at the core. Sure, some of our habits and routines may have changed some. We go to Bible Studies and Church, we get involved in our community and in the lives of more people. Our love has deepened, our circle of friends has grown, our search for God has expanded and our spirits have become uplifted and filled. I have learned to look more outside of just MY life and MY small circle of family and friends. I'm more intentional with others, I tend to listen a little more, offer myself a little more . . . and I JUST CAN'T EXPLAIN what that does for the heart! I feel like I'm the "Gina" I always knew I was and needed help to release that inner me, if that makes any sense at all.
Sometimes I have a really hard time putting my feelings into words so I hope you get what I'm trying to say. As I talked with my friend tonight, I couldn't help but to feel like she and her husband are right where Chris and I were a year ago and all I could feel was excitement for them! Because I now know that if you just have a little faith and follow your heart while surrounding yourself by the people we are surrounded by here, WOW the lifechange you experience is pretty darn amazing!!!! :o)