I grew up in a Christian family, dutifully attending church every weekend with my parents. I remember countless viewings of Veggie Tales and The Prince of Egypt. I participated in children’s choir and read Revelations for fun. I recall summer Vacation Bible Schools and Memorial Day retreats at UCSD. In fact, it was after the latter, in 6th grade, that I first remember praying my confession and repentance, my acknowledgement of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and my acceptance of Him as my Lord and Savior.
As I grew older, however, I gradually became more and more distant from the church. Academic pressure and the perceived need to get into a good university took over my high school years. The few weekends I was able to make it to church felt more and more awkward, as I became less able to relate to former friends and teachers. I felt that my struggles were too different, too boring, too worldly, and thus too shameful to share. I became anxious at the very thought of fellowship with those I had left behind – a story that continued throughout university.
All throughout this period, I continually identified internally and externally as a believer. I remained confident about God’s presence in my life, and though I did occasionally have doubts, I was always able to resolve them. But I began to feel that I didn’t need community or fellowship in the church. I felt that I could be Christian, could read the Bible, could grow, without the help of others. Of course this was mistaken, and despite how I would describe myself, my faith became weak and unsupported by action.
A few years after graduation, during an offhand conversation with a friend about religion, it suddenly struck me how stagnant my faith had become. I decided to first start reading the Bible daily again and go from there. In Hebrews, a passage seemed to speak to me:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” – Hebrews 10:24-25
It became clear to me that being part of the church was important to the Christian life. Soon thereafter COVID hit, making physical return impossible. But this proved a blessing. After realizing there would be no quick end to the pandemic, I moved back to my childhood home and got my feet wet with my original church through online services. By the time it was possible to return in person, I was ready.
As I attended church both there and here, I experienced firsthand how the church body brings Hebrews 10:25 to life. I had feared judgment and shame, but as I communed with the church family, I instead found energy and inspiration. Alone I was content with a sickly faith; now I feel a drive to grow further, to worship the Lord more fervently as He deserves from me, and to one day be used to support others as well. It has been a spiritual re-regeneration for me – a testimony to His boundless grace and how we are meant to find it in others, within the church.
And so today I stand here ready at last for this public declaration. I am here to commit myself to the church as a believer, who knows to be true that God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, and that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. Thank you.