I can vividly recall a special day in the fall of 1992 when I walked back to my dorm after class. I had made that walk daily for the weeks since the semester began. For whatever reason, on that particular afternoon, I decided to veer off my normal path. Usually, I turned south just past Murray-Dodge and skirted Brown Hall as I walked toward Wilson and then Butler College. But on that day, I continued west on McCosh Walk past the Art Museum toward Whig and Clio Halls, and then made my way south.
My route wasn’t the only thing different about my walk. I was more aware of my surroundings. I noticed the leaves that had turned brilliant shades of gold, crimson, and burgundy. They were beginning to fall off the trees, and the grass seemed covered by a beautiful, multi-colored carpet. I can remember looking up toward the enclosed, glass bridge that connects the museum’s public galleries to the private offices. At that moment, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be—and I felt extremely grateful to be there.
I had done it. I was in college. I was at Princeton University. Out of the 20,000-odd high school seniors who had applied—many who had the same GPA, SAT scores and extracurricular activities as me—only 2,000 or so were accepted. I got that thin, cream envelop with the Yes! acceptance letter in it. Those 18,000 other kids did not.
But it wasn’t content to just grant me an admission offer. Princeton was very generous with its financial aid. I was awarded about $22,000 in grants that first year—enough to pay for my tuition, housing, and meal plan. I found a campus job to cover my books, clothes, and miscellaneous expenses. My mom’s contribution—for four years of an Ivy League education—was $600.
Thank you, God. I had heard of you before, but I don’t think I ever really knew you.
I was raised in a Christian household and had gone to church with my grandmother and mother for most of my life. I had prayed from time to time and believed in all the bible stories. But that day, I felt a connection to God that had never before existed, and I was driven to know more. I wanted to know who God was.
So, I set out on a quest at the beginning of my freshman year to learn about God. I started reading the bible my godmother Jacqueline had given me as a graduation present and began attending the weekly Hallelujah gospel service on campus. It felt good to worship God, and I enjoyed the familiar hymns. I wasn’t getting very far in the bible though, but I kept trying to make sense of it.
About 100 miles to the north, my older sister was doing the same things. Fresh from her two-year, European tour with the musical Hair, she had settled back in Manhattan, bartending until her next acting or singing gig. One day, she got into a conversation with a patron that ended with an invitation to church. I’m not sure why, but she accepted that invitation. My sister then started reading the bible to learn more about God, and was baptized on her 24th birthday. Four months later, so was I.
There have been so many highs and lows to my Christian walk over the last 24 years. I remember the joy of baptizing my dear friend Remona shortly before she graduated from Penn. I also remember the day my ex-husband told me he was moving out. I loved the conferences I attended with thousands of other Christians from all across the country, and mourned the life I once lived before lupus arrived. But one thing remained constant: God’s love for and complete acceptance of me.
God was willing to forgive every misstep, every poor choice, and every stray word. He knew me better than I knew myself. He also knew there was a kind and honest heart in there—beneath all the anger, arrogance, fear and insecurity. He knew if I dealt with all that stuff, something beautiful would emerge. God has made my Christian walk the amazingly splendid and dynamic experience it has been for more than two decades.
But I have one, big regret: For many years, I was the worst kind of Christian—self-righteous, judgmental, and holier-than-thou. I was convinced that my way of worship was the right way, and everyone else was wrong. I had zeal out the wazoo with very little knowledge or life experience to counter it. I disrespected many people and alienated others with my extreme views.
Fortunately, God knows best. He knew the best way to help me get rid of that tough exterior, and bring forth a kinder, gentler and more compassionate person. He also knew how to humble me. I wish I had known better when I was a young Christian. I wish I had been less critical and judgmental of those around me. I wish I could have watched my words more carefully, and not pushed people away. I wish I could have seen Christ in everyone I met—and allowed Christ to be manifest in me. I wish I had as much knowledge as zeal as a new believer.
I’ve been ruminating on this insight for much of the last month, especially since the presidential election. I have been dismayed each time Trump supporters have targeted a person of color, woman or Muslim. I have worried about the divisions in our country laid bare by the election results, and wonder how will our nation move forward in unity. Yet, I feel like these extreme behaviors have helped me better understand myself. I now can see how wrong I was, and I am truly sorry for any pain I caused. So, this post is my apology to every person I ever judged or pushed away. You didn’t deserve that. You are a beautiful manifestation of God’s grace.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.