I am a horrible Christian. I have started and stopped going to church numerous times in the last two decades. I have strayed from my commitment to leading a “Christian life” on more than one occasion. When I look back over the last twenty years, I see numerous times when I wondered off the path I had chosen.
That same day Jesus … told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:1-23)
I learned about the Parable of the Sower as a freshman in college. Starting in January of 1993, I began attending church regularly. I decided after a few months of attending church and reading the bible that I wanted to turn my life over to God and live as a Christian. I got baptized on March 18, in the middle of my spring break. I was young and zealous and unafraid of sharing my faith with others.
My zeal for God and his church did not last long. By the fall, I had lost sight of God and no longer wanted to continue fellowshipping with other Christians. What caused such a complete turn around?
I was miserable. Looking back, I can identify that was the first time I experienced seasonal affective disorder. I was sad and listless and overwhelmed and confused. I didn’t know what was going on then. All I knew was than no amount of prayer, bible study, confession or church attendance could make me believe, or at least lift me out of my funk.
I also felt guilty all the time, because I wasn’t obeying one of Christ’s central commands: “Rejoice always.” Each time Philippians 4 came up during a sermon, I felt shame over my lack of joy. The only time I was happy was hanging out with my college friends, who didn’t go to my church, with whom I didn’t talk about God, for whom life wasn’t about death and salvation. Given the choice between misery and escape, I left.
The Rocky Places
After college, I moved to Philadelphia where I was alone without any friends. This time when the sadness descended, I started praying and eventually sought a church in my new home.
I probably was motivated by my need for belonging. My new church had a strong campus ministry, in which I participated as a graduate student. I recommitted to God and his church, and was an active member of that congregation from 1996 through 2005.
My paternal grandmother turned 75 in 1999. Along with my North Carolina cousins, I helped plan a surprise birthday party in her honor. As we made the preparations for the bash, my nightmares became very vivid and intense. I had suffered for years from nightmares, but the ones that spring were the worst ones of my life.
I sat with pen and paper one day, and started to write a prayer to God. As I wrote, a vivid memory came to mind. I saw my cousin touching me inappropriately and molesting me. It was the first time in my life that I had called the event what it was—incest, molestation, sexual abuse.
I raged against God for weeks afterward. How could you let something like that happen to me? I was a child. I was innocent. I was seven years old. I didn’t deserve it.
I desperately wanted to get married in my twenties. Starting a year after my college graduation, I was a bridesmaid in seven weddings in the six years between 1997 and 2002—three weddings alone in 2001. By the time I was 28, all my college friends, all my grad school classmates, even my older sister had gotten married, and I was alone once more. I prayed almost every day to get married, to find a husband and have children.
A guy named Spencer eventually came along. We dated and got engaged and then married. It didn’t last. He moved out after a few months, and I was alone once more. I also was really made at God for breaking His promise, for not making my marriage work, for blaming me for the divorce even though I had done my best to avoid it.
I tried to pray and read the Bible after my separation and subsequent move to Jersey City. I tried to find a new church to attend. I tried to do right, but I was hurt and angry and confused. I rebelled.
I used to blame myself for being a bad Christian, for questioning God and the church, for having times when I was less motivated to read, pray or attend worship services. I blamed myself for being the bad soil or the bad seed, for struggling in my relationship with God.
In reality, God was delighted with me. I kept going, kept seeking, kept trying to find him. Things really turned around for me, ironically, after I was diagnosed with lupus and my divorce was finalized. I learned to stop pretending and stuffing my emotions.
While I was working out things on my end, God was tilling the soil of my heart and preparing the ground. He had planted the seed in me many years before, and for twenty years, He kept watering the ground. God is the one who makes things grow.
[Jesus] also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
When l look at my life today, I can see the harvest:
And I can say all of that—all the fruit of the spirit—is from God. He is the one who has made me faithful.
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.