I came from an average middle class family with one older sister. We weren’t very close; family was important, but I wouldn’t say we were all “friends”. My parents worked very hard, in fact every day of the year except for Christmas, so we didn’t see each other all that much considering they started work shortly after I got home from school. This meant I spent most of my time at home alone with my sister. Although they did make sure that we had dinner together as a family every night. They were immigrants from Greece and built their lives in Canada from nothing so working hard and making money was really important to them even if it meant time away from their kids.
Not having been brought up in any type of church setting, I didn’t learn the value of spirituality, community or accountability. And although I started believing in God when I was 25, it was merely a belief, without much change in how I lived.
Although I saw myself as very giving, and was in a helping profession, I was actually very selfish with my time. I wanted to only do things that I wanted to do when I wanted to do them if it suited me. I also had no problem lying or bending the truth, I learned from a young age that I needed to lie to get what I wanted. I thought that I was happy, when in fact I was just “fine”. I looked for love in all the wrong places, not knowing what was missing in my life. I didn’t have any responsibilities apart from what concerned me. And I believed that I didn’t need God, because I had gotten through life so far without Him…or so I thought.
I found Q Faith Community at a point in my life when I was going through a divorce. I started to lean on God and continued to ask for strength everyday shortly after I went to my first Q meeting. Q was a good fit for me, having no faith background, I felt safe to just be myself, wherever I was at, ask any question and not feeling judged. I was introduced to the 12 steps which at first I thought was strange since I didn’t have an identifiable addiction, but as my pastor walked me through the steps I got to experience this “spiritual awakening” that people in recovery talk about. I joined a group where we read a few chapters from the Bible daily and met once a week to discuss what stood out to us, to see if we could see where God was working in our lives, but mostly just to connect with each other and share honestly about where we were at that week. Through this I started to learn who Jesus was and I wanted to try and live my life more in line with his teachings. Sometimes it still feels weird to say things like that, especially because 8 years ago I basically didn’t even know who Jesus was! I started to have some accountability to meet with this group and the larger group each Sunday. Even if I felt like I didn’t need to be there, I went because one of them might need me. Then I joined the leadership team which meant a little more responsibility. I started helping with the bookkeeping and running the meetings. I even opened up my workplace to start a second meeting on Thursday evenings. The best part is that I experienced real joy for the first time in my life. I really believed that I was happy before, but nothing compares to the joy I feel when I know God is working in my life and using me as His vessel to help others. I even got baptized in a freezing cold lake! I still joke about how I was “sin free” for about 10 minutes after, because I know I’m never going to be perfect.
My life now is very different, but also the same. I thought that I would have to change who I am to be a Christian, but I’m still the same person, just with a different desire about how I want to live, and faith that I’m not alone in trying to do this. I now have a spiritual family who have been my support for the last 4 years. Although I can never be unselfish, I have improved a lot. I try to help where I can and am more generous with my time and money. I now know it’s not necessary to lie, telling the truth can also get you what you want, in fact I know that doing things honestly can be more rewarding. I try to be there for people, even if they just need to talk. I’ve also noticed I’m not as concerned about material things, I know these will never bring me joy. The only thing that can fill whatever I think I’m looking for is God. And one day at a time, as I practice His way of being in the world with my community, I become more and more who I was designed to be. I’ve learned to trust Him in this and many other ways, and I know now that I do need Him. And if I ever forget any of these things, well now I have my community to remind me when I’m starting to veer off the track, because I can’t do it on my own. There are no guarantees that I will always live this way, life is filled with situations that have tried, and will try, to pull me away from this. But by the Grace of God, I’ve never left. I’ve found that if I can “just say yes” – to the meeting, or service, or reading, whatever the next right thing is – then I have a good chance of eventually finding that joy again… And again… And again.