Once upon a time, there lived a good little church girl.
Faithfully, she attended every Sunday and Wednesday, learning about the God who loved her so very much. Then, one Sunday morning, she decided she no longer needed the church. In fact, she didn't even need God. With yearning in her heart, she walked out without so much as a backwards glance and no intentions of turning back.
If you're starting to feel a little uneasy, relax. This story has a good ending. I should know, because "that girl" was me two years ago.
I had attended church ever since a onesie and bib were acceptable church attire. Growing up, I went to Sunday school, children's church, and Wednesday nights faithfully each week. I loved church. I had never felt unloved inside its walls . . . until junior high.
In sixth grade, everything changed. Suddenly, the peers who had been my friends wanted nothing to do with me. I learned very quickly that it doesn't take loud proclamations to make it clear you are unwanted. Most of the time, all it takes is a tightly closed circle and locked lips. When I was spoken to, it was often to offer "concerned advice", where I was given a laundry list of all the ways I was "stumbling". Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, there always seemed to be a new area in need of moral TLC.
Confused and hurt, I approached a trusted youth leader with the problems I was facing. His response was that I must not be trying hard enough. Worried, I began to attend every youth event there was. Usually a little more on the quiet side, I made sure that I approached others first instead of waiting to be sought out. I even joined the worship band. Still, it wasn't enough.
When freshman year rolled around, I had high hopes, but I soon found that the gap had only widened. My will to try was fading and by sophomore year, I was attending fewer and fewer youth events. Junior year, I went to Sundays and Wednesdays only, and come senior year, I decided that not only did I not need a church who didn't need me, but I couldn't serve a version of God that was so superficial. I believed in God, I just didn't know who He was anymore. I began reading about other religions and their practices. I researched different lifestyle choices. I even studied up on the physical psychology of spirituality.
When I went off to college, I turned to learning from the world around me. I learned from quiet whisperings and acts of Grace I didn't deserve. Most importantly, I learned by being removed from what I had always known. Hearing how other people talked about the church and understanding their point of view convicted me of many things. I was able to find my feet, standing firmly in who I was in God, not who my church peers, or even the church staff, said I was. I learned how I was called to serve Him, not how the church said I was called to serve Him. In the silence, I learned to listen to His voice, because it was all I had.
Many young people, at some point, struggle to make their faith their own and I think it can be terrifying, as a parent, to watch them go in a direction you did not prepare them for. I don’t have children, but I think it might feel a little like failure; that perhaps there was something you could have done to prevent it. As a young person who went down that road, and still takes occasional detours, I'm here to tell you it's okay and that God is never out of control.
First, you are not your child.
Although they came from you, even though they were, or are, under your care, they are their own entity. That means they come with their own personal battles. When these battles are fought, it doesn't mean you failed. It simply means they are living life, as everyone must.
Second, there are many spiritual whisperings and movements that cannot be seen from the outside.
Believe me, big things are happening in the heart and mind of your child. They may not express these thoughts or deal with them in a way you can measure as "progress", but I promise you, just because they are questioning doesn't mean their hearts and brains have died, and neither has God and His infinite control.
Third, questions do not mean they are "lost forever".
If God is all-powerful, if He cannot be disproven, then He will reveal Himself. His light and truth will only grow stronger. It may take a year, or it may take 80, but no circumstance is ever out of His control.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman in a church parking lot. She stood silently gazing at the steeple above as church-goers flooded past her, Bibles in hand. She did not look like the others. She wore scars upon her heart that ached for the struggles of those that surrounded her. She sought out those who thought themselves invisible, and she now knew that she must always listen to God first, and preaching second. Two years ago, she had walked out on God, and today, with one final deep breath, she fixed her eyes on the doors ahead and walked back in.
Taylor Nieman is a young American writer with a passion for travel, the-road-less-taken, and coffee . . . lots of coffee. After attending college on both coasts, she decided to ultimately forge her own path, chasing her writing dreams at full speed. Her love of writing and travel have finally come together in the form of her current project, Global 365, where she will travel the globe for an entire year to see what happens when millennials use their social media to engage and change the world. @TNoelN
You can also hear Taylor on HomeschoolingIRL Episode 18: Homeschool Grads Tell All