Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Keeping it real — Life after returning to the fold

Published:Saturday | May 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey
James (left) with her friends at a social event.
James dressed and ready for church.
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"But now that you have come to know God, or rather, to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?" Galatians 4:9 (ESV)

The Christian journey is smooth sailing with few to no obstacles and easy for every individual to travel, said no one, ever.

Though each story is different, every Christian would tell you that at some point, you become disheartened, you question God, and you even lose your way. But there is one thing that gives sheer joy: living a life that is pleasing to God.

Alicea James grew up in church, but during her late teen to early adult years, she strayed from the teachings and lost sight of the place where she ought to have been.

It took years before she realised that her life had a void and only one thing could help it. Luckily, it was not too late.

"The journey has been complicated: It has been enlightening, and it has been rewarding. I suspect it will always be all these things - and more. I am certainly not of the misconception that becoming a Christian means that the path will suddenly be smooth - quite the opposite, actually. I am fully aware - now more than ever before - that this journey will be a hard one that will involve, pain, loss, tragedy, betrayal, and so much more.

NOT IMMUNE

"Being a Christian doesn't make me immune to any of these things, but it does prepare me for how to deal with these situations when they occur."

James said that her conviction cannot be easily explained, but she knows that she has made the right decision, even amid the things she has had to endure.

"It's something you feel deep down in your soul. It's a monumental decision that should not be taken lightly, but when God calls, who am I to not listen?"

She said, "Learning to forgive and forget; learning to be compassionate; learning to love people who I don't necessarily deem worthy of love; learning to put away pride and accept criticism are some of the hardest things to do."

She continued, "But my mindset has changed since being back in Church. I now know that this journey was never meant to be easy. Think about it. So many things in life are hard, but we chose to do them, right? Your job might be difficult, but because you want to get paid at the end of the month, you do it because the pay check is your reward. Well, the reward for being a Christian is far more superior than any pay check, and though it may not come at the end of this month or the next- however long it takes, it will undoubtedly be worth the wait."

The young Christian believes that the process will always be a continuous learning experience.

"I'm learning through my own experiences and the experiences of other Christians - those who have been in the faith for many years and even those who have fallen away. I also know that reading is fundamental, and not just reading, but truly understanding. The Bible is arguably the most complicated book in the world. People read the scriptures and we all have different interpretations, but the truth is that there is only one truth."

James told Family & Religion that she has been blessed with friends who can help her along the way, not just through their opinion, but through biblical proof.

"I wish I had returned to church sooner. There are so many life lessons I've learnt recently that would've been a great source of help in my younger years. I probably would have been better prepared for many of the issues I've faced so far. For one, I wouldn't have had these unrealistic expectations about how my life is supposed to be."

James, who now enjoys a life of completion, says that not even the ancient mindset of Christians who believe individuals aren't to have fun, can deter her from her way of life.

"Life is about perspective. The way you view things has a monumental impact on certain outcomes. This is something I'm working on, and I know it's easier said than done, but it can be done! Also, be accountable for your mistakes, but don't let them cripple you. Acknowledge your wrongdoing. Ask for forgiveness, and use the next day as an opportunity to do better," she ended.

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com