Today as I sat in church, I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to write this post; that I need to share my testimony. I find that when I am sitting in church, I do some of my best thinking and best listening.
To be honest, if it weren’t for church and knowing my Lord Jesus Christ, I probably would not be sitting here writing this today. It is hard for me to put in words how much The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has helped me, but I will simply sum it up by saying that the church saved my life.
For those of you who know me, you know that I moved down to Georgia for graduate school. All I have ever wanted to do with my life is help others, so I promised myself that the first masters program I got accepted to would be the place I was meant to be.
Looking back on it now, there are many more things I should have taken into consideration, such as leaving behind my support system for a place where I knew no one. But of course, I neglected such things. And as a result, the moment I got an acceptance notice to the University of Georgia, I jumped on it.
Unlike the long 12-hour drive from Pennsylvania to Georgia, it was a quick realization that this move was a mistake. I was lonely, my anxiety became overwhelming, and I felt that there was no one who could understand what I was going through. Not to mention, the love of my life and best friend was across the country to further his education.
It felt as if I had no one. And not only did I have no one, I had no furniture to my name: unless you count a floor lamp that sat in the corner of my empty room.
Intensive classes and clinic soon consumed each weekday. Then each weekend brought with it it’s own set of challenges. Each weekend my roommates would pack up and head out to be with friends or family, leaving me alone in a house with my thoughts. Thoughts that I am not proud. Thoughts that I should have expressed to those I love but I was too afraid that they might think less of me. So instead, I’d sit in my room each Saturday, crying my eyes out on the bedroom floor.
Luckily, during my very first weekend in Georgia, my husband (then boyfriend) recommended that I attend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…or as most may know it, the “Mormon” church. And of course, at first I was like “uh, no way man.” I had so many preconceived notions about the church. These were weird people right? Why would he suggest I go? But then again, what did I have to lose?
So my first Sunday in Athens, Georgia, I somehow found myself walking through those glass church doors. And as soon as my foot stepped through the doorway, the missionaries bombarded me. You know the missionaries right? Those two guys you see dressed in suits with nametags and always travel in pairs. Yep, they became the friends and companions that filled the empty seats next to a nervous and lonely outsider.
Three hours later, I found myself driving home, pondering what had just happened. It turned out that these people were not weird at all. Sure some of their teachings were different. But everyone was so nice and willing to talk to me. I felt something when I left church that Sunday. A feeling as if I was no longer alone. It was a feeling of love and comfort.
Something happened that Sunday, which has stuck with me to this day. I felt something. Something that told me everything was going to be okay. Something that told me I was not alone. Something told me I needed to go back and needed to keep going back.
And so that next Sunday, I found myself back in that same building, on the same bench, sitting next to the same missionaries I’d met the week before. This then happened the following week and the next week and the next.
Sunday soon became my favorite day of the week. As soon as Monday morning came around, I’d anxiously anticipate the weekend, or more specifically, Sunday. I had built a family in that building and when I was there I didn’t feel alone. But more than that, that church and the people inside gave me the hope and strength I needed to make it through the hardest year of my life. Without those people and the things I learned, I would not have made it through the year of 2018.
However, I will admit that I was apprehensive about everything at first. So many new things were (and continue to be) thrown in my direction. I constantly felt defensive about what the missionaries were saying, specifically about other religions. I spent my entire life going to a Presbyterian church. I was very active from youth throughout college, going on mission trips, participating in activities, and going to church each Sunday.
At first I thought the missionaries were attacking my beliefs. And not in an aggressive way, rather, in a way that was different than what I was used to. But eventually I put my walls down and I began to listen. I soon learned that the Book of Mormon was not telling us to disregard the Bible, but instead, it was strengthening it. And the more I listened, learned, and read, the stronger my testimony grew.
I know now what that feeling was my very first Sunday at church. It was the Holy Spirit. He was telling me that I am never alone. God is always with me, no matter what life brings. All I have to do is keep my heart and mind open. All I have to do is listen and I will hear his calming voice. All I have to do is continue to grow closer to him.
And I am by no means perfect, nor do I know everything. But I am striving to grow and learn each day. I am striving to live like Jesus Christ lived. And to be honest, I still feel somewhat inferior to those who have belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for their whole life. I feel behind. However, I know that these are just insecurities of my own. I believe that all my experiences have an important and necessary purpose for the course my life has taken and is yet to take.
Our lives are such a blessing and something we should never take for granted…no matter how difficult life gets. Because we all know that life is hard. Life is brutal. But there are also so many beautiful blessings to be had.
I am not at all saying the conversion was/is easy. In fact, after my baptism in August, 2017, my faith was tested more than it ever had been before. I was constantly worried about what other people, especially family and friends, would think if I told them. I was afraid of being shunned. I was afraid of being judged. And to be honest, it was a decision I never saw myself making so I was still coming to terms with it myself.
But I now know that making that decision was/is the best decision of my life; the most difficult decision, but the best.
That is my testimony.