Growing up in the wet, green Pacific Northwest, I was raised with a fantastic conglomeration of faith experiences. My parents had been childhood friends–both from large Catholic families–and found Jesus together during the Jesus Movement of the Seventies. After they were married they migrated to a budding pentecostal, non-denominational church in Oregon, which would be the second home to my first 10 years of life. They loved the Lord, and they taught us to love the Lord as well.
When I look back at those years, it seems as if everything in life traced back to Jesus. My mom connected everything to him. See those flowers? Jesus made those. You were unkind? Let’s pray to Jesus. Honey, we tell the truth because Jesus says we should.
I “invited Jesus into my heart” when I was 3, was baptized at the age of 9.
The beauty of those years is imprinted deeply in my mind. Without a hint of effort I can conjure up my dad’s voice worshipping beneath the yellow metal roof, I can hear my mom singing, I can see the candles burning in our home in the evening and the Maranatha Music playing from the large black stereo. I am struck by the safety, warmth and joy that permeated our home, our church, and our life.
After the non-denom church experienced a bit of scandal and a split, we moved cities, and began attending a large Assembly of God congregation. Before long we stepped out as part of a small AoG church plant. As we were digging our roots into the Pentecostal heritage, my siblings and I were at the same time enrolled in a Seventh-Day Adventist elementary and middle school.
I often have joked that I was given the Spirit (Assembly of God) and Truth (Seventh Day Adventism) during those years, which never makes anyone smile because those two faith traditions are so largely at odds with one another as far as certain doctrines go. But it always makes me laugh, probably as way of coping with the craziness that ensued in my head as a result of being catechized by both. I spent years trying to work through the diametrically opposed doctrines of these two churches, only to come out on the other side with Jesus–again, and still, and always.
In my late adolescence and early twenties, I ran the usual gamut of doubts and unbeliefs, after a series of poor choices stemming largely from the unaddressed sexual abuse I’d experienced as a child. I experienced a lot of pain, but also a lot of passionate intimacy with my Creator. I made rich friendships with many non-Christians–many of whom I still hold among my most treasured and respected friends–friendships that forced me to look at my faith, my religion, and my God square in the eye.
During those years I was wooed by my Creator. He formed in me a deep spirituality that went beyond the bounds of any creed or doctrine or church. I learned to hear his voice, to trust his heart, to follow his lead. I made mistakes and possessed a self-import that I blush to remember; but oh, he was so good to me.
I met my husband in college; we were both majoring in theology and he was the Scholar of the Year in both Greek and Hebrew, or something important like that (quite intimidating to wild, hippie me), and we married within the year. Very quickly we experienced the crushing pain and confusion of the loss of a faith community and the severance of close friendships due to the misrepresentations of a few (maybe) well-meaning folks. It was really a painful time, and it took years to fully heal; in those years we entered into a sort of wilderness, I suppose. We wandered a bit into guarding our faith with legalism, but that only made us crazy in the head. So then we wandered some more as we learned how to follow Jesus and Jesus alone.
Today my Adventist-raised husband and my Pentecostal-raised self find a marked richness in combining our faith heritages and deeply held personal beliefs. He’s a professionally trained minister who left the church setting to serve Jesus in the military, and I’m a stay-at-home mom deep in the trenches of discipling the six humans we’ve together made. We know how to major on the majors and minor on the minors, and I’m really blown away by the general health and harmony of the spiritual atmosphere in our home. We have always loved the Bible, worshipping in song, teaching others about the Savior, and sharing with our children the joys of our commonly held inheritance. We keep the Sabbath in our own way, yes, and who knows, one of us might even speak in tongues.