Two years ago, the summer before my junior year, I moved from southern Connecticut to northern Georgia. I know that already you're probably assuming that the Bible Belt has me tightened in the first notch around its waist. I suppose that could be the case, but I'd much rather believe that it was by self-discovery and perseverance.
When I lived up north, church and God never played a large role in my life. Sure, I sat in church every Sunday but I never listened to the sermon with an open mind, ears or heart. I received my First Holy Communion as well as my Confirmation, but I never really knew what I was confirming. It felt more as if I was simply acknowledging the fact that God exists just because Confirmation was a milestone in which every teenager must pass in order to be let in the Pearly Gates. So when I found out we were moving south I rolled my eyes at what I believed to be "Bible Thumpers," "Jesus Freaks," and "Holy Rollers." I couldn't have been further from the truth. Of course there were some stereotypical church-goers, but most of the people I encountered had what I didn't: faith. I became jealous that people could speak so wonderfully of our Creator yet I have seen him perform no miracles and he has seemingly left so many prayers unanswered.
But as I began my senior year I struggled with depression and anxiety and often times felt that I had nothing. But I did have something...I had faith. I do not know where it came from; I didn't pick up a Bible or spend hours in a church, but I found myself talking to God and acknowledging that he has put me through this difficult time in order to become better on the other side. It was a wonderful feeling to find it. It's always inside us yet sometimes we suppress it, out of fear or thinking that we don't need God. Then throughout the school year I continued to talk to God, to pray and to always consciously know that what He is putting me through now will better me for the future.
My school does a tradition called “Blue Envelopes,” where people can write each student letters and they will be delivered to the student before graduation in a large blue envelope. So on the day of Blue Envelope distribution, I didn't go in with any expectations--I wasn't expecting lots of letters--in fact, I was just expecting a small envelope with a few letters from my parents and sister. I was simply there to collect my Blue Envelope then go home. However, when they handed me my Blue Envelope, I was astonished--it was thick and heavy, packed with letters! I was even slightly embarrassed as I looked around and saw other kids with envelopes much smaller than mine. I rushed home to read them, and found so many letters from friends and family many states away, and even some from my favorite teachers. I couldn't help but to read them and cry. I felt so loved. It was a feeling I had not realized had been lacking in myself. But I know that God was watching over me and helped inspire those people to write those letters so that I could feel loved. And the best part is that I felt loved by not only friends, family and teachers but also from Him. My heart felt so full that day.
Another tradition that comes with being a senior is the Baccalaureate service, a nondenominational church service directed toward seniors and their parents. I was terrified to go to this service, as I had not stepped inside a church in almost a year and a half and I had no idea what to expect. I sat in one of the first few pews, surrounded by the rest of my senior class and found myself amazed at the beautiful service provided by my fellow classmates and teachers. The preacher compared us, graduates, to pilots, and God as our air traffic controller. We are ultimately in charge, yet God is steering us in the right direction and making sure we are safe the entire way. I love that metaphor. I felt so refreshed after the service, my faith restored, as I was prepared to go out into the world with Jesus as my savior and God’s watchful eye always providing me with opportunities to learn and to grow.
It’s not always easy to maintain or to have faith during the ups and downs of high school. It may seem easier to remember the downs: failing that test, wrecking that car, going through a breakup or a loved one passing away, but God has a purpose. His purpose will always be greater than we think. One of my favorite writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said: “All that I have seen teaches me to trust in the Creator for all that I have not seen.” So at the end of the day when we feel that the world is crumbling at our fingertips, all we have to do is have a little faith.
Lead Image Credit: Jessie Eastland via Wikimedia Commons