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Giving church another chance

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I’ve always been drawn to music.

A look at my past reveals a disenfranchised young church soloist who sought meaning in New Age music ministry and as a member of a mystical Jewish band before immersing herself in the LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) faith.

Each verse of my past story was different than the last but beat to the same refrain. Measures of time, never measuring up; my heart pounding a broken melody in its search for belonging.

I spent years trying to find my place in the world, seeking a connection with God by experimenting with religion, when all along Jesus was calling me to lay down my striving and rest in his love and grace.

I was born and raised in the church. Baptized at age nine, I began singing in church a year later. As I entered my teenage years, however, I found church boring. I prioritized partying over my presence in the pews, and my church attendance dwindled. The seeds of faith planted in my childhood lay dormant as I grew to adulthood, and life lacked greatness. I longed to reconnect with God.

I began experimenting with religion. Having moved from California to Utah, I joined the music ministry at a New Age church. At first it was fun and exciting. I was free to do and think whatever I wanted but still had a divine connection.

During this time, I also traveled with a mystical Jewish band, attending High Holy Days at an Arizona synagogue. I investigated the Jewish Renewal movement, taking conversion courses and studying with a rabbi, but it didn’t resonate in my heart.

I stayed with the New Age church because it helped pay the bills, but my heart wasn’t in it either. There’s freedom in boundaries, and the church had none. I longed for a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Soon after, I married an LDS man. At that point, I had tried so many churches, I thought, “What’s one more? Besides, they’re into Jesus. It’s in their name.” I went all in. I met with the missionaries, was baptized and had a Mormon temple marriage.

But gazing below the surface, I realized there was more to it than I first thought. We read the Book of Mormon more than the Bible. A checklist of things to do weighed me down. No matter how hard I tried to be a good Mormon, I couldn’t do it. I knew life as a Christian wouldn’t be easy, but my heart told me it shouldn’t be this hard.

After 14 years, I couldn’t maintain the facade anymore, and my marriage ended. I felt like a failure. My shattered heart ached for my kids, and my health plagued me. I didn’t have a dime to my name. The pit in my stomach weighed heavy as I walked a lonely road. Months went by, and I wondered if I’d ever feel right again. Although I didn’t realize it, Jesus was with me on that dark road.

During this time, a guy from my past resurfaced. We had been best friends and bandmates in high school. He relocated to Utah, and we married. A former Jehovah’s Witness, he knew the difficulties of navigating out of a religion and supported me greatly during a time I wasn’t attending church.

In time, I gave church another chance. The lyrics of the worship music soothed my broken heart, lifting me out of the pit and keeping me coming back for more. I dared to hope I could find my place and be me again.

The words of 1 Peter 2:24 I heard that first Sunday echoed my soul’s cry for healing, and studying 1 Peter showed me Jesus was waiting for me with open arms.

When we moved to West Jordan to be closer to my kids, I found South Mountain Community Church online. After one week, my husband and I knew we wanted to be in this together. We publicly declared our faith through baptism and have since joined the worship team.

Now I’m starting over, like a newborn baby craving pure spiritual milk. It’s hard to think I spent so many years trying to be something I wasn’t. Yes, I still have days of anxiety, doubt and sorrow, but I’ve found freedom in Christ.

Jesus gives me grace and peace I couldn’t find in all my searching. There’s no more guilt or shame. I am enough. I know where I belong, and my life breathes an anthem of grace.

As told to Janae Rempel. 

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