I connected with Sarah when I advertised myself as a Christian writer, a la So I Married a Youth Pastor, what feels like a million years ago. I was honestly surprised she submitted responses at all, seeing as how my blog has shifted away from the Christian umbrella. When I read her submission through my then-lens, as someone entertaining disappointed feelings, her responses made me cringe in places; and not because they don't necessarily align with my current way of thought, but because it wasn't too long ago that I may have spoken in this same way, saying what "I know" and referring to "those people". My knee-jerk reaction was to thank Sarah for taking the time to submit, but I wouldn't be publishing it. Thanks, no thanks.
And those feelings, all heart-stinging and lip-curling, is exactly what made me decide I had to publish her responses. This blog is a lot of things, but it's not exclusive - it's inclusive, of everyone.
Sarah and I had an open email exchange about her words, and we came to an understanding. So while I'm of the belief that I'll never "know", and I am likely one of "those people" she is referring to, I cannot fault her for her journey and the way she chooses to express her faith. She is, if anything, ardently passionate.
What strikes me is how someone not raised in Christianity chooses to interact with the religion so confidently. Many Christians scoff at my shedding of calling myself a Christian because it's a label that means more to them than it does to me. I was born into it, it's all I've known, so of course it's in my nature to buck against a decision my parents made for me instead of allowing me the freedom to choose for myself. I often wonder what my life could have been like without Christianity as a child/teen - and back then, I wished some days I hadn't been brought up in any religion at all. Had I not been indoctrinated at such a young age, would I be equally dedicated to Christianity as those like Sarah?
If there is one thing Sarah and I have in common - because you can always find a connection - it's the struggles of choosing or un-choosing Christianity.
To connect with Sarah, you can find her online at her namesake.
Responses by Sarah Malcangi
What do you believe, and why?
I am a Christian so I believe that the bible is the real truth. I know that Jesus Christ really did exist, he died on the cross for our sins, and on the third day he rose and appeared to others in resurrected form. I explain some more in the next question, but I know that Christianity is true because I went on a discovery process myself when I was younger. I wanted to find the truth so I did a lot of research of what people said was the truth. Some people would say that truth is relative or it lies in the eye of the beholder but I found that assertion to be false. I also enjoyed reading about evidence we have for Christianity. I couldn't find evidence for any other faith like I did for Christianity. Some of this evidence was in the eye witness accounts that are mentioned in the bible, as well as in non-Christian sources.
Evidence convinced my brain, and my experience with Jesus through a prayer helped my heart to really grasp what I believe. I happen to love science so I also felt it was important for my faith to line up with science, such as how life began and the best explanation for Earth's existence and our purpose here. Were we a mistake or did we happen by chance? I didn't think we were created by chance so diving into study helped to ease my mind and provided a correlation between science and Christianity. I used to think there was a conflict here but there really isn't. I found it is amazing what you find when you drop the fear of what you might find and just allow yourself to see where truth leads you.
Becoming a Christian caused me to sacrifice a lot. I have lost my family and a [now ex-] spouse because they did not agree with me. They left me because of the truth I have found.
How did you discover your beliefs?
I was mainly raised by my father who is an atheist. He used to say that there was no God. He grew up Catholic and became quite angry with God. From a young age I felt drawn to discover what the purpose to life is and what happens to us when we die. I knew there was an afterlife, so that is where my research began.
I started reading more spiritual books about how different people viewed the afterlife. And while I couldn't quite explain it, I knew there was a God; so when I became a young adult I started to research the different religions and what they believed. This search began after I ran away from God between the ages of 17-22. I led a wild and very unChristian-like life. I read new age books and would try to meditate and practice new age beliefs but it just felt wrong how I was going about doing it. And I wholeheartedly tried the relaxation and meditation practices. Many of those people think you can will whatever into your life, but after a while I realized that isn't what really happens. After that I pretty much looked to any religion to satisfy this gaping hole in my heart to know the truth. I tried every religion except for Christianity because I had gone to church a couple times as a child so I thought I had already tried it out. However, I felt an unexplainable pull towards Jesus and a crisis helped me see Jesus come alive in my life. And all I did was to ask him to show himself to me. He showed up in my life in a very real way and I could feel his presence.
Long story short, I was about to commit suicide and threw out a Hail Mary prayer as my last resort. The Lord showed me who I was that day and I no longer felt like I had to end my life because I saw my identity in Jesus Christ. He saved me on that day and continues to save me.
How do you interact with your beliefs?
I read the bible and pray. I also think fellowship with other believers is very important. I happen to still love studying comparative religion and talking to people of other faiths (especially Muslims). And by studying other faiths it actually strengthens what I know is the truth. I live out my faith by focusing my eyes on Jesus in all circumstances, which isn't always easy.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
I lived my first 23 years of life without God, so doubts like to creep into my head - such as how my family treated me. I've had to create a list of scripture that redirects my doubting heart when things get tough. Prayer is also important because I can take my feelings to the Lord. I don't doubt that God is real or that Jesus really did die for my sins. More of my doubt is about what God is doing in my life. As a now single mom, left by my husband and extended family because of my beliefs in Jesus, it's a struggle to constantly remember who I am in Christ. Like creating any good habit it gets easier the more I read the bible and am reminded of my identity and the important things in life. Fellowship with other believers helps me to realize that even someone who has grown up in the church doesn't have a perfect life. But even when I have doubts or questions about faith, I think it's important to think through them (while not over thinking) and them to people I trust.
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.