Katherine Sawyer- Finding God in the In-Between
I grew up in and out of church. I learned the “Bible basics” at a young age. I knew the “big” stories and the “big” names, and my family went to church every once in a while. Church was never a life-altering experience for me. I didn’t feel like I ever learned anything exceptional, sermons were never applicable to my life, and overall I didn’t feel like I had a personal relationship with God. I knew who God was, I believed in Jesus, but I was just going through the motions and checking boxes because that’s what I was “supposed to be doing.” I was a very passive Christian, someone who believed but didn’t act like it. You wouldn’t have met me and known that I knew God.
When I got to college at Texas State, I had no interest in finding a church away from home. I was content to be a believer without changing my habits or my actions. College was great, really, I had a great time, but I always felt like something was missing. I was consistently making decisions that I felt guilty about later. I felt shame and guilt over my actions often and really just shoved my feelings and confusion aside because I thought, “this is college; this is what it’s supposed to be like; you’re just figuring it out.” During my junior year, one of my sorority sisters got a flier in the quad for a college women’s Bible study. I was intrigued! I’d never actually read the Bible. As I said before, I knew some of the stories because I was taught some of the stories at a young age, but I’d never sat down to study them, and I’d never cared enough to spend time in the word. I started going to this Bible study with two other women in my sorority and loved it. That summer, I was working at a summer camp and started praying before bed at night. It was the first time I had ever prayed without reciting a memorized prayer. It was the first time I really personally spoke to God. The summer ended, school began again, and the two women I was going to Bible study with graduated and moved away. I didn’t want to go back to Bible study alone, so I stopped going altogether, but I had a new way to communicate with God. Prayer became a part of my daily routine, and that was just the beginning.
Fast forward two years, I had started (and stopped) a reading plan to read the Bible in a year…twice…the Old Testament is hard, okay guys. I graduated from college and was at my lowest point. From the outside looking in, I should’ve been so happy. I got a job right out of school, I was able to stay here in town, and I had a great support system. But none of my friends lived here anymore, my family was in Houston, and I didn’t have the community that I needed to actually be happy.
Everyone jokes about “adulting” and tells you how great it is to get a real job and a real paycheck and all the things you can do with your “real money,” but nobody tells you how hard it is. Nobody tells you how lonely it can be.
Transitioning from college to “adulting” was the lowest point in my life. My relationship of almost four years ended right before graduation. I lost the idea of what that future would be. All of my friends moved away, and I truly felt alone. I made some friends at a workout class I started going to, and they went to a non-denominational church in the area. After contemplating the pros and cons of going “back to church,” I ultimately decided that I had nothing to lose by going. I went, by myself, to this new church, and it was life-changing. The thing that stands out to me the most, to this day, was the worship. I had never seen non-traditional worship, and I was moved to tears instantly. I’ve always had an emotional response to music, and I knew in the first twenty minutes of being there that this was how I was supposed to encounter God. THIS was how it was supposed to FEEL to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not to just be told that you are.
I went to this church for about two years until COVID came along and knocked us all off our feet. In those two years, on May 5th, 2019, I chose to get baptized and give my life to Jesus. Things were really great, I was finally meeting people and enjoying the community, but I was still living for the world. I didn’t feel that I had accountability in this new community, so I continued to sin and choose worldly things over God. Thanks to COVID and about a year of church online, I felt like I had backtracked. No community, nothing to do besides work… (I’m sure not many people will agree with me) but thank God for working in healthcare and not having the option to work from home. My coworkers ended up really being my only social outlet for that year.
On May 23rd, 2021, feeling alone again and far from God, I posted on my neighborhood Facebook page asking for suggestions on churches in the area with a large young adult population. Chris Millar and Mark Strong both commented on my post about The Well, and they both messaged me, letting me know that they had evening service that same night at 5 pm if I wanted to come check it out. My initial reaction was, “okay, maybe that’s a bit too soon,” but I knew in my heart that I was making excuses, and this was an answered prayer.
Even though I felt far from God, God was not far from me. I went to The Well for the first time that night. Throughout the past year, God has provided me with authentic relationships, accountability, encouragement, trust, grace, patience, growth, and love. I get to lead with some of my closest friends and know that this community is praying for me and guarding my heart even when I don’t feel strong enough to do so myself.
Through the support of this community and the grace of God, I have read the Bible all the way through (I finally got through the Old Testament, praise Jesus!). I serve in multiple areas in the church, I am a part of the worship team, which seemed like a far-off dream that would never happen (a story for another day), and I have learned to pray boldly and unapologetically. I have a real, personal, meaningful relationship with God, and my life is radically changed.
I know that everyone’s story looks a little different, and while I hope that this can be encouraging to anyone who comes across it, in sharing my journey in and out of faith, I specifically want to speak to those who are in the in-between stage. My heart aches for you who are struggling in the transition. For you, who feel alone and in the dark, with no light in sight.
God sees you.
I know how hard everything seems right now, and I know how frustrating it is to be told over and over again, “it gets better,” “just keep pushing forward,” etc. And I want to tell you…
God has you.
He has always had you, and He always will.
Press into your relationship with Him and believe that you are never alone, even when you feel like you are. Seek community and like-minded people to keep you accountable and to pray with you and pray for you when you feel like you can no longer pray for yourself. Know that not every community is going to be the perfect fit, and not every group of young adults is going to be “your people.” It may take a couple of tries, and that’s OKAY, but TRY. Pray for wisdom and discernment and for God to reveal himself to you in ways that you’ve never seen. He did it for me. I know He will do it for you.