If you’re anything like me then college was a time of exploring many things about yourself and those around you, but those things certainly did not include faith. I tried freshman year but the temptation to involve myself in other activites spanning the continuum from being a tour guide to experiencing a plethora of fraternity parties, quickly got in the way. I’m Baptist and I probably went to church a handful of times in four years while I was away at college. Of course, I always filled the motherly mandate of attending my home church while on break but those instances never moved me to add that weekly event to my overly programmed Vera Bradley planner. I never prioritized time to feed that part of myself. The thing was, my beliefs never changed but the way I lived them, or rather, didn’t live them, certainly took a turn from the ages of 18-24.
I didn’t reconnect with my faith until I was around 25 years old. I was in my first post graduate position and there was something greatly missing from my life. I was also pretty lonely as I took a job in a city in which I didn’t know a single soul. It dawned upon me that maybe I needed to invest in what had become a dormancy in my life. What I didn’t know is that opening that door led me a to a place that has filled a large gap in my life for the past five years.
If you’re in the same boat, don’t be discouraged or intimated to reconvene your relationship with your faith. If what you were introducted to as a child isn’t working for you anymore, take the adventure to find what you do believe in at this point in your life.
Here are a few tips:
1. This might sound a bit inappropriate in this context but “date around”. Try out different places of worship and find the right doctrine and style for you. Visit a place more than once. I found a great deal of freedom when exploring my options without familial pressure.
2. If you seek to keep with the faith in which you grew up ask your home place of worship for some suggestions of places to visit or faith leaders to contact in your area.
3. Ask your co-workers where they worship and, if you feel comfortable, inquire to see if they’d be willing to let you tag along for a visit. If you do go alone, I have found that people are very friendly and welcoming of newcomers. In smaller venues, people can easily spot a visitor which may lead to intentional outreach to make sure that you feel comfortable and to provide you with more information.
4. See your place of worship as a place of involvment and not just a place that you “go to”. I joined a small group and went from knowing no one to having a small faith based family. I’m all about smiling at people and making them feel comfortable so I also became a greeter which was another outlet to serve and connect with others. Look for opportunities to do community service and other types of ministry. Some places of worship will have affinity groups for young adults or women. If you happen to be single and it is important to you that your partner share your same beliefs then this is also a perfect way for you to mingle and perhaps make more than just a friend. The more relationships you build the more likely you are to stay engaged.
5. Read and do your research. No matter if you’re going back to the faith in which you grew up or if you are seeking a new affiliation, make sure that you read texts to help you become informed. Even better, network with people who are a part of this faith and listen to their story. This can help you understand how people engage in practical applications of what they learn and believe.
7. For me, it was important to get baptized again on my own terms since my six year old self didn’t really have a say in the matter. Is there a ritual or practice in your faith that symbolizes reconnection? If so, explore what that might look like for you and the steps you will need to take in order to make that happen. For some, you might look into a conversion process if you are transitioning from one faith to another and for others you might be looking into a joining process if you are taking on a new religion.
8. Don’t be afraid to start again. So, you might fall off the wagon and other things might get in the way as you are kickstarting your professional life, but that’s okay. You’ll figure it out and stop and start your journey as you see fit. Trust the process.
Through reconnecting with my faith I have gained a social network, meaningful involvement opportunities in the community in which I live and work, and most importantly I feel like I have reclaimed a piece of me that I can turn to on a regular basis to bring me stability and a sense of calm in my over programmed and chaotic everyday. My mother always told me that I would find my faith when I needed it most and as usual she was right.
Enjoy the journey!