Like so many other Christians, my first relationship with God began as a small child. My brother and I would attend Sunday school, sing in the children’s choir, and every night, my mom would recite the Lord’s prayer or the 23rd Psalm with us. I didn’t form very many of my own opinions about God, but I knew that I enjoyed being so involved in church and having a close connection with the other members. They were like family.
As time went on, though, and I grew older, church became replaced with other interests. By the time I started high school, and then college, I was no longer attending church services. I still tried to walk in the ways of God, though – but only until my worldly ways became more convenient. I continued to pray, but mostly right before a big test or right after my refund check hit my bank account. And even though I began attending church on campus, I never truly felt compelled to improve my relationship with God. I was happy – so he must be satisfied with me, right? I figured I must be living my life right.
In 2014, I moved from North Carolina to attend graduate school in Maryland. For the first time, I was living by myself and more than an hour away from home. And although being away from my family was not a huge issue for me, it was the first time I was truly interacting with groups of people I had never interacted with before – and vice versa. I was challenged by the rigor of my program and the three jobs I was working took away from the time I could dedicate to my studies. I began feeling overwhelmed and unhappy because I was not the perfect student I had always been. I felt unfocused and consumed by self-doubt and negativity. I always found ways to justify the negativity in my life, and – whether I worked more hours, partied, or focused on my relationship – I also found ways to solve it.
In the book of John, Jesus encounters a woman as she is fetching water from a well. Despite the well being a gathering place for women, this woman is alone. She has had a number of husbands and is now living unwed with another man. When Jesus asks her for water, she questions Him – wondering why He is talking to her in the first place. Jesus goes on to explain that those who drink the well water will continue to be thirsty, yet the water that He can provide will quench all thirst. The woman comes to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and the One who can fulfill her desires and give her everlasting life.
Like the woman at the well, I carried on with life per usual despite the irregularities. I found ways to seek fulfillment and happiness in things that only took energy away from the true answer. Shortly after my first semester in graduate school, I began attending church services again and felt empowered by the messages I was receiving. I learned that it is not enough to live your life by your own rules – even if you feel like you are a good person for it. It is so important to live your life intentionally and with loyalty to God. Like His encounter with the woman at the well, Jesus will challenge us to accept what He has to offer and does not care what our past consists of. I am still walking in my path with God. I do not have to be perfect and I do not have to know everything. But living by His word is the only way to truly be fulfilled in life.