Christianity, church, and God have always been a part of my life. However, it was not until recently that it has become a part of who I am. My journey navigating my faith as a Black millennial has been turbulent, yet powerful. I want to share my journey because I believe that it will be of use to someone. I encourage you to comment and share your thoughts. Us as a community must have more open conversations about God. Whether you have questions, ideas or remarks, your thoughts are welcome.
I was born and raised in church.
My earliest memories in the church include me in Sunday School, wearing my Sunday Best and silk hair ribbons. My parents were always open about our faith and God with me and my siblings. They would always encourage us to share our faith with our friends. I had some friends who also went to church, but most of them were not vocal about their faith.
We grew up in a low-income, high-crime neighbourhood for the majority of my childhood. Our neighbourhood population held mostly Black people, yet here was a clear dichotomy amongst social groups. Older people were very invested in the church; whereas younger people were invested in anything but church. I found myself floating between these two identities for most of my life. On Sunday’s I would sing hymns in church, but Monday through Saturday I would play the part that the World wanted me to.
As a kid, I understood who God and Jesus were, I knew the Lord’s Prayer, and I could recite some of the Bible’s most popular verses without hesitation. I could tell you who Noah was or what happened the days before Jesus was crucified. I was even baptized at an early age. This knowledge I had of God was not foreign, but for most of my youth, it was simply that. It was just knowledge. I did not know how to apply faith to my life beyond saying my prayers at night, and this cost me a great deal later on in life.
I created a distance between me and God that lasted most of my teens.
Everyone has this idea that teens will distance themselves from their parents during their adolescence and that this distance is completely normal. I don’t entirely agree. There were plenty of people I knew in my youth who had strong and open relationships with their parents. I think that this has to do with levels of respect and communication between the parent and the child.
This is not something that I had with my Heavenly Father.
I while I knew who He was, I did not fear Him out of respect, nor did I communicate with Him. Looking back on my youth, I did not make God a priority. This lax thinking was not intentional, it was just consequential.
Beyond Sunday service and the occasional choir practice, I didn’t form a relationship with God. I did not understand how important my relationship with Him would be in forming my identity. Most of my friends at this point did not go to church, and the ones who did were stuck in the same lukewarm state of faith that I was in. When I occasionally spoke about God or Jesus with my friends I would get brushed off, so I just stopped doing it. I barely read the Bible. The rare times I did pray was in times of trouble or uncertainty.
My mindset at this time was mostly about finding my place in my community. As a young, Black girl, I felt useless, unimportant, and unwanted from my peers and the world. I was looking for all kinds of things in the World that God had already given me: acceptance, purpose, and identity. I didn’t know that the Bible would have the answers to my questions or advice about my concerns, largely because I didn’t even consider God when making my decisions. My perception of the Bible was that it was this daunting, boring, and irrelevant old book. Boy, I was wrong.
In my late teens, I had enough.
Around age 18, I was challenged to look at who I was on the inside. Was I content with who I was on the inside? Did I like who I was becoming? Would my family be proud of who I was? Was I living according to the commitment I made to God when I got baptized?
When I became brave enough to face myself, I realized that while chasing this idea of who I thought I needed to be, I lost myself in the process. I was not happy with who I was, so I began to reevaluate my life.
What were the things that made me happy? Sad? Angry? Confused? What were the things that challenged me to be better? What were the things that held me back? This process of self-evaluation required me to make major changes in my life. I had to distance myself from friends and family who were not interested in getting to know God better. I had to put aside habits that did not honour God.
This process of self-awareness is still something I am doing today.
Honouring God through our daily lives is not something that can be fixed instantaneously. We cannot give up one habit and say “I am living my life well enough”. Growing in Christ is a process that takes our entire lives. Even if we do master one virtue, there is still something else that He needs us to work on.
My relationship is much stronger now than it was during my youth, and I can feel it grow stronger as each week passes; however, my relationship with Him is not perfect. Through Jesus, we can connect with God better. God understands the faults of humans because His Son experienced the same temptations and difficulties we face every day. Through His grace and understanding, we can be forgiven for our faults and sins, and we can experience life in all its peace and glory.
Being a millennial is tough.
Millennials are known for being progressive, approval-seeking, and technologically-savvy. Our opinions are expected to be voiced on social media, even if that means harshly criticizing others. Our movements are tracked, our debt is high, and our authenticity is ranked. Millennials are the next in line to be future world leaders, and everyone has their eyes on how we will live up to the expectations in place for us.
Black millennials, in particular, are meticulously scrutinized and severely misunderstood. In various sociopolitical environments, our experiences are not registered, validated, or appreciated. When it feels like the entire world waits of the edge of its seat to criticize you, you feel like to just need to do what you need to do to survive another day.
Yes, millennials do have a lot of pressure on our shoulders as we make the next big moves in our lives. Many of us are making decisions just to stay alive or to make our parents proud or to reach our goals. While making these survivalist choices, you may not be thinking about God; however, all millennials need to know that God is bigger than all of our problems. He is the waymaker.
Looking back on my youth, I have regrets but I also have gratitude. I have gratitude to God for forgiving me and showing me the way. I have gratitude to Him for teaching me lessons that have ultimately made me a better person. It is because of my faults that I have the opportunity to share my lessons with others. Below, I’ve created a list of things I wish I knew about God when I was younger. I hope that someone will read this and find comfort or learn something.
3 things I wish I knew about God when I was younger:
1. Our identities are within Christ.
God created every one of us. He knew who we would be before we were even born. He made sure that thousands of events would take place before we existed so that we could be born and fulfill His purpose for us. We are all crowned with His glory and honour.
All of us have unique personalities and different qualities. This is the way that God intended us to be. The more we draw closer to Him, the more our identities develop within Him. This is because He is our creator. As we grow within Him, the stronger His light shines through us. It may be challenging to learn who you are but amid these challenges, it is important to know that you are exactly who you are meant to be.
2. God is ready to offer us all of the things we seek in life.
The World promises us many things. Fame, fortune, power… The list goes on and on. We all need to ask ourselves if the pursuit of our earthly identities is worth giving up our identities within Christ. Is it worth giving up our integrity to gain shallow acceptance from our peers? Is losing our honour worth temporary wealth?
The things we may be seeking (respect, joy, love, grace, appreciation, etc.) are all promised to us by God. Looking for them in the World promises nothing but heartache. The high you chase when smoking will fade. The promises made to you by your partner may not be fulfilled. God is the only person who keeps the promises He makes. He is the only one who can give us what we seek, whether it is wealth or companionship. To receive the fullness of His blessings, we must acknowledge God as our Lord and Saviour.
We must also understand that God is not a genie. He does not grant all of the things that we ask for. He sees all and knows all. Sometimes, the things that we ask for are not meant to be ours. There are many reasons for this. For example, perhaps the job you want is not something that you can handle. Maybe your manager would not be a nice person. Perhaps there is a better and higher paying job waiting down the line and you just have to hold on a little longer. While God does grant our desires, more importantly, He does it on His time. He uses discernment in guiding us to protect, strengthen, and help us grow in wisdom.
3. First and foremost, we must honour God in all that we do.
As Christians, we are not only God’s children. We are His soldiers. His army. We must spread His Word, not only in conversation with others but also through positive living. We must exercise His virtues and characteristics in our daily interactions to show God’s love to the World so that others may come to know Him. Godly living looks like showing forgiveness to others, giving your resources to someone in need, not engaging in questionable behaviour, or doing something for someone else without complaining.
Millennials live in a social media-focused era. We feel the need to document our “exciting” lives on the ‘gram because that is what everybody else is doing. No, your pic from last week’s Bible study may not get as many likes as it would if it had been taken at the club, but the goal is to live for eternity, not today, right?
In the long term, your soul is what’s going to determine your fate. Your looks won’t matter. Your follower count won’t matter. Not even your friendships or relationships will matter. All that matters in living a good life, both on Earth and in Heaven, is whether or not you’ve committed your life to Jesus.
Don’t let the fear of judgment or unacceptance stop you from fulfilling your purpose.
What does your journey with Jesus look like?
Comment and share your thoughts below!
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