By Nicole Maxson
“Real life faith”—What does that mean? What does that look like? I want to provide my personal and raw testimony on this topic. Nothing but honesty and complete transparency.
Personally, I was blessed to grow up in a Catholic home and attend Catholic school from preschool all the way through high school, back in my home state of Pennsylvania. This allowed me to continue my education in faith, attend various retreats, conferences, etc.—I did just about everything you could possibly think of growing up in a devout Catholic household. I am not saying that to brag; I am saying that to preface what is coming next:
Despite this upbringing, things changed. I committed to a college on a basketball scholarship, and since I’ve played basketball my whole life, that was something I dreamed of. It was all my hard work paying off. I did not realize, however, that the work I had put into my faith was not over yet. I was so nervous to attend a school with zero faith identity. My faith was and still is a big part of who I am today. I thought that I would never be able to attend church and I would lose everything I had just found in my relationship with Jesus and then some.
However, when I visited the college, I found that there was a church less than three blocks from the campus! I was nervous for no reason because, just when I thought I wouldn’t have the ability to practice my faith, Jesus showed up. God is so good!
Just like any relationship, a relationship with God takes work. Both parties must show up and contribute to make it successful. And throughout any relationship, there are always bumps along the way; I hit a few of those during my college years.
Jesus and I had it going well; we were having great talks, daily prayers, etc. Then, there was an experience that I never honestly thought I would have. We were traveling for a basketball game, and I had two games that were both during the time of the masses at the local church. That was the first time I missed mass. I was absolutely devastated.
But I didn’t give up. The pastor at a church in town was a family friend, so I called him, explained the situation I was in, and asked if he could say mass for me in the lobby of one of the campus buildings. The local priest that was there told our priest friend that he could not say mass for me. I was heartbroken for missing mass. I was so mad that I was playing in a game instead of attending church, and that the local priest told our friend “No.”
However—during my college years, I was a Eucharistic Minister, and when I traveled to various towns, I was able to attend church there. Nonetheless, even though I had access to church and my nervousness was put at ease, it just was not the same as what I was used to growing up. That bothered me, but I still went through the motions.
You may be reading this and asking yourself, “Why is she just going through the motions if she is still able to attend church and practice her faith?” That is a great question, and I have asked myself that numerous times. I’ve come to realize that I put too much pressure on myself and the churches I attended to be exactly like my church back in my home state (to be honest, nothing compared to the music, the community, and the family friends back home).
However, one thing has remained the same—the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Fast forward to almost two years post-grad, and I still feel a dullness in my faith-life spark. As I moved to a brand-new state, with brand new people, in a brand new community, I still held these churches to such a high standard. But I’ve realized that, though these things may be new, the Lord has never once been brand new. He is always there.
It has been a challenge this year for me to feel connected to Jesus and to my faith. I think we can all agree that 2020 was far from a great year. From life events being cancelled to watching church online, there were a lot of firsts for a lot of people when they had to drastically change their lives and adapt. Did I give up on Jesus? No. I know that no matter what these days and years bring, He will always be there.
Real life faith isn’t about things being the same as what you are used to. It also has dull spots, and let’s face it, everyone goes through those seasons. The difference is whether or not you decide to push through it and continue, or if you will let those dull spots consume you. I chose not to give up when I could have. Trust me, some days were very tempting to thrown in the towel; some days, you feel like you are just going through the motions—but even if you are, you still showed up. Isn’t that what God does for us? He shows up, day in and day out.
Real life faith is having faith in real life, not just when things are good, not just the mountaintop experiences, but the travels through the valleys and the desert when things seem dry. Real life faith is taking things you learned in your hometown schools and churches and putting them into practice.
In my new state, Tennessee, I have befriended many people whom I can talk to about faith, and we provide each other with resources to go to. I have never felt more support than I do now, and that is a big change for me. I used to feel like I had to prove myself to people, but as I established my core group of friends in college and now, I know that they will be a part of my life until the end of my days.
Put on the wings that Jesus gave you and soar. You will be surprised to know that what you grew up knowing is just a small portion of the people in this world that are on fire for Jesus.
Never be afraid to leave what you are used to. Never tell yourself that you can’t because of (fill in the blank). Leaving what I was used to provided me with the best life lessons that I could ever imagine.
Jesus is with you every step of your journey. So, experience life. Meet others who are different than you. Learn from them. Teach others. Be a vessel—because you are the hands of Jesus. May God bless each of you reading this.