I am blessed to have generations of believers in my family. I’ve known Christ my whole life. I grew up in a Lutheran family attending a Lutheran church and school. I was shown Christ’s love every day with family devotions and prayers. However, some days it felt like I was just going through the motions, especially since we would recite the same memorized prayers every day.
When I moved out for college, one of my first priorities was to find a church to attend. Since I didn’t have a car, I joined His House, a Christian organization on campus. I made new friends, and I was exposed to some ideas that didn’t necessarily go along with the lessons I was taught as a Lutheran. One topic was baptism. I was baptized as a baby. The ministers of His House pressured me to get baptized again as an adult believer, since they were strong proponents of believer’s baptism. They didn’t think that my baptism counts because I was “sprinkled with some water as a baby” and it wasn’t my personal decision to get baptized. Since I grew up in such a strong Lutheran background, I legitimately didn’t know that there would be other Christians who would debate the validity of my baptism. I felt under equipped to explain my beliefs since I had pretty much only been exposed to other Lutherans growing up and had never really been challenged about why I believe what I believe.
My assurance isn’t in the fact that I was baptized. My assurance comes from looking at the cross and knowing that I am deserving of God’s wrath, but His death paid my debt. I am a sinner, deserving nothing but death and despair. There is nothing that I can do to earn my forgiveness. The only reason I am delivered from desolation is because God loves me enough to send His son to die on a cross to pay for my sins.
I met my ex-husband while I was part of His House. I was naïve and liked the idea of being married. John was part of the worship band and I truly thought that he would help me grow in my faith. He grew up in a Baptist family and attended church his whole life, just like me. As it turns out, I was wrong. Over the course of our marriage, he never stepped up to lead our family and he stopped attending church with me. I would plead with him to pray with me and read devotions with me. He always said that he would, but then we’d never get around to starting it. I felt abandoned and got lazy myself in attending church and praying. I was only attending about twice a month since I felt like that’s something that a family does together, and I got tired of people asking me where John was. I was embarrassed that my husband didn’t want to attend church with me.
When John enlisted in the Air Force about 5 years into our marriage, I felt even more abandoned. His first duty station was in Germany, and that meant a lot of time apart from each other. The first time I flew out to visit him, he got deployed to Djibouti. I spent 3 months in a country where I didn’t know anyone, and my mental health took a dive. I was attending church online, but I was missing the fellowship aspect of church. My focus turned to my relationship with my husband and wondering why it felt like he was always running away from me.
I felt drained, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Two years into his enlistment, he confronted me about something big. He was never satisfied and was always chasing new ideas to see if that’s what was missing from his life. He told me that he was going to transition and live his life as a trans woman. I was devastated and confused. What did this mean for my marriage? I made a vow to be this man’s wife until death do us part. Can I stay married to a man who wants the world to think he is my wife? He opened up to me about this revelation he had 3 days before flying back to Michigan for my job. I didn’t tell my parents because my grandpa was in hospice care, and they were already struggling with a lot of grief and emotions. The timing didn’t feel right, and I knew that once they heard this, they would never view John the same way again. My grandpa died about a month later and my sister’s wedding followed a month later. I was still trying to convince my husband that living life as a trans woman wasn’t going to satisfy whatever he was chasing after.
3 months later I knew that I couldn’t keep this a secret from my family any longer. They embraced me and grieved with me. We prayed for John, but we all knew that this inevitably meant a divorce, although that didn’t come for another year. Seeing your spouse struggle to feel satisfied is difficult. We both came from families that grew up in the church. Comparing our adult lives however, I always felt a longing to attend church when things got hard and he just gave up on it completely. He was searching for worldly happiness. He was looking in all the wrong places for joy. There was nothing I could do to help him see that we don’t deserve ANYTHING but God’s wrath.
I prioritized trying to save my marriage over my relationship with Christ. I was trying to think of ways to compromise in my life to remain married to him. Do I spend my entire life pretending like he’s my wife even though I know he’s still a man/ my husband? Do I start calling him Johnna like he wants and act like this doesn’t bother me? Do I stay married hoping that over time, he will convert back to his life as my husband? I had all sorts of thoughts, and I spent more time thinking about how the world would perceive us than what God would want me to do. If I get divorced, did I fail as a wife?
When John filed for divorce, I ran to the church for support. Making God my top priority again felt amazing. I prioritized reading my bible every day. I felt a spiritual renewal amid a sad and difficult period of my life. I repented and cried out to God in my prayers. I was reminded that His gift of salvation would still cover my sins whether I was married or divorced. My actions and thoughts will always be deserving of God’s wrath, but I am rescued and have the gift of eternal life with God.
My rest and reassurance come from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay off my debt. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. I rest in knowing that gift is for me. I am given a new life. There are still days where I feel like I’m just going through the motions, but God has a way of getting my attention and reminding me when I am going my own way with no thought of God. Sometimes I stray from the narrow path, but God always leads me back to it. He is faithful and just. I still struggle with anxiety, and I feel like my life is in a constant state of order, disorder, reorder over and over. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds me to Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Even though I like to think I have all the answers, I know that I need to rely on God. I pray that I will help the next generation of kids in my family to realize that we are nothing without God’s love and salvation.
Lord, my faith has always been important to me. For much of my life, I have gone to church and prayed, ever confident in Your power and presence in my life. At times, however, my faith is not as strong as I would like it to be. I find it more difficult to apply the message of the Gospel to my daily life. I ask for Your help and guidance. Help me to overcome any doubts in faith I might have and to emerge a stronger and better Christian because of it. May my mind and heart be open to Your power, and may I find encouragement in Your Word.
Guide me always towards the people and resources that will ease my confusion and strengthen my faith. As nature passes through seasons of blossom, growth, harvest, and dormancy, so too must I pass through many seasons on my pathway to eternal life. I pray that my times of spiritual doubt will blossom into a season of renewed and revitalized faith.