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My name is Tiffany Rogers. I’m a newlywed, (my husband Bryan and tied the knot less than two months ago) a communications manager in the Indianapolis-area and perhaps, most importantly, I’m a believer.
All of my hope is wrapped up in Jesus.
That hasn’t always been my truth, although I grew up in a faith-filled Christian home. Going to church every Sunday was a part of our tradition. I was raised in Anderson, Indiana, where the National Association of the Church of God is headquartered. Because church was such a staple in my family’s life and culture, I assumed every family went to church each week. We often went out to eat after church and I remember my parents and grandparents greeting all the church folk — from our congregation and others — as they filed into the restaurant we’d chosen that week.
I’ve been to countless Sunday services, Wednesday night bible studies and Vacation Bible Schools, but it was all just a tradition until I reached middle school, and then something changed.
When I was in sixth grade, the church I’d grown up in got a new youth pastor. I remember my dad picking me up from school sporting events where I was cheerleading and taking me to church to catch the tail end of the midweek youth service. I would shuffle into the lower level of the church, still in my cheerleading uniform, and sit amongst 15 or so other teenagers. The pastor was young, animated and loud. But, for the first time, the teaching was easy to understand. The parables and scriptures I’d heard for years came to life. After several weeks of skepticism, I was eager to attend and to learn more about what it truly meant to be a Christian.
At that point, I’d made that my declaration for years, but when I said it I meant little more than I was a weekly churchgoer who believed what I knew about the Bible to be true. I’d committed my heart to Jesus one summer in Sunday School after one of the teachers spoke on hell. I was terrified and chose to be “saved” instead.
But at the age of 14, I had a new desire to know the Lord. The scriptures had gripped my heart, and there’s no better way to say it — I fell in love. I decided to commit my heart to Him again but this time it wasn’t because I was afraid of hell, but because I was captivated by Him.
I gave up cheerleading and all of my other extracurriculars to become even more involved in church. I spent every moment I could there; I even got my first job there, assisting with an after-school program for neighborhood kids.
Shortly before my 15th birthday, my parents got a divorce and I moved with my mom to Florida. I was crushed and my whole world was shaken.
All I had to hold onto was Jesus. I immersed myself in the scriptures and worship music. I watched TBN ( a Christian broadcasting network) every chance I got. My older sister called me a monk because of all the time I spent alone in my bedroom listening to sermons and reading scripture.
In a time when I felt so alone, I felt Jesus so near.
After a year or so in Florida, life got back to normal. I started cheerleading again, I made a few close girlfriends and I started attending weekly services at a megachurch (I’d seen the preacher on TBN and wanted to visit the church in person). Everything about it was mega — the building, the people, the preacher’s personalities. It was a bit of a culture shock. But I liked it. There was an emphasis on relationships, mentorship and service. So I pursued all of those things.
Again, I was at every service, every bible study, every service day and I eventually became a leader in the youth group. But, without even realizing it, my motivations had changed. I wanted to be seen, to be somebody in the church. My ambition became less about knowing Him and more about being known by people.
It was exhausting. And, on top of it all, for the first time I got a look at church behind-the-scenes. Drama, politics, fighting amongst leaders, scandals and affairs. It was messy. Because the church is made up of flawed people, it’s not exempt from any of those things.
The pastors ended up getting a divorce and many members of the church left, shortly after the youth group was rocked by a scandal of its own.
I was finishing my second year of college when I decided to walk away from it all. I wanted nothing to do with church or the scriptures or sermons. I was disappointed and disillusioned. Most of all, I was hurt that through it all I didn’t feel protected by the Lord.
My heart was broken by the way that my family had fallen apart and by the way the church had fallen apart and it was hard not to believe that if the Lord really loved me, he would have kept me from all of that.
I stopped going to church for years. My heart was closed to anything religious or spiritual. Those years were lonely, hard and full of confusion. I wandered and strayed, I did foolish things that I still regret now, almost as if to get back at God. I was so angry, so hurt.
I can’t even explain how or when or even why, but one day I found myself alone in my apartment thinking about those scriptures I’d memorized years ago. I specifically remembered the one that says to raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old he won’t depart from it.
I started to pray again, prayers that were broken and angry and confused. They probably would have been offensive to anyone listening. But I was honest and I was open.
It took a while for me to realize that while the Lord didn’t keep me from all that I went through, he kept me through it all. He kept me when I put my hope in my family, in church leaders, in my ability to be “good.”
Still, there are things I don’t understand. Things I wrestle with within myself, within the scriptures. But, I choose to put my hope in Him. I choose to fight to remain in faith. I choose to believe because I’ve experienced Jesus in ways I’ll never be able to explain. Throughout my journey, I’ve come to know Him to be kind, forgiving, faithful and so full of love.
He’s the only one that makes fighting this fight of faith worth it.