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  • Writer's pictureSharon Beck-Doran

An Introduction, that was me at the altar

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

I came to faith as a child. It was your basic hell fire, if you died tonight, sort of thing. It wasn’t long until that fear morphed into something different. My first prayer was something like, “God, if you really exist, please save me.” This simple conversation turned into a deep sense of God’s presence that stuck with me day after day. And it’s been rainbows and sunshine ever since. Nah, like any kind of relationship, God and me, we’ve have had our ups and downs, ins and outs.

Not to brag or anything, but my parents did a really great job of raising me. Thanks to my mom, who taught me how to love through food and my dad who taught me how to argue for fun. More than anything, what I appreciate most about my parents, is that they taught me to seek God first. I haven’t always been successful in truth or in practice, but that desire to know God in a deeper way has always been my baseline.

My wonderful parents also taught me to be careful what I say and do because people are watching. This probably explains why I love attention now. Back in the day, it wasn’t exactly the good kind of attention per se. People were watching because my dad was the pastor, and I was a direct reflection of his character. At home, we were encouraged to question, disagree, seek out truth. But at church we were expected to be perfect. For my crazy brothers, maybe it was different. But for me (and probably my perfect brother, Tom), we knew people looked to us as the example of what a god-fearing family was supposed to be.

And so, this little girl grew up and became a lady who inherited the internal censorship of a third-generation pastor. My faith grew and changed, sometimes deeper and better. Sometimes difficult and disconnected.

In church, I learned from countless testimonies that you only share at the end of the story… Like, I did some bad things (implied: a long time ago) but now I’m all better. Praise God! Being open a vulnerable about what is really going on is often super awkward for everyone. I’ll never forget that day in high school chapel when one of the senior classmates, who was leading worship, confessed to having a problem with masturbation. No one wanted to know that. It was uncomfortable and (realized much later) really not a problem at all. We just don’t do that. We don’t share the real things that are going on. It’s even more true for pastors. Most congregants can’t handle the idea that their pastor might not be on a higher level of being. Even if they could, I was not about to take that risk. People looked to me as a leader and a reflection of God. I was responsible for modeling idea Christianity. The pressure I put on myself has long been a source of isolation. I’m not a fan of oversharing chapel confessions. Even still, every believer needs emotional intimacy and the opportunity to express thoughts without fear that someone might think of you as less-than. Or worse, of God as less-than.

To those people who always allowed me to relax and be myself, to say what I really think, I am forever grateful. My best friend, Amy, once told me that one day I’m going to let go and really be myself. I’m not so sure this is that time, but I’m working on it. For roughly 16 months I’ve been without pastoral assignment, the longest stretch since I started leading our church youth group circa 1997. I feel free and disconnected, a little lost sometimes and definitely well rested.

I write this by way of introduction. This is where I’ve been. As I set my course forward, I’m still aiming in the same direction, toward God. Seeking divine direction, holy understanding and sacred encounters. But I’m working on this idea that I might shake off the censorship just a bit, so that I can step forward in a more honest and authentic way.

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