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No Longer a Piggyback Religion // by Reagan Fleming

By August 9, 2016Relationships

When I was around 6 years old, I had a dream – I was flailing away in the ocean, and someone reached out and saved me. Somehow, at that young age, I knew that it was God speaking to me through that dream, so when I woke up, I immediately accepted Jesus as my Savior. That was the start of my walk with God.

As the years went by and my 12th birthday came and went, my life was good: my family and I went to church every Sunday, my dad was my basketball coach, my oldest sister attended a Christian university, my other older sister went to a Christian high school, and I was homeschooled, where my mom was my teacher. I even discovered one of my passions at a young age: writing. My life was perfectly fine, until my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

It seemed as though time had stopped – my family immediately started praying and were believing for a miraculous and complete healing. I, little 12-year-old Reagan, followed suit. I figured that since Jesus died on the cross to take away all of our sins, sicknesses, and diseases (the first Bible story I was every told), that God certainly wouldn’t let my dad die from cancer. Believing this, I carried on with my life, thinking: He’ll get better one of these days. He’s not going to need a walker to get from point A to point B forever. God will heal him, and everything will go back to normal. Except, it didn’t. My dad died 4 months after his diagnosis.

I really struggled with my faith because of unanswered questions, like: “God, why did You let my dad die?” and “Where were You all this time?” There was a period of at least a year after my dad died, where I put God on the back burner. I was constantly thinking that if God was who He said He was – a healer and my protector – then why did everything happen the way that it did? And of all people, why did it have to be my dad? My dad was an amazing follower of Christ; he is someone that I really looked up to, not only because he was well over a foot taller than me, but because his love and trust in God never wavered, even when he was at his sickest.

Losing my dad was a wake-up call: I was forced to realize that I didn’t have a real relationship with God, I was just piggybacking on my parents’ religion. I finally decided for myself that I didn’t want to continue to live my life this way. I was extremely lucky that I had my friends and the rest of my family around me, but after my dad’s death, I was still left feeling hopeless, depressed, lonely, and extremely confused. I now know that I felt so lost because I didn’t have an actual relationship with God to begin with. I needed to find out who I was in Christ on my own; I couldn’t live vicariously through my parents’ relationships with God. 

Dealing with my father’s death made me realize two very important things: 

1. God doesn’t give us things that we can’t handle. When it feels like we’re being stretched too thin, God will always always be there for us (1 Corinthians 10:13). It felt like God ditched me after my dad died, but I realize now that He was always there, I just chose to ignore Him (Psalm 139:7-8).

2. God knows everything. God knows the day we were born and the day we will die (Psalm 139:16). It took me a very long time to understand that he didn’t die because we didn’t pray hard enough or we didn’t do this or that – my dad died when he did, because that was when his life was supposed to end.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

It sounds scary, but God has our entire future in His hands. After my whole world got flipped around, God was still calm, cool, and had everything under control. He didn’t forget about the Fleming clan one day and poof, my dad got sick. God allows certain things to happen in this world that sometimes make no sense. And even though this may sound like an over-used mantra, it’s still true: everything happens for a reason.

Right after I became a Christian, I didn’t immediately jump into “missionary” mode, wanting to save everyone that I came in contact with, and I wasn’t “on fire for God.” For me, my relationship with God was and still is constantly evolving; it started when I was 6 when I made that conscious decision to follow Him, and ever since then – bumpy roads and all – He has been constantly guiding me and walking alongside me. Even during the period of time where I tried to completely shut Him out of my life, He never did the same to me.

…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:39

Day by day, God has been showing me who He is, and I’ve been opening up more of my heart to Him. If God had answered my questions regarding my father’s death right after I asked them, I probably would have gone right back to the life that I was living, content with an explanation. But that’s the thing: the life I was living was not the life that God had for me. He wanted me to give up that piggybacked religion that I had held onto for so long, and figure out who I actually am in Christ. 

I had to ask (and still ask) God to give me a hunger and thirst for His Word and His love. It’s okay for you to do the same! Just because you’ve been a Christian for X amount of years or days doesn’t mean that you need to be at a certain place in your walk with God. God doesn’t base His love on our love for Him. Thank God!

I am now able to see that God was capable of pulling me through it all, like He did in my dream. Except now, instead of Him just pulling me out of the water, He pulled me out of so much more.

Reagan Fleming

I would love it if you would visit my website/blog! (reaganfleming.com) Instagram: @reaganflemingblog

Featured image by Esther Baseme

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