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Part of the MPR News project Religion in Everyday LifeMany people in American seem to be searching for spiritual meaning, even at a time when church attendance is on the decline. As part of our continuing series on religion in everyday life, Minnesota Public Radio has asked individuals to reflect on what faith means to them and the role it plays in their lives. Emily Nerland lives in Moorhead where she is an elementary teacher and attends Trinity Lutheran Church.
AS A CHRISTIAN, EACH DAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ME to examine my faith journey. It is a time to pray, to study, and to reflect. It is a time to grow in my relationship with God. Each day is an opportunity to follow Jesus, not my own wishes and desires.
My faith journey is a journey of gratitude. It is a life of ongoing dependence on God. It is a journey of thanksgiving, praising God for joy and abundant love, and his steadfast presence in sorrow, despair, and fear.
Like any journey, the road is difficult to predict. I like to visualize my faith journey like a long road. There are straight-aways, sharp curves, and steep hills. There are frightening descents, rocky spots, wondrous views, potholes, and detours. My faith journey has had, like most people's, a mixture of conditions.
It is meaningful for me as a Christian to reflect: Where would I be today without God's presence during the sharp curves and frightening descents I have experienced? I have, like a weary, terrified traveler, called out His name. My parents' divorce, my father's suicide, a child's illness, a diagnosis of breast cancer - these events and many others have had me calling for God's presence and power. There have been days of great sadness, pain, and fear, but I knew that God was with me. He was with me through the support and love of friends and family. He guided me with stories of men and women in the Bible - remembrances that others, too, had survived difficult experiences. He blessed me with solitude through prayer. And He surrounded me with His presence when I was too frightened, too angry, or too distraught to pray. God has walked with me when the journey was difficult to travel.
As I reflect, it is equally important to ask "Where would I be without God's presence during the straight-aways and high peaks of my life?" He has heard my cries of thanksgiving and joy: delight in loving my husband, joy in parenting our children, the awe of a new day's sunrise, the beauty of a child's discovery, the blessings of dear friends.
God will be my guide, whether the journey is difficult or easy. He will continue to bless me with an abundance of friends and the joy of family. He will uphold me in sorrow. He will quench my thirst for knowledge, and fill my days with challenges. As I journey through life, God will refresh me through His word, His people, and His presence.