Okay, since not all parents have children who go to seminary and decide to pursue a vocation in parish ministry, I decided to ask my other daughter to write another guest blog – this time from the perspective of someone who doesn’t work at a church. I’m happy to introduce this other daughter. Meet Elizabeth Brouwer.
Because of my dad (Pastor-Daddy or P-Diddy, as we have affectionately nicknamed him), my sister and I basically grew up at church. For youth group, play rehearsal, or just those days when Mom was working and we had to run errands with Dad, we spent a lot of time exploring all the nooks and crannies of First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton.
Now I am a mid-twenties graduate student, and my church life has changed. And my sister accurately described the struggle in her guest blog on my dad’s blog: going to church has become somewhat “difficult” and “uncool.” It’s tough to set aside an adequate amount of time to develop church community, and the apathy of my Christian peers often rubs off on me.
And I can tell that my spiritual life has subsequently become less rich.
But I have discovered inspiration to reinvigorate my church life in an unexpected place: my friends of other faiths.
Take for example my friend and classmate, Amena. She is a Muslim from Flint, Michigan, of Pakistani descent. Amena is sweet, goofy, and crazy smart. She also wears a hijab, prays five times a day without fail, and doesn’t drink alcohol.
One day, while we were talking about meeting people in new places, she told me she likes to make friends at Mosque. In her words, “It’s easy to make friends after praying next to someone.” While she does get some grief about wearing a hijab (people constantly ask her if she knows this one other person in Michigan who ALSO wears a headscarf), Amena displays her religion with a cool confidence that I don’t see in many Christians my age. And her dedication to her faith moves me.
Next meet my Jewish college roommate and lifelong friend, Deborah. Deborah hails from the Bronx, majored in Judaic musicology, and spent a year teaching orphans in Israel.
I have learned an embarrassing amount about the Old Testament through Deborah, and she challenges me to clarify important questions about my faith. What daily rituals, such as her commitment to being kosher and keeping Shabbos, make God a regular presence in my life? How do my relationships with other Christians reflect my commitment to Christ? Her deliberately spiritual lifestyle makes me reflect on how much I’ve neglected the spiritual component of my life.
As a young-ish adult, I have struggled to define myself as a Christian. It is difficult for me to know the appropriate level of religiosity to display at work and in social situations, especially having come of age in a time when religion is so tied to other uncomfortable topics (cough, politics, cough). But I am comforted and inspired by my religious friends, even if we don’t share the same theology.
I am reminded that, despite the increasing secularism of my generation, I want God to remain the center of my life. And this relationship with God, beyond filling my life with redeeming grace and love, helps me make meaningful connections with others.
And I love him for all the surprising ways he reveals himself to me, even when I question how I want to reveal him to others.