Normally, if you’re just meeting someone, it’s awkward if they cry in front of you. Maybe extra awkward if they’re crying over a Zoom call and you can’t hand them a tissue and mumble, “Sorry.” But when I spoke with Dámaris, it wasn’t.
She was telling me of her experience growing up in the church and coming to a point where, like most Christian young people, she began asking a lot of questions about her faith and wondering if it was enough for her, the kind of questions that might freak out some parents. But that’s not when she began to cry.
Raised by loving parents who are passionate about their faith, Dámaris broke the stereotype of the wild, attention-craving pastor’s kid. Her mom and dad taught her to love the church and its mission. She went to Pathfinders and memorized Psalms, reciting them up front at church. As a teen, she was part of church plays and choir.
She told me it was at college that the questions and doubts about her faith began to surface. Though she remained involved in missional activities, she couldn’t help but wonder, I’m doing all the right things, so why do I still feel empty? How come I don’t feel at peace? Is this all there is to my faith? Why do we even go to church?
She began to find answers to her questions that satisfied both her mind and heart.
During the lockdown of 2020, in her small apartment, Dámaris found she couldn’t hide from her questions. The doubts she kept simmering on the back burner of her mind began to boil over.
Then one day she was scrolling through Instagram when she saw a friend reshared a post from ARISE, advertising 60 days of free access to the ARISE Online discipleship course. Dámaris jumped on the offer and quickly fell in love with the curriculum. She began to find answers to her questions that satisfied both her mind and heart. But Dámaris still wasn’t crying at this point in the story.
Somewhere along the way, she stumbled on a sermon from Storyline Church on YouTube, Light Bearers’ online church. She began to listen each week. One sermon in particular, “Is God an Egomaniac?”, moved her deeply. Dámaris came to a point where she realized she was getting the answer to a deeper question her heart was asking (and perhaps you’ve asked it too): is God mad at me?
Shame is the birthright of humanity, and, like we all do, Dámaris carried shame and guilt for past mistakes. Did God have mercy for her? Was He holding her at a distance feeling angry? This is where Dámaris began to cry, and it wasn’t awkward because this is the experience of everyone who meets Jesus. As she listened to these messages, she told me that she realized she no longer had to run away from her shame or cover it with religious rituals. She knew God loved her. She couldn’t lose His love by what she’d done and she couldn’t earn it back by everything she’d been doing. God wasn’t an angry tyrant who was waiting to send her to hell but is a loving Father who had already created grace for her before she had made any mistakes. More than an argument for why she should attend church, she found Someone who healed her soul.
“Storyline messages revealed to me who God is and answered a lot of questions. I lived my whole life without knowing who God is, and I’m starting to know Him—for real. Understanding God’s love gave me peace. It moved me to think, ‘I need to do something. Maybe there are a lot of people who are feeling like I felt.’”
The desire to share wasn’t another religious ritual, one of many tasks to be checked off. She couldn’t help it. She prayed, “I’m really grateful for this ministry. God, can You please let me help with something? I want to be a part of what they are doing.”
Months later, she found her answer when she saw a post on the Storyline Instagram account, asking if there was anyone who would be interested in becoming an online greeter for Storyline Church. She immediately sent in a request to join and soon became part of the team.
“It feels really good to know there are a lot of ways to talk to God and make Him part of our life using technology.”
When it came to facilitating an online church experience, it was important for the Light Bearers team that Storyline Church not be reduced to simply a watch-a-sermon type of experience. The goal was to minister. This meant praying online with those who requested it. Dámaris was a little nervous at first. Would it be weird to pray online? Would it even be possible to “minister” to someone through a screen?
When it came to online prayer, she recalled how it felt:
The man I prayed with thanked me for what I’d done. Through this experience, I discovered that this is another way to pray that is really awesome and it’s real too. I was writing to him and feeling the words in my heart and asking God to guide me as I wrote. It was a new, great experience. It feels really good to know there are a lot of ways to talk to God and make Him part of our life using technology.
Sometimes young adults are told that in order to stay faithful to God at the end of time, they must have an answer for their faith. “Giving an answer” sometimes means being able to prooftext your way through a doctrine. While knowing doctrine is important, consider that if we are creatures created in the divine image, we are relational beings who are looking for relationally informed answers.
Dámaris wrestled with her faith, wondering what the point of specific spiritual disciplines were, but that wasn’t the deepest question she needed answered. She needed to know God’s posture toward her. She believed she was condemned. She thought others were happier than she was because they didn’t carry the shame she did. She couldn’t see any other way around it. How did she realize that wasn’t true and that this was a faith she wanted?
“Because I fell in love with God and the way He sees me.”
If you’d like to worship with Dámaris at Storyline Church, you can join her every Saturday at 11am PST on YouTube, Facebook, or at live.storyline.church. When you give to support Light Bearers, you’re helping people like Dámaris and countless others discover the beauty of God’s love. If you haven’t already, we invite you to consider partnering with us.
Allie is a 2012 ARISE graduate and on-staff writer and communications assistant for Light Bearers. She is fascinated by the intersection of faith and the creative process and enjoys poetry. When she’s not watching a good movie with her friends, she enjoys narrating life with mediocre accents.