Like most of us, I’m scared to be judged.
When I present my religion to others, I am representing the Seventh Day Adventist people. I don’t want people to look at me and my choices and think that all SDA’s live a life like mine. “If this is the way she’s living, this must be how they all act.” I am, by no means, saying that I am a perfect representation of a SDA. I have come to realize that everyone is walking their own spiritual path. I was raised as an Adventist since birth. My mother was raised as an Adventist and so was my grandpa & grandma (on my mom’s side). I’ve been told that my great grandparents who lived in the Philippines were quite wealthy and owned land. It wasn’t until my great grandfather was converted that he realized his worldly possessions weren’t what gave life meaning. He wanted to leave a lasting legacy to his family; so he gave them faith.
So if you’re wondering how and when my walk with God started, read on. There’s something about getting older and uncovering ugly life realities that makes a person question their personal beliefs.
When I look at my mom, I see a person that has gone through so much and still has unwavering faith in Jesus. Her absolute faith in God made me curious. I wondered, “How is this strong independent woman still praising a God that seems so unfair? What does she know? What is this ‘truth’ that she keeps hanging on to that is so wonderful & powerful?”
Up until high school, I felt like I didn’t have an authentic relationship with the God I worshiped week in and week out. I never felt a spiritual tug. I heard a lot of people speak about their testimonies and having that first real experience or initial pull towards God or a higher being. In a way, I wanted to experience this on my own but I have grown tired and weary of waiting for my personal experience with God.
It wasn’t until midway of my sophomore year in high school that my perspective on God changed.
As a freshman in high school, I was convinced I was going to immerse myself in all the fun and festivities high school had to offer. Homecoming at Fall, Prom at Spring, cute boys all year round, cool friends to experience new things with… and sure enough, I experienced all these things. Yet, I still felt empty. I lived for Fridays (and no, not for sundown worship and observing the Sabbath) I was drawn to the “bad crowd” which, at the time, was the most exciting and fun thing I had to look forward to. But once Wednesday came around, I felt a sense of emptiness and needed my fix once again. This went on my entire sophomore year.
It wasn’t until I started to ask myself real questions that I realized I needed a change.
“Why am I going to parties? What exactly are we celebrating every weekend?”
“Can’t we just ‘kick back’ without passing all these substances around?”
“Where will this kind of lifestyle bring me?”
It all starts with our thoughts. Our thoughts become words, words become actions, and our actions eventually shape our character…our destiny. I know social media has a lot to do with shaping our thoughts and ideals so I actually go an Instagram & Snapchat purge every month. (I delete or unfollow accounts that are not in line with the kind of person I want to become) Sorry. I digress…
The night of February 1, 2013 is a night that I will always remember and treasure. You can even scroll all the way down to my Instagram and see what I posted on this monumental time. At the end of this night, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
As we sang praise songs, I sat there just soaking in the loving energy of a worship environment and I felt like crying. Not because I was sad, I felt like crying because I missed this sense of peacefulness. I guess it isn’t until you’ve reached the bottom or grow so far away from your roots that you come to realize what you’ve been missing…what you’ve been needing. We were put into groups and were forced to re-enact a story from the Bible and give it a modern twist without giving the Bible story away. As I worked with my team, I came to realize that these “Adventist kids” were just like me. They weren’t “weird” or “sheltered” like what I had imagined. They were just like me. The smiles and hugs they gave made me feel warm and welcomed. Their loving energy reignited my curiosity in God. Junior year was a year of growth. In English class, our teacher had us write 3 poems about ourselves and recite one of our poems in font of the whole class. At the time, I was still transitioning my ways from ‘party girl’ to a more reserved one. This assignment forced me to confront the uncomfortable questions about my identity that I was struggling with. I will be forever thankful for my English teacher and this assignment for facilitating my spiritual growth and getting me in touch with my own identity. As I recited my poem, I felt uncomfortable and scared thinking of what my classmates will think about me since most of them knew what I’ve been up to all of my sophomore year. I knew I didn’t want to go to a big school for college because it would be far too tempting to go back to partying. I wanted to choose a college where I could see myself thriving and growing spiritually while pursuing my career choice. Senior year was a blur as I was just anxious to get out of high school and begin my college career.
Pastor Todd said something that really resonated with me- “We all observe the Sabbath differently. I believe God created animals and nature to be enjoyed. Saturdays is not a time to sit at home and be angry with Him because we can’t do anything until sunset. We should be in fellowship with each other and enjoy the things He has created.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. Trust me, there are a lot of times I wish I have recorded him and could get his direct quotes and nuggets of truth.
Pastor Todd had gone through the same things as I did and knowing this made me feel like he could relate to what I was going through. This was what kept me wanting to hear more of God’s word through him. He has a passion to share the Word to others. He is understanding and most importantly he was welcoming to EVERYONE and knew where to draw boundaries in order to help people form a closer relationship with God. Pastor Todd didn’t just teach me about God, or church, or the Sabbath; he taught me how to be patient, understanding, caring, and loving towards everyone I meet. Thank you for leading by example. I salute you, Todd Rosspencer. The impact you made in my life is something I can never repay you but I will try to pay it forward through my services to the Youth Ministry and the church because I’ve experienced firsthand the wonderful impact it made on my life and I know it will be a blessing to many more. Your passion is a beacon to others in the faith and it shows in everything that you do. I can only hope that I could do the same with whatever career I choose. I wish and hope to do it as well as you.
One night, Pastor Todd shared with us his doubts and fears and he told us that one of the things that keeps him going is:
“It’s the look that Sabrina gives me when I’m talking.” (BTW This look was a look of amazement and awe and it probably looks like as if I have gotten hit by a truck full of knowledge or tasted a very delicious treat that I have NEVER had before.) Long story short, the way he presents his stories and little nuggets of knowledge to teens is so understandable and relatable. Redlands Church is blessed to have him as a Youth Pastor.
We all have doubts. We all question God at times. I’ve realized that this is healthy. In the wise words of a Nursing professor at PUC, “Be weary of the ones that think they know everything. They are the most dangerous.” Only God is all knowing. We are treading dangerous paths once we start acting like we know everything. I’m still learning. I’m still growing.
A daily reminder to myself is this:
“People will judge you no matter what. You can’t win them all Sabrina. Glorify your God. Give praise to the One that gave you life. Remember the promise He gave to you. He has not failed you yet & He won’t fail you now.” – Sabrina Villanueva
What I have is spiritual hunger, and it’s something that cannot be satisfied in one day in a week. No, I need to be spiritually fed every. single. day! Why don’t we treat our spiritual food like physical food our body needs? I see and feel a difference when I start my day with devotional and just have a conversation with God. My thoughts are clearer, more positive, and whatever the day throws at me, I can look at it in the eye and say, “Come at at me bruh.”
I’m still walking in my spiritual journey. I still battle with certain issues on a daily basis. I’m here to tell you, you’re not alone. I want to create a community where we can openly share our thoughts and questions about religion. Questions are healthy. Stay curious. I have asked many of my burning questions to my pastor before getting baptized and one thing he told me that I will NEVER forget is this: “You know what Sabrina, I also have the same questions about the Bible and about God, but that is where faith comes into play. The good news is, if we follow God’s teaching and follow his footsteps, when we see Him in heaven, we can ask all of the questions we have for Him. For now, some things may not make a lot of sense, but God is all-knowing. He has a plan for all of us. I’m excited to ask all of my questions and I’m sure you are dying to ask yours.” I am trying to keep my faith alive, and at times, I feel like I lose it. Especially when tragedies happen, when things are unclear, when a person is stripped away from us that we love, when things are not going as planned… I believe these are the times when we have to look to Him for guidance. This is why it’s called FAITH.