I did not have a personal relationship with God.

I occasionally did the things that make a good Christian. I went to church when it was convenient. I recited prayers I have had memorized since I was in grade school. I said things like praying for you when a friend was going through a hard time. But those were just the words you say. I didn’t take the time to do it.

Unless, of course, it was convenient.

Can I be honest? I didn’t really see the point of prayer. As long as I had a belief in God, what did it matter how I lived my life? It was the belief that was the end game. Right?

I didn’t feel close to God in church either.

I was hearing the same hymns, the same scriptures, the same prayers I had heard my whole life. I was on autopilot. I didn’t have to engage or communicate or man the controls. I could just put my feet up and coast. No worries.

The problem was, I was worried all the time. I didn’t want to put in the work with God, but I couldn’t understand why I had no peace. Why my personal life was falling apart. Why I was lying to myself.

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I saw God on the outside of all of it. A distant spectator.

God was not invited into my marriage either. At that time, my husband considered himself an atheist. I grew up being taught to marry a fellow Christian. I never could’ve predicted the agony that would come from marrying someone whose beliefs were so contradictory to my own.

The topic of God was as taboo as politics. Every conversation about God was a point of contention. Soon, we avoided that fight altogether.

God was contained to the dusty Bible on the bookshelf and to the occasional, albeit reluctant, church service as a family.

My faith was failing. I had to get real with God.

I had to rethink and relearn how to pray. I stopped reciting prayers and making requests when it suited me. I started having conversations with Him throughout the day. Real, raw, oftentimes painful conversations.

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I gave myself permission to be honest with God. To express my anger and doubts and frustrations and hopelessness. To cry and shout and despair when need be. To give it all to Him, not just what I thought was acceptable.

I stopped going to church out of obligation and found services where God’s presence was palpable in the room.

Services that made me cry. Services that I woke up on Sunday morning and felt excited and privileged to attend.

I also began to put God at the center of my marriage. My husband had his own journey to God, a story better left for him to tell. But finally, by the grace of God, our footing found the same path.

Today we worship and pray together, talk openly about God, and we are growing in our faith. Together. Which is how God intended it to be from the beginning.

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I am so grateful that God never gave up on me. He never turned His back, He never stopped blessing me or protecting me, He never stopped chasing me.

When I got real with God, I discovered that He was never on the outside. I didn’t have to invite Him in.

He was already there.

Melissa Neeb

I'm a Minnesota native and lover of nature, WW2 memoirs, rescue dogs, photography, and thrifting. My husband and two teenagers are the great loves of my life. I am passionate about advocating for addiction recovery, writing about parenting, life, faith, and everything in between.