Zoe grew up a proud Texan surrounded by a large extended family of Christians. She was part of a well-known family within her church and was often defined by this role. In eighth grade she had some hard situations within her extended family that challenged her idea of faith and what it means to be Christian. Her immediate family struggled through that experience together and at the same time had challenges within their church that required questioning the purpose and role of the church. Her family ultimately decided to leave the church she had grown up in. She describes this as a journey that led her to “pathological church leaving” that continued until she started attending North Harbor about 7 years ago.
Zoe bravely admits to currently encountering a challenge with God. She recently heard a podcast that gave her some academic information that did not align with her understanding of scripture. This was not the first time this had happened, but she felt as though this particular information was very central to her understanding of scripture and it really rattled her. Her whole life was shaped around her faith in God and understanding of scripture and she felt as if it was being pulled out from under her. Although she had conversations with her discipleship group, North Harbor staff and her husband, she still did not feel resolution over this matter and it was impacting her whole life view. In a dark solitary moment, as she struggled with this issue she felt she heard God tell her, “Zoe are you going to let a little bit of news change all that we’ve gone through together? Change who we have been to each other?” It reminded her that she has an academic understanding of who God is and what the Bible says, but then she also has a relationship with a living God that has been present since she was young. For a while she was angry that the Bible might be wrong or a lie. As she started focusing on her relationship with God and allowing Him to reveal His perspective she learned to separate His voice from what she has been taught as “Christian” or “Biblical”. Regardless of anything else she knows, “My relationship with God is real and I can’t deny that.” She continues to struggle with the information that she is learning and how to reconcile that with her understanding of the Bible. She is also learning about how God’s word is alive and active through scripture and outside of scripture. It is a living active dynamic presence in all of the world, in nature and people and scripture. His word has given her transformational comfort throughout her life and information can’t change that. This challenge has revealed to her that she had to give up even something as good as the Bible to hold onto just God.
As she holds onto God, her understanding of her relationship with Him continues to grow. In a recent therapy session, Zoe told her therapist that she felt God’s presence supporting her through this tough time and how God was strong when she was weak and that this was really comforting to her. Her therapist challenged her on this because she felt Zoe needed to be strong herself to do the work ahead of them. At first Zoe was offended thinking that “when she is weak, God is strong” and that her weakness was a good thing. But as she reflected on it she sensed that God agreed with her therapist. Although Zoe didn’t feel strong, she realized that God brought her to this place and this time because she is ready to do this hard work. He had been strengthening her through relationships, through life circumstances, through where she is at within. He had been equipping her for this moment and He had made her strong. Instead of just stepping in and fixing things in his wealth of goodness, He had been and continues to step into her poverty and work through process. Process that requires relationship. God loves her enough to walk with her through this process and this mess and strengthen her. He has put her in North Harbor where she can find Christian community that can tolerate mess for this process. As she realized that God wanted to be in relationship with her and in her mess with her, she realized just how strong she really is with Him.
Zoe hasn’t always been a fan of Christian community. She had been very critical of Christians and struggled with how messy the relationships can be. She tried to live without the community of other Christians for quite a while, but God convicted her of needing to love His church in order to love Him. She has been learning over the past decade how to live within Christian community and is now the community development director at North Harbor. Although challenging for her, she finds great gains from being in community. Christian community keeps her from being stagnant in her faith. To see God at work in Christian community grows her view of God and keeps her aware that faith is not about her but about God. Community keeps her growing, humble, out of complacency and spurs her on towards God through encouragement and challenge.
As mentioned earlier, Zoe has been a “pathological church leaver” most of her adult life always ready to move onto the next thing. She struggles with wanting to embrace the diversity of the church and interact with people she might disagree with or otherwise not choose to do life with. But she as she learns to embrace Christian community, she is also learning how to stay in one place and be strengthened by those whose faith may look different than hers. She appreciates the intention that it takes to sign a partnership agreement every year at North Harbor and commit to this place and these people. She describes North Harbor as a humble place where there is a culture of honesty in questioning and being messy. It’s ok with be broken and unsure here. She appreciates that she can say, “I am not perfect, I do not have it all together, I do not know it all. I am tripping along the way, but I continue to journey.” We continue to journey together as we mutually support each other along this path of faith.
Watch her video to hear her full story.
Zoe Reyes lives in Brunswick with her husband, Manny, and two children. She is the Community Development Director at North Harbor.