I recently learned that it is impossible to fake having a relationship with Jesus.

I was asked quite awhile ago to write this blog post, and I jumped at the opportunity. Of course I wanted to write a post! If I can write a good Christian blog post, then I must have an amazing spiritual walk, right? What started as me writing a post to prove a point to myself, turned into me realizing that my spiritual life is almost non-existent. Previously I had written two different entries before realizing that I could not stomach how fake they sounded. There was no substance and no Jesus in any of the words I had written.

I go to church every Sabbath and every week I leave blessed and excited about the church experience and what I learned. But once I’m back in my apartment I may as well have just stayed in, drank coffee, and ate breakfast in bed. Going to church allows me to maintain my self image as an adequate Christian. That box was checked for the week, now I can get back to my normal routine guilt free. The most difficult part of writing this is realizing that my spirituality is best personified by Voldemort’s sad writhing body at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

If any of this resonates with you, then you know how frustrating it is. Speaking for myself, I was raised to perpetuate the image of the perfect Seventh-day Adventist. Don’t eat meat, don’t drink, don’t watch R-rated movies, and (for bonus points) go into the health field. Admitting to anyone that I was struggling at the most important aspect of being Christian did not seem like an option. Honestly it seemed like no-one wanted to hear about it either. In order for them to feel comfortable hearing about my short comings, they had to realize for themselves the short comings they have.

Which means one of three things will happen.

Either they will give me advice and not be genuine about their relationship, they will judge and tell me how I could be better, or we’ll have an honest conversation in which we share our shortcomings and doubts in order to better our relationships with Jesus. I never wanted to be judged and I did not want to come to terms with my own spiritual problems, so it was much easier to remain silent and insincere in my spiritual walk.

We can no longer allow this to happen as a church. We need to make church a safe place, where no one feels threatened about sharing their doubts and short comings. We need to be having open conversations with each other about God and about our own spirituality. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to feel challenged by hearing someone else’s doubts and problems. These challenges and conversations are how we grow closer to God, not further. If you’re like me and not satisfied any longer with how empty your spiritual life has become, keep searching! Don’t be afraid to start conversations with other Christians until you find someone who is willing to listen to you and grow with you.

I know I don’t have it all together, but confronting my own spiritual problems and seeking community seems like a great place to start.

Jarred Rhodes is studying dentistry at Loma Linda University.

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