From Religion to Relationship: My Personal Story of Finding the Cross

Finding a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

This is a homeschooling blog. Three times a week I write about things that will hopefully encourage homeschooling parents.

But I’m not just a homeschool blogger. I’m not just a mom or a wife. I’m not just a daughter. First and foremost, above all things, I am a follower of Jesus Christ.

A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a powerful message. At the heart of this message were these three words:

Tell your story.

As I sat there I thought, Everyone that I know already knows my story. Who would I tell? And then it hit me…

As a blogger, I’m in a unique position that most of my fellow believers are not in.

I have all of you. I have this website. I have the opportunity to reach an audience I’d never imagine possible had God not given me this gift of writing.

So today I will tell my story and use this gift to His glory.

Where I came from:

I grew up in a family that considered itself to be of the Christian denomination- Lutheran, to be precise. Our family had attended the same church for several generations, and there were certain things we “needed” to do.

As a child, I needed to go to Sunday School, although I can’t remember many times we actually attended a worship service (I’m thinking maybe just Christmas Eve and Easter?). At least, not until I reached middle school. Then, I needed  to attend confirmation, or catechism, classes, continue attending Sunday School, and I had to start attending the church service each week.

This wasn’t something we did as a family. And we weren’t the only ones. Each week, my best friend and I would get dropped off at the church, we would go through the motions of what we needed to do, pass notes back and forth during the sermon, and then go home.

It never even occurred to me that there was another way.

After my confirmation, I stopped going to church very often, until I became involved in our church youth group. Indeed, I was elected president of the youth group and got to do lots of fun stuff like attending retreats in the Poconos and traveling to a youth convention in Dallas, TX.

But I wasn’t doing any of this for the Lord. I was doing it for me. It was the “right” thing to do, and, yeah, it was even fun.

Fast forward 10 years or so…

After quite a bit of time (in which I got married and had more than a few children), I started feeling a real desire to start going to church again. I became obsessed with anything biblically (or what I thought was biblically) related. I’d scour the TV for biblical documentaries. I started reading “religious fiction” like The Da Vinci Code (and fiction is the operative word there), and I began to feel a deep desire to actually read through the Bible- something that we were never encouraged to do.

Eventually, I became very involved with my old church again. I started attending adult Sunday School classes, I became a Sunday School teacher, the nursery coordinator, the fundraising coordinator, and a youth advisor. I even had a key to the building!

I thought I was something special.

Yet every Sunday, I would go through the liturgy that we went through every single week, repeating the same phrases, singing the same songs, and saying the same prayers, and I realized that I didn’t feel anything during this time. I desperately wanted to and tried to force myself to feel something, but I couldn’t get past the idea of God as just being an abstract deity who truly did exist, but was out of reach.

Judging from the way my fellow congregants behaved, I began to think this was normal. We sounded like robots.

Christ is risen.

He is risen, indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia.

That’s a powerful declaration! Yet we all spoke in a monotone- all the time- through everything.

I used to think in frustration, Why aren’t we shouting this with joy?! Why aren’t we shouting this from the rooftops?! Shouldn’t this mean something?

The final straw came when I asked my pastor a question about something I didn’t understand in the Bible. His wife was standing there, and she condescendingly told me that the Bible wasn’t meant to be read that way.

What?! Why would God go to the trouble of giving us His Word if we weren’t supposed to read it?!

After that day, I became more than a little disillusioned but continued doing what I was “supposed” to do.

Meeting Jesus:

Finally, about two years later, we moved, and I had to find a new church because we were too far away. My new neighbor heard me mention that I was looking for a church, and she invited me to hers.

I will never forget that day.

We were still in the church parking lot when I realized that something was drastically different. These people oozed joy. I was taken aback.

We got into the worship service, and for the first time, I saw people singing with their arms uplifted to the heavens, declaring their love for a Savior they truly believed in and sincerely, passionately loved.

I wanted that!

During the sermon, the pastor began talking about having a personal relationship with Jesus, and, in my pew, I prayed what I now know to be “The Sinner’s Prayer.”

In that moment, I had such a feeling of peace and love wash over me, and I knew, KNEW, that my new Savior, Jesus Christ, was there with me.

Moreover, in that moment, a distant memory washed over me…

I was a little girl. My neighbors had taken me to the VBS at their church (which I still don’t know what church it was), and I remember sitting in a pew with an older girl- a teenager- reading to me from the Bible.

And then I remember praying with her.

Was I saved all along?? Is that why I felt such a great need to find Jesus? Because He was already there, waiting for me to realize it??

Even now I can’t think about this memory without bawling my eyes out. (As I’m doing right now.)

At that moment, I began to think about all of the little things that had happened throughout my life to draw me closer to Him. My unceasing desire to learn about God. My ministry at the old church. My neighbor.

My whole life, the Creator of the universe had me calling me- ME- as tiny and minute as I am when compared with His greatness.

He was calling ME, this seemingly minuscule speck in the midst of Creation.

He loves ME. He sent His Son to die for ME.

And I’m not the only one Jesus died for. Jesus died for all of us. Every last one of us, no matter how hopeless of a cause we think we are. No matter what sins we may have committed.

And that wasn’t the best part. The best part was what happened three days later.

He rose again. He conquered death.

You see, I spent a good portion of my life trying to be religious. I spent too much time DOING things to make myself right with God without ever realizing that everything’s already been DONE.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”

-Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)

It’s not about our good deeds. It’s about finding that relationship with Him that He longs for- that we all long for if we’re honest with ourselves.

Jesus died for you.

So, I leave you with this one question:

What are you going to do about it?




Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

30 thoughts on “From Religion to Relationship: My Personal Story of Finding the Cross”

  1. That’s a great testimony!

    I grew up in the Christian Church (which calls itself “nondenominational”), and I know just what you mean. You go to church because it’s what you’re supposed to do. Sadly, some people spend their whole lives doing just that and never have a relationship with Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! I love hearing the testimonies of others – how God sought them and found them! I know He did it for me in such a profound way that He called me to write it as a book which was published three years ago. Until I started sharing my story as a church girl in search of a meaningful relationship with Jesus I didn’t know that so many other people were struggling with that as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, a book! Is it available on Amazon? And I think there are a lot of people who struggle with this. All too often, they consider it to just be in their heads when, in fact, it’s the Holy Spirit calling them.


  3. I’m so glad you shared your heart with us through your conversion story, Shelly. ❤️You’re right, it’s so important for each of us, as children of God, to develop personal relationships with both our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. We come to know them through personal prayer, scripture study and by emulating our Savior’s perfect example. Church is meant to gather His flock together where we can worship, strengthen, uplift, serve one another, renew our baptismal covenants, and learn and grow in the gospel together. Matthew 18:20 says: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” I love that! I love the spirit I feel at church (when I’m in tune). Lovely post! 🌺

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ‘These people oozed joy.’ I love that. Joy so real it’s contagious. It draws you in and points you straight to Jesus. My one word this year is joy, and I’ve come to realize that all too often we are guided by duty and not joy. But the joy that flows out of a relationship with Christ can’t help but bubble to the surface. So grateful for Him. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love, love, love this: “I spent a good portion of my life trying to be religious. I spent too much time DOING things to make myself right with God without ever realizing that everything’s already been DONE.”

    Thank you for sharing, Shelly. And you’re right, God has given you an incredible platform; you’ll be blessed tenfold for using it to share how He’s been at work in your life. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful! Isn’t it amazing how we can look back and see all of the little (and not so little) ways that God was reaching out to us all along?!? I loved reading your story. And I’m grateful for the ministry of encouragement that God has given to you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a lovely post! I’m sure telling your story is going to help others. Thanks for being so open and thanks for linking up to #fridayfrivolity! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: