How does faith develop and what shapes us into the people God intends us to be? How do you put action behind your faith and strive to follow Jesus every day? I spent an afternoon with Liza Nelson, discussing faith, church, and life. Our conversation wandered from the past to the present and touched on the different events that have shaped her quest to be a disciple of Jesus.
I asked Liza about the most influential figure in her faith journey and why she chose that person. She comes from a family of faith, and there were plenty of characters and such a multitude of memories that she couldn't pick just one. I heard descriptions of kindness, tolerance, and nonjudgmental acceptance that could teach more than words could ever convey. There was the story of hungry strangers during the depression that could always get a meal, and one about two black girls who needed to go to school and were taken in and made part of this family. I learned about a spunky, feisty grandmother who prayed fervently for everyone she knew, and couldn’t help thinking Liza must have taken after her.
Her father worked for Texaco and was transferred from Iran to Texas during the desegregation of the south. I listened to a moving, emotional description of her experiences with racism and prejudice, the awkwardness of being a teenager in a new school, and witnessing people at their worst. Just thinking about the signs, the yelling, the spitting, and all these painful memories still bring tears to her eyes.
Liza makes her way through this world following Jesus and taking action. She learned by example from her family to welcome those who are different, to love and accept people, to pray fervently like her grandmother, and to be a vessel of Jesus' love, hoping that she can share that love with someone who needs it. Faith is more than just what you believe; it is practicing the things Jesus told us to do, like loving our neighbor and welcoming the stranger. He taught us there is more to faith than words or rigid beliefs. He showed us love, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance, and he put these words into practice. The practice is what makes us better, or as some might say, perfect, and shouldn't we all be striving to be perfected in Jesus as doers of the word and not just hearers only?
Story and photo by Michelle Holland