This is how we have experienced God’s faithfulness through Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Up until Thursday night, I planned to tell you a lovely story about how I moved to New York City, met a guy, and found my faith at Fifth. And the thing is, all of that would be true—but it wouldn’t be my absolute truth.
The truth is, eight years ago I was rather violently sexually assaulted and felt pretty broken for a long time. I’ve shared parts of my story publicly before, including when our congregation went to First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, earlier this year. But I was nervous to go back there today.
I shared my story with our young couples group just this week and told them I probably wouldn’t say anything about it in this testimony. I worried what people might think of me, whether I was just trying to get attention, that maybe I deserved it. Turns out that, even eight years later, I find myself feeling shame.
As my friends in the group pointed out, church is about coming together, knowing that in this space, we are all loved and that this is a place where you can free yourself from your burdens without fear of judgment. Every Sunday, Scott, Werner, Charlene and Kate tell us that we don’t all look alike and that we don’t all think alike, but somehow we are united together as one people. I hear those words every Sunday, but I lived them in this community this week.
When I graduated from college in the spring of 2009, I believed that there was only one way to start a career in the worst economy in 80 years: hustle. I spent the better part of the next four years giving my company and my partner everything I had. I was living in New Haven, Connecticut, far from my family and my church. I didn’t make time for my health or a new church community. Every ounce of my energy, my creativity and my passion went toward my job and my partner. I left nothing for anyone else—nothing for me, nothing for God.
My priorities were backward. After enough time, it became clear that my company and my partner didn’t love me back. Perhaps I made it too hard for them to. I was broken, alone and empty.
It was during this time that I first learned about the Lindy effect. It seems obvious, but the law states that things that demonstrate their value over long periods of time are those that are likeliest to continue to have value in the future. In my case, I was looking to my partner and my job for meaning, two things that hadn’t been with me for very long, as opposed to my faith, which had been with me since childhood.
I began by stumbling into an old church, not unlike this one, which eventually led to a transformation of all aspects of my life. Today, as an employee at Google, I would never dismiss the value of technology. But when it comes to our deepest questions, like how does one live a good life, we can either pose them to a 10-year-old device, or we can pose them to a 2,000-year-old device.
I know now, more than ever, that the good things in our lives are never guaranteed. But God’s love is guaranteed. It’s up to us what we do with that love, and where we put God in our lives.
When we were first approached to share our testimony, our initial reaction was, “Us?” But that’s the special thing about this place. In a city that’s hyper-competitive, where there is always someone smarter, more fit, or younger than you, you can really feel pretty average. When we walk through the doors at Fifth Ave, we feel that we are loved, appreciated and that we matter, exactly as we are.
We were honored to have Senior Pastor Scott Black Johnston preside over our wedding ceremony. The same year, we formalized our relationship to the church by becoming members. We later partnered with Pastor Werner Ramirez and his wife, April, who themselves were married last year, to start a couples group so that others could join us in our journey to build faith-oriented relationships and marriages.
We pledge to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church because we continue receive so much more than we give, and we invite others to consider the same possibility for themselves. This church is strengthening our relationship with God and with one another by providing us regular opportunities to serve our community, and to practice forgiveness, gratitude and hope together.
Jake Myers has been a member of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church since 2016. Abby Myers joined in 2018. They shared this testimony during worship on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Learn more about how you can support the 2020 Pledge Campaign: Great Is Thy Faithfulness.