My Story: Erin Gainey

Erin Gainey

Erin’s Story

I was born in Irmo, South Carolina. My family and I moved to Kennesaw, Georgia when I was 12. I completed my undergraduate degree in Exercise and Health Science at Kennesaw State University and moved to Nashville in August 2012 to pursue my master’s degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science at Lipscomb University. My parents are Barbara and Steve Gainey, and I have a 19-year-old brother, Matthew.

My family was pretty involved at my church in South Carolina. I was baptized when I was 12, shortly before we moved to Georgia. We found a church home in Kennesaw and continued to be involved in several church-related activities. When I got into undergrad, though, that changed.

A Focus on the Future

I found a major that I was really good at, and I started focusing on my career. I was doing all the right things—taking on leadership roles, attending conferences, networking, and making good grades. I had everything I needed, and church just didn’t seem to be that important. As time went by, I stopped going to church. I just didn’t see the point.

I graduated from undergrad in July 2012 and moved to Nashville 2 weeks later. I had gotten a graduate assistantship at Lipscomb and was really looking forward to graduate school. Everything was going according to plan. Around the same time, I began to volunteer at the Vanderbilt Memory & Alzheimer’s Center. My research interests are on how exercise affects cognition, particularly in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and the opportunity to join a top-tier research group at Vanderbilt was a dream come true.

Finding My Home

I started coming to Brentwood in October 2012. When I first moved up here, I was 21 and had basically been out of church for 3 years (during undergrad). I told myself that I was young and could totally ditch my outdated Baptist roots. I moved in with an amazing roommate who talked me into looking for churches with her. On top of that, my professors at Lipscomb were very sweet and encouraged me to find a church home. It took a couple of months, but I eventually settled on Brentwood Baptist.

I started going to a LIFE Group that met at Susan Hill’s house in January 2013. I found her group on the website, and with my school schedule, it was the only women’s off-campus group that was at a convenient time and location for me. In April of 2013, Susan started leading a LIFE Group called Abiding Word on Sunday mornings, and I just stayed with her. Since I graduated in May, I’ve also been going to Kairos. I joined the greeter team and am fairly involved with Kairos Sports and Adventures.

A Season of Stress

During the second year of my master’s program, I was working full-time at Vanderbilt, part-time as a graduate assistant at Lipscomb, and taking a full load of classes in my master’s program.

Given how much I loved learning and working, I thought I would be able to handle the frantic pace for a year. I was wrong.

I got very stressed out and was making really poor decisions. I did things I knew were wrong, and yet I couldn’t stop making bad decision after bad decision. I damaged relationships, and some really important plans fell through.

In Desperation

Finally, a month before graduation, I hit a wall. I was so tired and so desperate to feel better, I did something I hadn’t done almost the entire year—I started reading the Bible. I knew that in the past, my quiet times (as infrequent as they may have been) always made me feel better. I didn’t want a devotional; I just wanted to go straight to Scripture. As I started reading, I discovered things that didn’t quite make sense to me. Despite having been brought up in church and hearing a ton of Bible stories, there was a lot in Scripture that I didn’t understand. I started writing down all of my questions and asked Susan if she would answer them. We set up a date a month down the road to meet and discuss my questions.

Wanting to be fully prepared for the meeting, I decided to go ahead and read the whole Bible. That was a game-changer. I was amazed at all the parts of Scripture I’d never even heard of before. I wanted to give Paul a hug. I wanted to know more about Jesus. I wanted to explore everything that the Bible had to say. When Susan and I met, I had 93 questions about what I’d read. We spent approximately 10 hours together over the course of several days, and I walked away in awe of God.

I began consistently spending time in the Word and in prayer. As I did, my attitude changed, although my circumstances did not. I was able to find joy despite difficult circumstances. I woke up every morning looking forward to hanging with Jesus.

A New Beginning

A month after Susan and I met, I was baptized again. The biggest change I’ve seen in my life is that my wants and desires have changed. Where I used to only care about what would help me climb the ladder, now I’m more concerned with developing and growing in my relationships with Christ and people. Things that used to be of the utmost importance to me no longer are. Instead of being a twice-a-month church-goer, I’m at church every Sunday and most Tuesdays (for Kairos). I’ve gotten more involved in my LIFE Group and have developed amazing friendships with some of the godliest people I’ve ever met.

I love Bible study. I’ve learned a lot about God’s character, and His faithfulness is evident throughout Scripture. There are a ton of great passages in the Old Testament that I had never read prior to this year that are quickly becoming some of my favorites. Even some of the more tedious passages in Exodus through Deuteronomy show how detail-oriented God is and highlight my need for a Savior.

Luke 10:41-42 is hands down the passage of Scripture that means the most to me. In this passage, Martha is super stressed out and overwhelmed by the number of tasks in front of her. In her hurry to complete all of her work, she almost misses the fact that the Messiah is sitting in her house. At first I thought it sounded silly that Martha would even think about working while Jesus was there, but then I realized that I do the same thing. Each morning I have the choice to do my quiet time or start working 30-45 minutes earlier. Work is always hectic, and some days I’m convinced that if I don’t start working at the crack of dawn, I’ll never be able to get everything done. It’s those days when it’s very tempting to skip my quiet time. What I’ve learned in the last several months is that those days will never go away. I will always feel like there’s something more that I need to do. Jesus makes it very clear in this passage that although I may be worried and upset about many things, there is only one thing that is absolutely necessary, and that’s spending time with Christ. To me, some of the most reassuring words in the entire Bible come next: “Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” Making the decision to spend time with Christ is always the correct choice, and the benefit of that time will never be taken away.

With Eyes on Jesus

Research is a tough work environment. It’s high pressure and very competitive. I haven’t always handled the stress the right way. As I’ve grown in my relationship with Christ, however, I’ve learned that sometimes the only thing I can control is my response to a situation. I want to respond in the same way that Jesus would. I want to lift up and encourage my coworkers. I want to do my work to the best of my ability with a cheerful attitude the entire time. I have Colossians 3:23 and Philippians 2:3-4 on sticky notes on my computer to remind me that in all things, I’m working for the Lord and not for other people or even myself.

I’ve been learning a lot about stewardship lately. I realized a couple months ago that I’d never actually tithed. My money was tight, but I knew I had more than enough to give. I just had to figure out how to manage my money. One of the ladies in my LIFE Group is an accountant, and I asked her to help me set up a budget. My first month on the budget, I got hit with a rather large, unexpected expense. I panicked and figured I’d just have to wait until the next month to start tithing. At church the next Sunday, I felt a little guilty and decided to tithe anyway. I made sure God knew that I wasn’t being cheerful and that I didn’t want Him to have my check, though. A couple days later, I got an e-mail from a company saying that they owed me some money. The amount they owed me was greater than the amount that I had tithed. Needless to say, the next month I couldn’t wait to tithe!

Made for Community

If people get nothing else out of my story, I want them to understand how important biblical community has been for me. I’ve met some of the most fantastic women in my LIFE Group, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them. My group really does life together. We hang out and pray for each other. We hold each other accountable for staying in the Word. We’ve laughed together, and we’ve cried together. I understand what Christ-centered relationships look like when I’m with my group. After spending a year slaving away at work and school, I longed for quality relationships. We’re not meant to go through life alone. The relationships I’ve developed in my LIFE Group mean so much to me, and I want everyone to have the kind of experience I’ve had.