Hi kids (only parts of my family will understand this joke)!
Thanks for joining me on another round of my blogging adventures. I haven't written in over a year. So, if you're wondering what I've been up to here are some things I did since January 11, 2017:
· I ate an entire bag of crazy bread and half the crust off of a hot and ready in one night.
· I accidentally tucked my shirt into my underwear instead of pants at work (that happened last week).
· I was called out in a meeting for accidentally typing "ASS grippers" instead of "SAS grippers" on a machine specification.
· I spilled a bottle of vegetable oil all over the passenger seat of my car.
· I played in a kickball league and we lost every game.
· I did the cupid shuffle around a police officer in a gift shop.
· I accidentally called my boss Dad.
· I convinced an intelligent, handsome, and friendly guy to call me his girlfriend for almost 14 months.
So...that about sums it up.
This one is difficult for me to write, but as always, this is my unfiltered and unapologetic writing style.
I want to say, first, that I have been pissed and angry and really shook up lately. My faith has been frustrating me to all Hell.
My faith and my walk with Jesus has been tested and flipped upside down. It is evident that it is not what it was and it’s taking new meaning in my life.
My faith used to be all about me feeling good and experiencing things for myself.
I prayed and I worshiped so that I could experience God for myself. It felt good and it felt right because I felt close to God and God felt near when I needed Him to be.
I want to pause for a minute, because I'm not trying to say that your relationship with God shouldn't make you feel good or be a source of comfort. Because it absolutely should…
I’ve just been super frustrated by my faith because as I start to get a better glimpse of the world, I feel like there is no place for my mustard seed faith. My faith feels insignificant and useless.
Yes, I think I’ll start with that.
Recently, I moved away from the city and I've been commuting to work. With that said, I have become a National Public Radio junkie. I drink my black coffee and I listen to current events—God help me, I am my father. (Just kidding, I love you dad…I love that I’m like you.)
The other day, I listened to a story about a great number of Kosovar women who were victims of war. An alarming amount of women were brutally raped and abused as a result of the country’s war against Serbia. This took place nearly 20 years ago. Recently, the women activists in the country have fought hard so that many of these victims can now receive compensation and support to help them deal with the suffering they endured. I listened to two victims tell their stories about how they would cry every time they walked past the places they were raped. One woman talked about how she used tranquilizers just to get to sleep at night.
This blog isn't about this story of suffering. But my reaction to this story helps me to send the message of this blog.
My heart started to break and I was overwhelmed with tears and emotion. I mean, I was a mess. That day, after work, I called my mom. I told her how I felt so guilty that I had to change the channel to listen to a Sidewalk Prophets song on the local Christian radio station because I couldn't stop crying and I just wanted to feel good. I couldn’t handle hearing about the world we live in. I didn’t want to feel so broken. And I drove the rest of the way home feeling so confused. And turning over all of these philosophical and faith related questions. Why can’t I face this properly? Why do I feel angry at myself? Why do I feel like I just copped out of trying to understand the condition of the world I live in??
Our world is so, so broken. I wanted to do something and I felt so helpless. And I felt so confused. God, you are good, right? I sing it about it all the time. I say it on Facebook when I post pictures about my life…
But, why is our world so broken if you are so good? Why are people dying and suffering unjustly? I couldn't feel good. My faith wasn't enough to save me from what I was feeling. I was so mad at God and felt like my faith hadn’t equipped me to handle the unjustness of the world. My faith felt little. I felt stupid for listening to a feel-good Christian song to ease my own pain that I felt because of tragedy and suffering I could not fathom or understand.
It’s funny because we were never taught that walking in faith would be easy. And if we read the Bible, we would know that it never has been easy. So, why is it that my understanding of being a Christian is that it will just make you feel so good, even if things are bad? Especially when the very leader of Christianity faced unimaginable affliction…why did I think this would be easy and would always make sense??
My faith hasn't been making me feel good. In fact, when my life is a little hard and someone tells me to pray-I almost feel bitter. It's like I want to laugh. My problems don't seem worth a pathetic prayer to an almighty God who must be busy trying to make himself known to such a dark world. I think to myself, “I don’t want to pray that I get along with someone better. I'd rather pray that my eyes be opened to the fact that the struggles I've endured and the pain that I've experienced pale in comparison to the state of our world”.
I see the world and the darkness and I'm scared. I see Christians getting a bad rap because we are pegged as judgmental and selfish. I'm mad. I feel like my relationship with God must be bad because my “feelings” are on the left and my relationship with God is on the right. And they aren’t making sense anymore. These two things seemed so aligned when my faith was new and it felt good.
I'm so confused. I'm frustrated by my faith. I'm frustrated with people telling me to pray when nothing in this world is changing and it's breaking me and shaking me up in ways I didn't think were possible.
Real talk: Living as a follower of Christ right now is tiring and miserable. I read verses like “His mercies are new every morning” and “take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” and “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you”..... and now it just seems so out of context and unreal.
This is your will, God? Why? I don't want to thank you for all this death and persecution. It used to seem so great reading these verses when the focus was on MY life.
Yeah, God. Money is tight right now, but thank you for my brand new bed and my new set of flannel sheets from Eddie Bauer.
Yeah, God. Thank you for allowing me a good education, because I got a raise and that was the desire of my heart.
UGH. Can you understand my frustration???? When there are mass shootings and terrorism and injustice happening all around me...and all I can think about is my small world...what was the point of all this church going and praying?!
These are some of the things that I’m dealing with right now and I’m not trying to offend anyone but I need to be real with you:
· I'm ashamed to claim the name of Christ and say that I'm a Christian because I'm afraid that people will see me as selfish and small-minded and judgmental.
· I'm afraid people will see me as "fake" and "nicey-nice".
· I'm afraid that if I mess up that people will say "see, that's the problem with Christians, they talk the talk but don't walk the walk".
· I'm afraid my liberal friends won't like me if I say I’m a Christian.
· I'm afraid that if I'm friends with a gay person, my conservative friends won't like me.
· I'm afraid that if I have a beer with dinner or if I say shit, my Christian friends won't like me.
What is my faith right now? What does it mean to be a Christian right now?
It's Easter. Or, it was yesterday.
I posted a funny meme on my Instagram about Easter and I got some PB Reese's eggs from my boyfriend's mom (thanks, Brenda).
But there is an element of Jesus in Easter that should help me put my faith back in order, right? I mean, Jesus is the reason for Easter?? I say it’s an element of Easter, because—let’s be honest—the Easter bunny has been stealing the show for years.
Ok. So Easter: Here we have a man (Jesus) that no matter how much he loved people, he was scrutinized.
Actually, let's really put this into perspective:
He was betrayed by one of his best friends. Has this ever happened to you? That really sucks bad. Trusting someone and having that trust betrayed and thrown in your face.
He was falsely accused. Ever been blamed for something that wasn't your fault or that you didn't do? Was it by your own family? Or was it by a leader of your church?
He was abused and mocked by soldiers. He was so tortured that he was unrecognizable.
Jesus didn't die symbolically or metaphorically. He actually died. His heart stopped beating, he stopped breathing, and he suffered greatly. He was blameless and loving and compassionate…and then he was murdered.
Jesus. The man who was the human embodiment of real love. The 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. The kind of love on the Dollar General artwork I have in my bathroom.
The representation of the kind of love that could save the world.
But Jesus wasn’t just known for how close he was with God, the Father. Right? We don’t remember him all these years later because he kept to himself. We remember him because he changed the world. He changed the way people loved because he himself defined what love is. It’s merciful, it’s gracious, it’s patient, it’s compassionate, it’s kind, it’s giving…
So, I guess Easter took on a different meaning this year as I was in bed last night taking that photo and posting it to my Instagram. It reminded me why I choose to follow Christ.
Actually, no. It didn't remind me. It taught me something entirely new.
I initially chose to follow Christ because it made the life that I was living easier. It gave me hope and comfort amidst dealing with the aftermath of an imperfect life. And this is good, but this wasn't enough to keep my faith alive. It wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied. I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the world anymore.
As my eyes are widened to the world outside myself, I come to a point of sink or swim. Where does my "feel-good" faith come into play now? It's still present. And I still desire to be close to God. But, for a different reason. Not to help me cope with divorce and abuse. Not to help me see my worth after dealing with body image issues…it’s more than that now.
I want to reflect the love that I received from Christ to this broken world. It’s not about me and it has never been about me.
I grew up hearing that we shouldn't put God in a box. Bevere stated, "It’s easy to put limits on God, allowing Him to intervene in the simple moments of calming our nerves or giving us the endurance to make it through a long day. But how often do we forget He’s more than capable when the cancer spreads, a marriage is on the rocks, or mother nature plays her course and devastates an entire community?"
I agree. We shouldn't limit God.
But we all shouldn't limit our own faith, either.
If you're experiencing God and he's filling you up and his mercies are new for you every morning and you are delighting in him and he is giving you the desires of your heart...then you are being called to action.
Faith isn't about easy living and feeling good all of the time. It isn't about taking all that God has to offer and building a great life and attributing it all to how blessed you are. We aren’t being rewarded for how good we feel. God isn’t up in Heaven keeping score. He isn’t blessing someone with a bigger house or a better life because he loves them more than the woman who was brutally raped because of the wars in this world.
God loves us all the same. And that is confusing and hard to understand. We can’t earn his favor. And he couldn’t possibly love us any more or any less than he already does… no matter what we do or say. That’s why Jesus died. So that we could stop feeling like we have to earn it and start receiving it freely. For what reason?
We get closer to God through prayer and worship so that we can reflect that to the rest of the world. We receive the gift of God so that we can start making an impact with the love that changed the world 2000 years ago and has the potential to change the world today. We just need to step out in faith and not keep this feeling to ourselves so that this world doesn’t have to keep experiencing the kind of pain and suffering that those Kosovar women are enduring.
2000 and some years later we celebrate this holiday that is about the death and resurrection of a man. ONE MAN. Why??? Because he was so close to the heart of God and used that to send a ripple through the world of what love really is. He didn't keep it for himself. In fact, he died brutally so that we could all experience the love and then be the light in a world that is riddled with pain and suffering.
Our faith doesn’t stop at the blessings poured out on us. Our faith doesn’t stop at the euphoria we feel from God being present and near in our lives. If I choose to be a Christian, I am choosing to follow Jesus’ example of growing close to the heart of God and then allowing that level of intimacy to reflect on my own character.
I might experience trial for claiming the name of Christ. I might be called out of my comfort zone or my God box. I might not always do it right. But my God endured death so that I could love freely. To Hell with me if I can’t face a little bit of backlash for showing people love that I did nothing to deserve in the first place.
I will continue to be a Christian. I will continue my walk. I will probably still say shit, on occasion.