Posts Tagged ‘church’

Overcoming my unbelief.

For the last two years, we have not served in a church or participated in a church. My “breakup” with the church was far more personal and painful than I ever expected.  I never expected “my God” to allow such harm to come to us. You see, God was the one who loved me unconditionally.  I was from a rough home, a rough family life that told me I wasn’t good enough, so God was my comforter, my shield. Our breakup from the church was so much more painful than anything I had experienced in my past, because I never believed that God would allow me to enter into that kind of pain in His name.

In these past two years, our views on others and love have changed, and for the better. I believe that. More than that, I have entertained seeds of doubt about God: Does God really exist? Does God really care? Is God the active, intimate Being that we proclaim? Is religion even necessary? Does it do any good?

I’ve felt the pressure to walk away from God.  So many of the intelligent, wonderful people I look up to have done the same. Would I proclaim myself to be foolish and simple for continuing to follow God?  Also, would it align me with the people who say and do terrible and awful things in the name of the Lord? I don’t want to be known as judgmental and angry. Can I love the earth and want to take care of it and still be a believer? Can I care about the “least of these” and be aligned with the American Church?

The truth is: so many terrible, awful things have been done and said in the name of the Lord, and they have been lumped under the term “conservative Evangelicals.”  But the actions of the few (majority) cannot change what I feel in my heart. I cannot walk away from the teachings of Jesus. I feel compelled to follow Him.  I am also entering into this time with my spiritual jargon in disarray. I cannot use the old phrases anymore without needing to know exactly what I am saying. I cannot teach my child blindly.

It’s a disbelieving, agnostic world we live in.  That will not change.

Every day I encounter a thought, a bold word of unbelief, and I have to ask myself, “Will I believe this? Or will I follow what I am not sure of, even if this makes me look like a simpleton?” Perhaps this is real faith — following when you know the other side.

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Associating with Job

I’ve been thinking about Job recently. I have a sweet aunt
that is considered the “Job” of our family. She is one of the
sweetest, most cheerful, loving women you will EVER meet and she is
the Godliest woman I know. Every time she and her husband
have obtained something that would be considered “successful,” it
has been taken from them. They have served in numerous
churches, some with some horribly nasty results. She still praises
God for everything and you believe that she believes in Him with
all her heart. How can I explain to you how loving and sweet she
is? Just take my word for it. Watching my aunt made me think.
Everything I think and do now is tinted by a cynicism that I have
never held before. I used to think I was heavily shielded to
the hardships of life — that I could survive like Job — because I
had dealt with blow after blow as a child and teenager. I
would still praise God because He loved me and while He could deal
with the people who have hurt me, He chose to love me and take care
of me. When the place that I associated with love, comfort, and
hope decided to act in a way that was unbefitting to itself — it
crushed me. Legally, a corporation wouldn’t do what the
church did, and it seems so unthinkable and
ungodly that the church acted in this way. In
my mind I had decided, “God, you can allow life to be tough.
You can give me struggles. Please, You cannot take away my comfort
with You.” When that was taken away, my foundation was
shaken. It’s easy to be grateful when your “non-negotiable”
is still intact. Money has always
been tight for me.
I remember welfare and
WIC, my grandparents paying for everything, and secondhand
clothing. While it made for some hard times with other kids, I feel
like I appreciated what I received and that makes me more
appreciative as an adult. I have had a shaky
family.
It doesn’t scare me or break me down if Todd
and I are having a rough time. It makes us stronger and we are a
better couple for it. For some people, that’s a
non-negotiable. I’m always a little scared when I hear of a
female referring to her man as a “knight in shining armor” or their
“prince charming,” placing him on such a pedestal that will surely
get shaky. My kid will break my heart one day. My
family will always be a little too dysfunctional. That’s
life. I don’t have the nicest home, cutest clothes,
or skinny body.
I would like them, don’t get me
wrong. I would love to be in my old jeans again (when did a size 12
become a desire? ha!), I would LOVE to have a home that people want
to go to. Heck, I would just like a home, but the pressure of
meeting those are too much for me. When my comfort with God was
taken — it shook me to the core. My non-negotiable. Job had
EVERYTHING taken away from him, even his comfort. In fact,
that was the thing that struck me most about his story. He
couldn’t feel God, or see or hear Him. He felt abandoned, yet
he didn’t “Curse God and die.” My aunt hasn’t either. She
still praises Him with a gentle passion that makes you want to curl
up in her presence, if only to soak Him in through her. Can I be
that way? Can I get there? I’m trying. I hope
so. My aunt gives me hope. Do you have a
non-negotiable? Are you or have you been in this place in
your life? Can you still praise God if your non-negotiable
was taken away? The baby you always longed for, that church
position, finances, a nice home, a marriage, your family, your
talent/ability… could you still praise Him as you do
now?

the moments I remember

I remember walking out of the church one late summer evening, while the sky was streaked with colors of tangerine and magenta.  The sun hit my face just right, enough to warm the cheeks from hours of air-conditioning. I remember peace – the feeling that God loved me and that everything would be okay.  For a moment, I was not a child of a broken home.  I was not broken or misunderstood.  I belonged.

I remember the first time I walked into the quiet church, lights off in every room except the bathroom and kitchen. I could smell brownies baking in the fellowship hall kitchen.  I was scared to go in because it was a room of girls.  Would they be kind? That was the day I met Kristen, who spoke of love and generosity.  She taught us about inner beauty.  Strength.  Benevolence.

I remember notes she would write in her perfect cursive, just the right amount of flourish, on paper with roses around the border. She would write the words, “you are beautiful.”  I think it may have been the first time I had truly ever heard that.

One summer day, we sat in a circle on a drive under the awning while it rained all around.  We talked about nursing homes and the elderly, of loving others unselfishly.  We made plans to visit them and talk to them of their lives.

I remember learning about God in those early days, about someone who loved me, broken pieces and all.  A kid who thought too much, afraid of her own shadow.  A kid who thought that no one would ever love her, that girls would always pick on her, and boys would always ignore her.  A kid who talked of things too uncomfortable, too perceptive for her age.  Too poor.  Unchurched.

Those years, I was taught of a God whom I have not seen in a church often.  There were no boundaries, no limitations on love or acceptance.  There was no hierarchy of privilege versus poverty.  We were taught to give. Love. Search. Question.

I know that what I saw was most likely different than what they could see, but when I drive down an Oklahoma road in the summer, or see a sunset, or drink a glass of strawberry lemonade, I think of that first summer. I think of Kristen, who still listens with her whole heart, who accepts unconditionally.  I think of her doe eyes that link themselves to you and feel every joy and pain you have.  She was like an older sister — teaching me how to grow without growing up.

Those are a few moments I remember.