Two things I think about: The Bachelor. And atheism.
I like the show
But I don't understand it.
I don't like atheism.
But I do understand it.
I sat at Starbucks with a study buddy for class this past week. He was telling me about how he grew up. He grew up in a Christian home. The conversation went something like this.
I said, “Have you ever rebelled?”
“No” no hint of pride residing.
“Have you ever really wanted to?” my curiosity up
“Are you going to?” (Insert my massive skepticism, I know the answer whether or not he answered honestly)
“How do you know?” I started to get quietly abrasive.
Then he explained to me about freedom and how he has always had it, so why would he rebel when he already has what he wants. He said he grew up being able to have the freedom to do what he desired. That freedom motivated him. There was truth in that freedom. I really admired him for this.
It got me thinking. I thought about my mom and my grandma, amazing women of faith. Years and years, decades of loving God day in and day out, devotions every day, bible studies, church, worship, giving. So loyal. So dedicated. I have often wanted to ask them if they ever got bored. Or how they have maintained for so long. Even my dad and his parents, my grandparents. What gets them up at the crack of dawn to read their Bible? The same hymns. The same Bible verses. The same.
I am 25 years old and worried about becoming an atheist. Sometimes I'm worried about never getting a rose again too. But that is the lesser of two evils. I don't know if I have what it takes to stick around for the long haul of Christianity. I fear I will just rebel. Now I am a very stubborn person and deathly loyal. I wholeheartedly believe I could do devotions every day and always pray before meals and tithe 10% the rest of my life, but I could still be an atheist. I could still, deep down, not really believe or feel anything at all. No matter what I do externally I could be dead internally.
I truly do not have anything against Jesus Christ. In fact I am quite fond of Him. I like Him. I tell others I love Him because that is the thing to say and do. It's also cool to tell others you want to bring God glory but I don't even know what people are actually saying when they say that.
Sometimes I catch myself praying for others, “Just heal them God, help them, help them find you, help them want you, help them to know you.”
And out of nowhere I hear in response;
“Because you are God and they need to”
“A huh. And what does that do for them?”
“ I don't know. They need to know you because a good Christian prays that others will know God, it's called evangelism.”
“Nice. (insert sarcastic tone)..... Am I what is good for them? Do you have their best interest at heart?
Well that's the problem. You? The church? Christians? The culture of God? America?
I'll be honest. I grew up in a Christian home. I went to a Christian church. I was in bible studies, youth groups, leadership positions for every kind of spiritual thing out there, fellowship of christian athletes, mentor junior high girls, discipleship groups, Awanas. I tithed to the penny off of every check I made. I read my Bible every day. This is not an exaggeration. I literally read my Bible every single day without fail for 12 years. I went to a Christian college. It was awesome. Bible Classes. Chapel. Floor bible-studies. I was an RA for freshmen girls, on the leadership team. Then Bethel Seminary, on Senate, I was on staff at a church. I was the assistant to the children's director, on soul care staff, on global outreach staff. While I have experienced great things in all these places, I have experienced pain in spiritual leadership. I felt watched. Hovered. Judged. Talked about. Not safe. My Christian atmosphere, home, my work place, church was sometimes more like my war zone. Was I taking bullets for the team? Who was the team? And why was my team stabbing me in the back?
This is not about me church bashing. It's seriously one of my pet peeves. And the some of the people at the churches I have worked at I truly got to know are extremely loving and loyal people who are genuine. Everyone blames their spirituality about a church and how horrible churches are. I think that is dumb. Churches aren't perfect and anyone who expected such is living a delusion.
I am making a point here. My point is that my arrogance, for my entire life, stemmed from being spiritual. Not from my talents. I was in sports, but never the best. Not from my looks, I was somewhat pretty, but not a model by any means and not the kind of girl that demanded a room's attention. I was smart as in I got A's but I hated tests and always did poor on them. I was proud because I was spiritual. And not just spiritual but the MOST spiritual. I was the leader of leaders. I memorized verses left and right, I had filled 100 journals of prayers to God, I gave my senior testimony in chapel, I led worship team, I went on mission trips to orphanages. Certainly I had my insecurities, the ones no one knew about. Those were kept out of the lime light.
My spiritual life had begun to unravel long before I left the church I worked at. I left because I wanted to become more intentional and diligent about my spiritual walk.
Herein lies my problem. I feel like a beast. My arrogance is gone. Cause while people look at me and want me to lead their bible-study, in the end they would not. They would be horrified by my obnoxious thoughts. I am TIRED of the christian world. I want a break. I don't want to be in it. I am tired of tithe. I am tired of serving. I am tired of servant leadership. I don't want to count how many people I have “saved” anymore. I am sick of guilt and obligation, the best friends of the top motivators for real and lasting change. I am sick of cliché answers and how “God said so” is the final trump along with a whole list of useless jargon from well-intentioned, but less than heartfelt verbage.
It must be meant to be
Have you prayed about it?
The Lord is leading us together
The Lord is leading us apart
I want to bring glory to the Father.
The Bible says....
You would make a great helpmeet
The Lord's discipline.
Children obey your parents
Sex before marriage can ruin your life.
Well just pray about it
The Lord told me...
I want to be a witness.
It must be God's will.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
It is the woman's role.
Have more faith
Try telling any of those lines to the girl who was just sexually abused. Try telling them to the girl who had sex with her boyfriend and is now suicidal because of it. Tell those hurting overseas dealing with war and genocide. Tell that to the person dealing with addictions. Tell that to the paralyzed. Tell that to the man who just lost his wife to an affair. Tell that to the orphan.
I feel horribly guilty for even writing these down but it's just how I feel. I just quit at the church, where I felt like I was on a tight rope, walking a fragile line much like the a balance beam of performance. Now I am still in Seminary taking Bible classes and I don't care about post or pre-tribulation and I don't care that this author thinks that Paul was this way or that way. I don't care about the North or South Galation view. I sincerely feel like I can't take it anymore. I can't cram one more thing down my throat. In fact I want to say NO to every service act, every obligation, every “politically correct” thing to do in a church. No bible study. I only want more friends. No 10% tithe. I'll give when I feel like it. No cheesy devotionals to check off my list. I said yes to so much at the church I worked at. I worked in Soul Care ministry. I work in Global Outreach and I worked in Children s Ministry.I worked in the youth ministry. The junior high. The high school. I went to Morocco on a missions trip I taught Sunday School. I got sick of Jonah and the Whale. I got sick of talking about how you'll be punished if you don't listen to God, to 5 year old kids who just want to play. I hate staying within the bounds of safe and comfortable and yet I'm addicted to it. I felt dead inside. Nothing made me feel alive. I disliked dealing with membership cards and removing people and putting them on the “drop list” cause it felt more like a club than a church. I hated hearing gossip from people who didn't see my heart.
I have heard every book there is on finding the right on, dating, lust and being pure. I could tell you more about those books than almost anything.
I have written countless research papers on exegetical studies on passages in the Bible.
I have heard every sermon out there on women submitting and on finances.
I have been to all the Christian concerts and all the leadership conferences.
I just keep thinking about how much more of life I have to go and I feel like, “What does God want with me?” I'm a lame Christian. I am entirely cynical, restless and annoyed. I am not a cool Christian anymore. I talk to God in the car. Sometimes I fear He may not like me anymore. I think about Him turning water into wine at the party just because He could. Not so people would not have sex before marriage (the marriage was on!) but so people could party harder. I thought about him multiplying the fish so people could eat more food, not so they could read their Bibles or tithe more. So they could eat.
I don't want to be the girl that leaves church and never returns and her spirituality is a “quiet private matter”. What is the point? But that is the point right? Cause if it's real to me when I am alone then it will be real to me when I step out into the crowd?
Perhaps God's loyalty to me is stronger than mine to Him.
And perhaps God doesn't need me in a structure or an organization or even something made of human hands for him to get to me.
I felt God in Hawaii. I didn't go to church. I didn't go to Seminary. I didn't learn about Greek. I didn't go to bible study. I didn't give my money to the homeless. I just did what I wanted to do. I stared out at the ocean. I felt God's favor and I knew I didn't deserve it. I felt Him giving to me. Generously. I was not cool enough for so much good. It was a selfish vacation. One in which my goal was to relax and have fun every day. No obligations, no stress, no worries. I was free. And God was there. Not a ball and chain. Not a choke hold. Nothing suffocating my air.
I wanted to ignore the feeling I had. The presence of God. And forgive me for the cliché, but with everything that happened in Hawaii I couldn't help but get more and more curious about God and His affection for me.
Perhaps He adored me.
I just thought He was the boss and I wasn't producing (you know the fruit, bear much fruit) so I thought He might throw me out, that or I would throw myself out. What's the point of an employee if they can't produce the right product?
I think I fired myself.
Maybe God was hoping I would.
Cause He just wanted me.
He didn't need my “good list” or my resume of spiritual achievements, or my list of people I have converted, and my sheet that reads of all the sins I have so magically avoided. He didn't even need my money. He didn't need me to save that person from hell and He didn't need me to run myself in circles to prove to Him and the world that I loved him.
I don't want to be a Christian simply so I can avoid hell.
Besides God loves the atheist too.
I want Jesus just for Him.
I just wish I knew how to separate Him from all the bull shit.
Back to Starbucks, the question is turned on me.
“Have you ever rebelled?”
“No” I said.
“Have you ever really wanted to?”
“Are you going to?”
“How do you know?”
“Because I want to be free so badly”
I don't want to be bound by my pressure, guilt, shame, obsession, fear and worry. I want freedom and so yes I will rebel. I will rebel against the cliches and famous jargons and the publicity riot over Christianity. I want the real thing. I will rebel against addictions and thoughtless prideful devotion. I will rebel against fake, arrogant, spirituality. And as much as my inner subconscious screams that God must hate my rebellion by now as I watch the offering plate fly by and I don't sing the words to the worship songs because I don't yet believe them, I see a flash of red, a smell of something sweet.
“Will you accept this rose?”
The shock of being picked again by Jesus. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every second.
“Will you accept this rose?”
I love you, I chose you, I want you, I want you, I WANT you, You are enough, you are beautiful, You are my favorite, I adore you, YOU are the best, I won't stop vying for your attention, I won't stop wanting you ever, I won't stop fighting for your heart, I wont' stop looking at you because I don't know how to look away, I am captured, enthralled, lost my mind... over you.
“Will you accept this rose?”
A red petal falls to the ground. Stains the carpet in red.
I give Him a glance, while He pursues my gaze.