A dear friend recently said to me “I don’t know if I can believe in God anymore.”
She said there is just too much evidence that a supreme being has checked out, or never existed – or worse – is dead.
“The whole ‘God is love’ thing is a crock,” said she. To which I agreed. “There’s too much suffering,” she continued, selling past the close. Her heart was in distress.
God is love has been embedded in us, we are taught nothing less all our lives, and where does that leave our idea of love those times we feel thrown to the wolves?
So I asked her:
“If you cannot believe that God is Love,” I replied. “Can you believe that LOVE is actually GOD?”
There is no denying that Love itself exists.
It swirls around us, and flows through happenstance and doubt, overcoming both.
It is in every hug, good wish, faithful intention. It is being seen. It is being valued. It is in valuing others.
It is sitting with the hurting, grieving alongside them so they are not lonely.
It is miracles, yes; but it is also in pain. Love often piggybacks on pain.
If your cognitive dissonence disallows you your old belief system, can you worship love and live by the tenants of a loving life?
Not just your understanding of love, but the truth that it is the force behind the details in the microcosm and glory in the vastness of the cosmos. That love?
Love itself is God. When app other things pass away, it’s still standing, open-armed.
Because whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – go towards that. Be willing to get messy with it. Spread that stuff everywhere. Dole it out like there is a never-ending supply. (Because there is.)
When you find manifestations of love, you will find a God who won’t tell you he’s running out for cigarettes, only to never return. Or say he’ll give you something to cry about. Or any of the other hurtful things human fathers do.
Yes, we are raised being told that God is love, but we have been taught incompletely. We are the incarnation of God on earth. When living out love has a heretical flavor, it’s time to take another look at ourselves.
Maybe you’ve been hurt by the “church. Perhaps you have trauma. “God is love” not ringing true to you as a whole? Old Testament giving you wrathful vibes of a vengeful overlord?
I understand. But can you believe in LOVE my friend?
Love that will sit in that dark hole with you, because it’s not allergic to our shadow selves.
Love that comforts the broken.
Love as a force that rises to meet the victim.
Love as the catalyst for every simple contact we have for the hurting.
Where there is confusion, it’s the thing we can hang our hats on.
Where there is bigotry, it’s the force that overcomes.
Oh yes. I believe that all things loving and lovely, and pure of intention, are of God.
And that includes US!
I wish you peace, joy, and comfort today, dear reader. I wish you rest in a safe, warm Source of Love.
May is Ehlers Danlos Awareness Month, so I’m … um… spreading awareness. I saw a meme the other day that referred to it as “Bendy B*tch Disease” and I laughed so hard. BBD! But there is a whole lot about living with this condition that isn’t funny in the least.
A few of my friends have had questions recently, and I thought I’d use this platform to educate about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and its related comorbidities. And y’all can ask me anything, I don’t mind answering questions! (Please keep in mind, this article addresses my own experience with EDS, and it can manifest differently among patients. Please consult your doctor for correct diagnosis and treatment option pertaining to you as an individual.)
Can you develop the syndrome over time?
No. Most of us suffered for years – sometimes decades – without a correct diagnosis because symptoms can seem obscure. And the medical community tends to think of horses when they hear “hoofbeats” (i.e. causes of injuries and illness,) and not zebras. Which is why the “mascot” for this condition is the zebra. It is 100% genetic. You cannot ‘catch’ it, develop it (although you can develop more obvious symptoms,) or “cause” it in any way, shape, or form. We are born with it. Genetic and clinical testing is often required for accurate diagnosis (do a search for the “Beighton Score” for further explanation.)
Can holistic approaches cure Ehlers Danlos Syndrome?
No. Although I do love holistic remedies and believe in their helpfulness in many ways (and I try to treat my overall health with eating clean when I can,) the truth is that I require many Rx medications every day. Each one has proven itself necessary, as I have tried at different times to stop most of them at one time or another, with disastrous, sometimes life-threatening consequences. So, I’m a big fan of natural medicine, but a bigger fan of survival. I hate that Big Pharma is a big part of that survival, but it is what it is. Part of my constatation of illnesses show up in that my body cannot do the things your body does automatically. My unmedicated body cannot control my blood pressure, temperature regulation, heart rate, or digestion – as I have gastroparesis, which is paralysis of the entire digestive tract, which is why I’ve lost 50 pounds in a short span of time, and why I’m malnourished (which causes even more symptoms and pain. it’s an awful cycle.)
What do you use for pain management?
Ice packs. Voltron. Tiger Balm. And tears. Oftentimes, the course of pain management for my condition and the severity of it, can be opioids. That’s how brutal the pain can be. I have seen pain management doctors, who put me on CBD oil because other than opiods, there are not too many meds I can add to my already-vast Rx repitoire without complicated side effects. I’m glad CBD works so well for some folks, but it may have well been snake oil for me. I cannot (rather, will not) take opioids, as I am a recovering alcoholic with 22 years sobriety and taking opioids would be extremely risky for me, addiction-wise. I do take cannabis gummies – and honestly, because I take the totally legal kind, they help but only so much. I long for the day cannabis is legalized so I can achieve better pain relief. Truly, people, it’s medicine God himself planted in the dern ground. Its medicinal properties are scientifically proven. So, legalize in it my state already. Okay, off my soapbox.
How come you dislocate and subluxate your joints all the time? Because I’m a super-athlete. JUST KIDDING! Because completing everyday tasks can be like running a triathlon for a healthy person. We tire easily. Subluxations are just partial dislocations of joints – mild or incomplete dislocations. And they happen all the time. Every day, something on my body subluxes; it’s just part of my reality. Our ribs can sublux due to coughing or sneezing. Barfing is the worst for subluxing ribs. My left thumb shifts out of joint at least twice a day. Braces – elbow, wrist, knee, ankle – you name it – are a part of our everyday existence. Every morning I take a “pain inventory” to help me know what needs to be braced for the day. I have a vast collection of braces for my joints and it’s a rare day I don’t need any at all. Speaking of EDS stability paraphernalia….
Why do you use a cane sometimes and other times, you do not? Because some days we “flare” worse than others, and also because many of us also have Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which causes dizziness, and a cane is a good stability aide on unstable days. There are days I don’t use my cane at all, and there are days I can’t walk to the kitchen without it. This will, unfortunately, worsen as I get older, and as my joints become less stable as well. That’s the bugger about this condition – we will not improve as our bodies age. Wear and tear on the joints from everyday life will become more prominent. (PS: It’s an unfair assessment to pass judgement on someone who uses a mobility aide only on “bad” days. One day, we need help getting around, and another, we can walk upright unaided.)
Have you tried yoga?
*Rubs temples*. Yes, I have. Ended up subluxing my hip. Different patients have different opinions on yoga- from what I’ve experienced and been told, is terrible for people with my type of EDS (Hypermobility Type III) because our joints are already ridiculously loose and stretchy. Bending them more in those positions only increased my pain and caused damage. Our joints are too lax already.
What is a “flare” and why are some days worse than others?
According to that Big ‘Ol Brain in the Sky – Google – it is explained thus: “The term “flare” can mean several things, but could be increased pain, GI distress, MCAS reactions, dislocations, subluxations, cardiovascular challenges, dysautonomia symptoms, insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, a sense of being “wiggly” or dangerously clumsy and more.” And easier way to think of it that my dashboard lights go off at once. ALL SYSTEMS are “off.” Flares can result from being sick (with a virus or other, and that’s constant, as I also have a degree of immune dysfunction,) being over-tired, pushing past my limits, or not sleeping, eating gluten, and about 50 other possibilities.. Flares are miserable beyond words, and you feel like you will never feel decent again. EVERY time, so severe flares are also pretty good at triggering depression. On our “good” days, it is natural to want to do ALLTHETHINGS, because we never know when our pain will be manageable again. So, we push past what we should, often resulting in – you guessed it – another flare. Supremely frustrating.
Have you consider EDS may be caused by childhood trauma?
I believe the mind, body, soul connection is imperative to consider. But to me, this, to me, is an old spinoff on the question: “Is it all in your head?” Although I do have significant childhood trauma, Ehlers Danlos has zero to do with it – other than the fact that I was constantly injuring myself doing the simplest things as a child and was considered “clumsy,” not having had any idea what was wrong with me. Also, the emotional days can contribute to overall flares, just like any other trigger. I have – thank God – worked on my trauma through several years of therapy, and I will probably go to therapy for the rest of my life. I will goto therapy forever -not because of the trauma – but because my therapist gives me tools to deal with the fact that I am losing mobility slowly, must deal with awful pain on the regular, and not being able to do the things you want/need is depressing, frankly. My therapist imbues me with hope, coping skills, and encouragement. I am not going to get “better,” (barring any unforeseen miraculous new treatments which may come along due to increased research, which is why I am spreading awareness. Here’s hoping!)
In conclusion, thank you for asking questions, my friends. I will answer them as best I can! Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is a spectrum just as many conditions present. Some people with it lead normal lives and just experience a little pain here and there. But for some of us, it’s debilitating and progressive. And we need the compassion and understanding to thrive through chronic illness and pain.
“If you are spiritually deconstructing, you never knew Jesus in the first place.”
I hear this refrain over and over again. It’s the most invalidating thing you can say to someone who is rebuilding a faith life, because it requires no questions asked. A quick, pat explanation to justify one’s traditional beliefs that people who deconstruct are fallen. Deceived.
No fuss, no muss. Easy-peasy. If you are questioning the inerrancy of the Bible, you were never a “believer” in the first place. Which is both harshly judgmental – and frankly – nobody’s call to make about someone else’s person’s personal faith.
But that would be a wildly assumptive dismissal, because it’s for my love of Jesus I began questioning.
It’s because Jesus is SO real to me that I started this journey.
Either Jesus was who he said he was, or he wasn’t.
Either God is a god of warring, or of peace.
Either God is a god of unconditional love, or none at all.
Either God is a just god, or a corrupt one.
Either “it is finished,” or it is not.
And that’s far more important to me than believing a grown-ass man was swallowed by a whale and lived three days in its body “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
We learn the Old Testament stories in Vacation Bible School, right out of the gate. Horror stories.
Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, only to have God say just kidding! Just had to make sure you would snuff out the life of the child you prayed so long for, and I rewarded you with. Is God manipulative, or loving?
The nature of God is not – in my travails – sending a catastrophic flood to drown all of his creation – excepting one family he deemed righteous. For that righteous man who would later get drunk and have sex with his daughters to propagate the species (with even more beings that God knew good and damn well would also become corrupt in their humanity.)
I no longer believe it, because of the teachings of Jesus himself. The Bible contradicts itself in the most dangerous way, because it teaches that you’d better get your belief system right OR. ELSE. It’s the ultimate test of “getting it right.” And we humans are not so good at getting things right, as a general rule.
Does that sound like Jesus to you? Examine the humanity of Jesus; not just the divinity.
I am not at all anti-Bible. I am Bible-in-context of history and allegory. And the grace and justice and righteous table-turning of Jesus? I am definitely “pro” that.
“I guess you’ll find out when you die and spend eternity broiling in Hell,” they say, when you deconstruct.
To which I say, the Jesus I study and know is not about eternal conscious torment. “Turn or Burn” is loaded with law, as opposed to grace.
“You can question God about “x” but never “y.” and CERTAINLY not “z.” they tout.
Except that you can, because it’s the nature of humanity. And every good relationship requires excellent communication, why would this be any different?
I have no desire to throw “the baby out with the bathwater” – Jesus out with the organized religion. Lo, I say unto thee, in my quest of soul-searching, he came out on top.
“Love one another,” says he. And everything else he ever says orbits around that one concept.
So question, child of God. Let the Holy Spirit roam around free-range in your soul, unconstrained by thousands of years of human dogma, politics, and legalism. Ask the Spirit to show you what is true and what matters most in the ancient book. Sit with the Spirit as Jesus sat with his disciples, just chillin’ with the homies. Just BEING; not striving.
Oh, I did know Jesus “in the first place,” but not as I know him now.
Not as part of a Jekyll and Hyde spiritual pairing. Not as one whom I will have to hide behind when I get to Heaven, so as not to upset the father with my humanity. Not as one whose grace hinges on us “getting it right.”
But as One with us, whole in love; full of grace. One who sits with me in my darkest hour. One who set the example of turning the other cheek and made repeated declarations that “the greatest of these is LOVE.”
“Tomorrow,” said Mama Bear as she helped the cubs get ready for bed,“you’ll be going to the doctor for a checkup. Doctor Grizzly wants to make sure you are growing the way a healthy cub should.”
“Mommy, you left out some of the words,” said my astute four-year-old. Dang it. Her baby sister, just one year old, pulled away from nursing as if taking notes, agreeing: Yeah, Mommy!
My four-year old continued, “Don’t skip parts of the story, Mama!” She was bossy. Or what we refer to as “having leadership skills.” I was lying in bed with her just like every night, reading scads of books before launching into a playlist of my terribly singing lullabies to she and her sister. (I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but my kids didn’t seem to mind.)
We were reading from the classic “Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor,” and this time, I read the lines between those two sentences. “Doctor?” said Brother Bear. “We’re not sick!” “And what’s a check-up,” asked Sister Bear, a little worried.”
My daughter’s small voice sounds out the next line word-by-word “It’s. Just. What. It. Sounds. Like. Said. Mama.” She was reading already. She loved books.
When my girls were little, we would visit the library every week and come home with the maximum allowance of 15 books. We would read them all together, especially in the evenings, to wind down.
As my kids got older and could easily read along with me, their books got longer. Eventually, the books had whole chapters, and by the end of the day, I was tired. I’d read most of the books before and had in inkling of what I could leave out that wouldn’t compromise the plotline or sound like I was reading a condensed version.
That evening – like every other -I was exhausted. I was battling an illness I didn’t have a name for (and wouldn’t for another 20 years.) And I was anxious to get through the reading, do the horrible singing, and tuck them in for the night.
It’s not as if skimming a few paragraphs from “The Boxcar Children” made any difference, right?
Oh, to go back and read all the lines, little ones in my lap, where all was right with the world. To read the fifth book of the night with the same thoroughness as the first book. I would do all the character’s voices on the fifth book too. And I’d do it right.
Right now, I wish I could skip this chapter in my life. Not ALL of it – most of it is lovely. But some of it frankly sucks, and sucks badly. The world is in chaos, my body is falling apart at the seams, every single day is a battle to keep my joints from dislocating.
Every single day is a battle with chronic pain, and much like when I was a young mother putting her kids to bed, I’m exhausted. And the hardest thing going on is that so many of my dearest friends are facing catastrophic situations. Why must everything HURT? So many parts of life hurt.
But unlike the Berenstain Bears – whose issues always resolved within twenty pages and lots of colorful cartoon illustrations – there is no skipping stuff.
When I consider my life as a whole, the stuff I would have rather skipped when it was happening is the stuff that (warning: lofty platitude ahead) made me STRONGER. And oddly enough, had I everything to do again, I’d probably do it the same. But damn. What price for strength!
Had I skipped a chapter, I wouldn’t be sober from alcohol, which was robbing my very life. Had I skipped the part of the story where I came to the utter and complete end of myself, how could I become the beginning of a better version of myself. It was so ugly, my alcoholism. Going through the agony of early recovery? I thought it would kill me. I was so incredibly sick, inside and out. But had I not ridden out the withdrawals, I would have missed the best chapters of my life.
Had I skipped a chapter, I wouldn’t be married to the kindest, most wonderful man on the planet. He is my very best friend, and my personal hero. I would have been stuck in the same situation – one that I settled for because I didn’t think I deserved better.
Had I skipped a chapter, I would have continued to believe the negative things people thought about me. Worse, I would have continued to believe what I myself thought about me.
You know those children’s storybooks that let you choose your own ending? It’s kind of like that. But to know what ending to choose, you have to read the rest of the book with nothing left out. And there’s no skipping parts of the story, whether I volunteer to cooperate or not.
Here’s the truth:
Every part of the story is pivotal.
The crappy parts. Maybe especially the crappy parts. The boring parts too – they prepare you for plot twists and character development.
Skipping the hard parts mean never making mistakes, and thus, never learning from them. It robs the richness of relationships from you and stagnates your growth.
Skipping means you have to start again. Sometimes all over again. “Start again, Mommy!” my kids would say, when I cheated them out of words. It’s hard to follow a tale with incomplete information.
Likewise, life calls for starting over often. “From the top!” it will demand. Not condescendingly, but because it’s necessary to understand the story.
And yes, it is important to understand the story. It’s life.
The choices we make in the parts we’d rather skip are often the steps that afford us a happy life.
And I really hate that; because it seems like a bunch of wrenching awfulness just to get to a good thing. Right now, I’m not dealing with that so well. My anxiety tells me that if things were just different, I would be healthier. More productive. My pain tells me that I don’t care for my family to the degree I should. The struggles make me want to legit give up.
I’m learning to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, as the little-quoted sixth line of the Serenity Prayer – something I “read” to myself every single day from memory. And I NEVER skip any of the words!
Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next.”
So cuddle up with yourself, read the whole story. Ride out the hard parts of life, and I will too, and together we can make a reasonably happy life without skipping the difficult stuff. Very good things germinate from very difficult circumstances.
And hey – thanks for reading my words. God loves you and so do I, friends. ❤
I attended an Indigo Girls concert with a dear friend Friday evening. We had a blast! I didn’t think I was going to able to go at all, so I was thrilled to be there. But by the time I drove back home, I was in severe pain.
Some of us chronic illness patients are in some degree of pain 24/7. I’ve had to learn to conduct life with it, love with it, laugh with it, function with it.
People have alluded that we couldn’t POSSIBLY be in THAT MUCH pain so often. A person with chronic pain couldn’t possibly get dressed every day, or enjoy a comedy, or maintain relationships in the misery of constant pain.
But we certainly cannot writhe around on the floor screaming in agony 24/7. We want to, but we can’t, because after the writhing and fit-throwing, guess what? There is STILL pain – infuriatingly, but there is also still life to be had.
I have had too many tantrums to count, over the years, and I reserve the right to have others when applicable. They can be cathartic. But it’s not a sustainable mindset.
At some point you have to stop writhing and crying. The world goes on, and so must you.
So we learn to mask, and we mask the pain constantly; because life requires us to in order to function in society. We have families to take care of, and friendships to give attention. We have chores and duties.
It’s unfair in EVERY level to all parties involved.
But I see no benefit to being Pollyanna about my health – if I’m not transparent with y’all, who does that help?
So I write about it a lot – it’s 4:30 in the morning and I have tears of frustration in my eyes, and it’s the loneliest feeling I’m the world to be in my own body right now. Writing about it releases some of the pressure in my mind.
Just in case any of my chronic pain friends are also up at 4:30 in the morning ina fetal position, fighting nausea, or just feeling alone… please know you’re not alone.
I see you, I hear you, and I love you.
Better days will come – I know because I had one Friday. Sometime I even have a few in a row!
It’s the assuredness that on another day, there will be one more day trip with My Beloved. One more awesome concert. One more beach day. One more delicious meal (when I can eat.) In other words – much like working my recovery program – it’s done one single day at a time.
Invisible illnesses exist. People who don’t look sick can be very, very sick. Always be more kind than usual to folks, please. You never know what another human is going through. Love. ❤️
If we are eternal creatures having a physical experience for an allotment of years on Earth, it begs the question:
Why have a physical experience at all? Especially with all the heartbreak and tragedy raging all around us. What’s the value in being here?
No matter how crazy life gets, I truly believe there is purpose in our being Earth-side. And I recognize that having a human experience enables us to experience things others in the spiritual realm may not.
Take chocolate, for example. Do angels eat chocolate? We do. It’s delicious.
When they hear Led Zeppelin, so they feel the music in their physical bones? We can. (And it’s like climbing a stairway to Heaven!)
We have thunderstorms so rumbly, you feel the thunder in your chest.
Literal water falls from the sky, on the regular. That’s some legit Garden of Eden stuff there.
Water is one of my favorite parts of being human. How would we appreciate the Living Water that is our Creator, had we not known the concepts of thirst and satiation?
We can climb trees that have their own intelligence, and admire flowers that God didn’t need to make so pretty, but did.
We get to host the lives of other sentient beings – little furry forever friends. We get our faces kissed with slobber, and benefit from the vibrations of a purr, and although I know pets go to Heaven, I’m grateful for their pretense in this intense world.
We have telescopes to remind us how small we are, and microscopes to show us how intricately we are put together; for we are made of divine love, and stardust.
We have books – vast volumes of human history and human frivolity, ours for the ingesting.
And we have tacos, y’all. In all the universe, we get to enjoy tacos!
Best of all, we have one another. That’s really something – relationships. Just two Earthlings who took a shine to each other and become friends for life. What? That’s crazy! And I love it.
We have such grace and grief, both; double-edged swords that clear the rubbish of human drudgery to make room for the fruits of the Spirit.
If you are living under skin and over bone, you are on a quest. Get excited.
The world – even with its trials and tragedies – is one God so loves. It’s messy and painful and sometimes I’m not sure why he loves it. but I’m certain it’s loved because look around us.
May we find love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in our human experience.
Better yet, while we are questing, may we BE love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
And May the angels and eternal beings on the other side cheer us on as we throw down the gauntlet, anxious with anticipation.
I was a big, fat OOPS to my family. My parents were teens who hastily got married in my mother’s advanced month of pregnancy, and divorced shortly thereafter, but in the wake of their “sinfulness,” was me. TA DAAAA!
I am from the South and born in 1969. While I was still no bigger than a baked bean in utero, I was scandalizing my entire family. My mother was ostracized to a degree and even more important: WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS THINK?? (I don’t know why the neighbors cared; it was just the arrival of a new fellow human.)
My grandparents got past the scandal, and scooped me up and loved me, but the extended family was not as thrilled.
I specifically remember the way one of my great-grandmothers treated me, and it was UGLY. And as I grew, it got worse. She made me feel like I tainted the whole family (like the rest of the family wasn’t batshit insane. Let’s call a spade a spade.)
I was different than the other greats and grands, because in HER mind, I wasn’t supposed to exist (never mind my parents’ shotgun wedding, I guess.) I got ass-whoopings for doing absolutely nothing.
Now my great grandmother – who I will refer to Memaw for the purposes of this article (because I’m Southern, so…) was a tough broad. She came down to Texas from Missouri via COVERED WAGON as a tween with her parents and a zillion siblings. She had the full-on Oregon Trail Experience (Texas Edition,) complete with at least one of her siblings dying of dysentery on the way. She had seen some shit. And I mean literally AND figuratively. Tragedy, toil, death.
And you’d think seeing some shit, it would have softened her heart, but no. If anything, it depleted her tolerance. Going through major trauma does one of the two things: Softens you or makes you strident, it’s always your choice.
I truly believe she felt justified in being horrible BECAUSE she was a “good Christian.” She had RIGHTEOUS ANGER on her side. And in case you don’t know, “righteous anger” can cover a multitude of issues and is in no way compatible with true GRACE.
Grace got lost in the shuffle, almost as if it was an afterthought of the gospel, and not the Gospel in whole. She never forgave me for being born, a product of “sin,” so I became the product of a world that loves a good stigma! I stood for everything that was wrong with the world to her, just by existing.
At her funeral, they used terms like “holy and blameless” when describing her in the little Baptist church she attended. A “pillar of the community!” If memory serves, she even had a Sunday School room named in her honor, because “She so loved the children.”
See this disconnect?
Now I’m not here to roast my ancestors, who I’m sure did the best they could at the time (whatever that even means.)
But I DO think maybe we take a deep dive into what makes a person a threat to the community pillars. Because this bruhaha over Drag Queens right now has me all up in my feelings.
Of course, we no longer treat children born outside of marriage poorly! It’s 2023! Surely, we don’t make others feel “less than” anymore. Surely we have evolved to BE the inclusive love to one another? Maybe we learned a thing or two. But we have a damn thing or two to learn still.
We are talking about not belonging.
We are talking about welcoming the stranger.
We are talking about the most fundamental of all human needs: Acceptance.
We are talking about the least Christ-like of Christian attitudes: Vilifying a fellow human-being who God made in his image. God is not, in fact, made in OUR image – flaky and flighty, quick to anger, with a penchant for smiting anyone different than us.
You see, the question was never did I deserve unkindness because I was born as some kind of counterfeit shadow-self of a child who was born in marriage. I deserved kindness because I was born. All humans deserve dignity and acceptance – red and yellow, black and white, we are ALL precious in his sight..
Next week, I am taking my adult daughters to a Drag Show fundraiser. I can’t wait.
Former Fundie Me would be breathing rapid-fire into a brown paper bag in order not to pass out from the shock! I would have called my future self “backslidden,” “fallen,” and worst of all, “someone who never knew Jesus in the first place.” THINK OF THE CHILDREN! I would say, tsk-tsking. To which I tell myself now, “Well, they are adults, now – pushing 30. And I am thinking of them.”
I’m thinking I want to show them that everyone deserves respect and acceptance.
And for the record, I did know Jesus in the first place. And I DO know him still. And he is the whole reason that I realized my heart didn’t only need softening. It needed OPENING.
What will the neighbors think, if you start loving people who are different than you? Would it be a “scandal” if you became an ally to the LGBTQ+ community? Would your friends say you’ve “turned,” if you changed your mind? Would your church kick you out for standing with that marginalized community?
Because they exist.
I don’t care what the neighbors think. I care what God thinks.
And at the end of the day, I finally care about what I myself THINK.
When you were a child, you weren’t allowed to exist as that very basic thing – a child. And so you didn’t know how to play without furrowed brows and anxiety for the longest time.
Look at you now, playful and free, laughing at the most juvenile humor imaginable. Look at you doing things just for the sake of FUN!
And sweet friend, I know you have suffered life-altering trauma and faced circumstances so devastating, you would have deemed it unsurvivable, had you known it was coming.
You thought, “well, I’d never be able to survive that – anything but THAT – God forbid it ever happened!”
But God didn’t forbid it.
And you’re still standing.
Remember when you let other people define you? A lifetime of stuffing your own feelings out of reverence for the OTHER person? As if you deserve no reverence for yourself?
Sisters, the Universe reveres you; surely you can do the same. Surely you can find that your worth is equal to the ones you make feel worthy.
Your own definition of you is the only opinion that matters in the least. Isn’t that ironic?
For a while, you were bitter; an undercurrent of constant anger running in the background of your ether, which is MOST “un-ladylike” of you.
Patriarchal pish-posh, I say.
Look at you now, with an open heart so cavernous as to swallow up the whole broken world into a wild love, and spit out the bitterness. You’re slaying it like a freaking LADY, and a badass one at that.
They tried to hijack your newfound happiness because misery loves company and you’ve SO over the weeping and gnashing of teeth bit. That’s hard for miserable people to accept – that you have the audacity to let things go.
Yes, now here you are. Has anyone bothered to read you the scoresheet?
You have made it through 100% of the heartbreaks, rejections, and tragedies you have EVER experienced.” That takes some doin’!
You are part of a mighty Sisterhood! Link arms with me and let’s meander through this crazy world together – a place of radical silliness, a penchant for overcoming, and self-acceptance.
I have always hated speaking in front of people. Since I was a child, it gave me the worst anxiety.
The top photo was taken several years ago at a ladies conference being launched by two of my church friends. I was to give my testimony as a recovering alcoholic and follower of Jesus to nearly 100 women. I was honored, but not at peace about it.
Everybody kept telling me that it was my duty as a Christian to share my story, and I was hearing the same thing from my 12 Step group: God wants you to do this as your “ministry.” If you don’t share, how can you reach people?
But there is NO flow to my speaking. If I am in front of more than five people, I stutter. I stammer. I break out in blotches and feel like I’m having a heart attack.
But God wants it, I’m told. He is trying to “grow” me. So I did, over and over again, but it was excruciating. And I never once had peace about it. The ladies still do the conference every year and it is a very popular event. They are wonderful humans doing stuff for God, so more power to them.
But that’s not me.
I didn’t fit in with that group, and was never invited back to speak. In hindsight, I now consider it a merciful act. I admire the women who can get up and speak to a large crowd without wondering what they are supposed to do with their hands (or the expressions on their faces) and deliver a riveting message. I’m just not one of them.
But I am no less than them.
And the question rattled around in my head for years – AM I doing the will of God? Well, that depends on who you ask.
“If you are scared to talk to groups of people and find it soul-crushing, and alarms are going off in your brain, that just means you’re on the RIGHT spiritual track because you’re making the devil mad.”
OR the other point of view,
“If it’s simple and there is a natural “flow” to what you’re doing, it’s because God is setting forth a clear path for you? There is an ease to being in God’s will.”
A jewel I’ve gleaned on this journey is that if someone else is telling someone what God “wants you to know,” take it with a grain of salt.
My advice? Dont use the suggestions of others who purport to speak on God’s behalf in lieu of your gut. The feelings in your gut have ancient knowledge. It is not a hedonistic to trust your instincts. They were placed there for a reason.
I don’t do public speaking anymore. The truth is, God knew it wasn’t my jam, but I had to learn it the hard way. I had to learn that one size does NOT fit all.
The thing is: I DO speak up, in the written word, where I can communicate love as God placed the ability in me.
Why are we doing the things we don’t enjoy for God?
As it turns out, there is a flow to carrying out the will of God; an ease. We don’t need to panic or fret. The his world has enough panic and fretting.
Stop doing the things that make your soul panic. Our faith doesn’t have to be powered by the expectations of others.
It only has to be powered by love. Express yourself as you’ve been created to do, and never-mind the rest.
A friend I admire very much recently posted a prayer request, shortly followed by this sentiment: “Don’t bother to pray for me if you’re sending good vibes, good intentions, positive energy, etc. only God can heal me.”
It made me sad for her.
Although I am actually inclined to agree with her ALL healing comes from Source. Powers of darkness ain’t gonna heal you because you asked “the wrong way,” because darkness doesn’t heal. Ever. It can’t.
You’re either getting your healing from God or not at all, no matter how woo-woo your friends pray for you.
But advising your friends who may believe differently than you who are wanting to transfer light, love, and healing to you to “please don’t, unless you’ll do it the right way,”
It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Especially when you consider that prayer IS “focused attention” – another human being imploring goodness and healing and mercy over you from the one Power who can handle it.
I’m religious circles, we call that “speaking life” over someone. And it seems a pity to reject how ever one can best send love and light for a letter-of-the-law incantation approved by the church proper.
Eastern religions have a much better grasp on this concept. We, on the other hand, almost take a Christmas Nationalist stand about it. “By GOD there is ONE way to pray for me and the Bible CLEARLY says how to do it, so don’t come in here with your weirdo ideas, which are surely demonic, since I don’t understand it.”
When we eschew good intentions that loving people bestow on us because their way of loving us is considered sub-par to your own religion, it’s a loss.
If “good vibes” won’t heal you according to your theology, where do you assume such vibes originate? Where would good, loving intentions for you come from exactly?
When we throw away their manifestations of love for us because they use the word “energy” rather “than prayer.” … we are losing something very important. The humanity of ourselves, and by proxy, the humanity of Jesus.
You are petitioning the Highest Power that exists in the entire universe for MY healing and wellbeing. And if you do so while on your knees, or with a pretty rocks in hand (even the rocks cry out, remember?) I would be honored.
In conclusion, and with a nod to Dr. Dre (wait, I mean Dr. SEUSS:)
We spend so much of our time trying to gain, when we should also deeply consider what is worth letting go of. Each thing you surrender makes more room in your being for love and light.
Maybe now is the time we let go of:
The weight of your own unrealistic expectations.
Okay, I’m really good at this one. Set the bar so high, I can’t even get a leg over, and then be disappointed in myself that I’m not “good enough” when I fall off the bar altogether and land on my face. Taaa-DAAA!
Believing the negative things others say about you.
This is especially hard to let go of, because I have convinced myself over a lifetime of anxiety that “they” must be “right.” But nobody gets to say what’s right about me, but me. Isn’t that liberating? You can completely ignore the BS people spread about you.
Penchant for people pleasing.
If I know you, I want to make you happy, at the expense of my own happiness, if need be. And frankly, that’s whack. I am not Chick-fil-A. It is not always “my pleasure” to put everyone else’s needs before my own.
That shitty little voice in your head is that keeps telling you you’re not enough.
It has played in a loop in my head for neigh on 54 years now. Whatever I can accomplish with my chronic illness each day is my best. Because giving my best is enough, always. It has to be.
Going beyond belief in angry God.
This shift was a game-changer for me. It reframes the entire gospel, and it is a balm to my soul. Not to mention the God of the Old Testament was very little like Jesus. Very little like Love. And my God is quite literally LOVE itself.
Wondering if it’s okay to have doubts.
Yes, it’s okay, of COURSE it’s okay. It’s faith-building, even.
Attempting to fix other people’s problems.
This is a toughie. But I’m learning. I am also learning to say, “what will be, will be,” and actually believe that things will work out just as they should, although I do this in fits and starts.
The soul-sucking monkey on your back. Or monkeys.
Our addictions hijack our focused intention, dull our shine, deplete our energy, and become a barrier to hearing from God within you.
…And the elephant in the living room.
That thing you need to address but keep stepping over, walking around, or ignoring altogether? Ask it’s name. Get to know it. And then politely show it the door.
A “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
The Joneses have their own monkeys and elephants. Stay in your ring; they have their own crazy circus.
The belief that there is a separateness between you and God.
This one is a humdinger and will make all the other items easier to let go of. You are not disconnected to God, and frankly, you can’t do anything to become separate from him.
The belief that you’re all alone and we are separate from each other.
We are all connected. Every single one of us. And connected to our Source, too..
If you are struggling, it’s because you are doing the will of God and the devil is coming after you because you are doing the Lord’s work. If your circumstance is difficult, God ordained it. He is “stretching” and growing you. You are obviously on the right track, carrying out his will.
If you are doing what God wills, things will be easier. There will be a “flow” to it. That’s his way of letting you know you are abiding in his will. You won’t have to fight it. There will be a naturalness and ease, if you are operating in the will of God.
Well, which is it?
And please don’t tell me “the Bible is clear..” because it’s not. It’s actually contradictory on a lot of levels.
It’s a subject I’ve asked pastors about, only to be told to just keep reading the “word,” and God would make it clear. The implication of course being “you’re not spending enough time in the Bible.”
To which I say, how did the early church follow the example of Christ for the first four centuries? They did not have the benefit or encumbrance of a book to tell them how to live. Yet they set the world on fire with radical love. It’s all about the spirit, in my estimation.
Here’s the thing; This is life. Messy, wonderful, excruciating LIFE. Live it.
It is full of natural flow, impossible challenges, unexpected events, bursts of assurance, and waves of doubt. There is no one marker that determines if you are going against the will of the Almighty. In the process of deconstruction, I have learned that sometimes, I will avoid doing the “thing” at all, because all those years I NEEDED constant reassurance from Heaven and Earth alike that I was in his will. The paralysis of analysis, if you will.
If things were going great, the underlying sentiment is that God loves me and is pleased with me. But wait – when traumatic events happen, remember that he “chastens whom he loves,” (or if he just really has a cruel streak.)
And I have decided that my whole theology boils down to this: “Shit happens, but God is Love.”
Perhaps we can stop micromanaging the will of God. Perhaps we can marvel at it, wonder at the mystery of a grace so scandalous, we don’t even need to understand the whole plan to know it’s good. We people-please Abba because that’s how we win the approval of people.
Maybe God’s not testing us.
Maybe he isn’t “allowing” difficult, tragic things to happen in order to build up our strength as Christians.
Maybe the fact that everything is going smoothly just means that everything is just going smoothly.
He walks alongside us on the road to Damascus, and down Main Street at Disney World.
Over the fire and ice, both.
He stays near us when we feel robbed in this life, and when we have been given abundance.
Sometimes we get it wrong. But we will either succeed at what we endeavor, or we will learn from it.
When I first started deconstructing my belief system – that is, dismantling all I’d been taught, and finding out for myself what I believe – I felt orphaned. Frazzled.
But the biggest mistake I made was taking on that process in the same vein I practiced religion: Fear. All my life, I’ve operated from a place of fear, and that’s no way to live out Love.
For many of us Christians, fear has been a motivator for faith since the day we hear the sweet name of Jesus. Because HELL, that’s why.
What if it’s not okay to NOT take the Bible literally? What if it’s NOT okay to feel angry at God sometimes? Maybe it’s NOT okay to doubt? Maybe I’ll burn in Hell for all eternity as punishment for expressing the curious mind God himself gifted me?
I want to know God. But I said goodbye to smiting God. And baby-killing God. And bad-mood God. And even disappointed God.
What if, instead of parroting to the whole world that “God is love,” we declare that LOVE is actually GOD. And Love is only ever good. Love looks like Jesus, who looks like God.
But it was scary at first. Like…
Feeling like God had called me into his office and was just waiting to hit the button for the trap door to open beneath me, like in a dang cartoon.
Feeling like a sink hole was going to swallow me up if I ask the wrong questions.
Feeling like I was having to diffuse a bomb without the schematics.
Feeling like I was walking in the wilderness, in a place I didn’t recognize, possibly on another planet.
Shelving my old fears did not come as an epiphany moment, but more like a gradual peeling away in layers like an onion. And like an onion, there was crying involved.
Better yet, it was like a journey into the center of the earth. I didn’t want to rehash the surface stuff – I want to know what’s at the core. And just as the Earth has layers, I moved into deconstruction under the premise that what’s at the core is what keeps everything else stable.
Science says that the Earth’ core is responsible for thew whole planet’s magnetic field, as well as plate tectonics, and many other functions. In other words, we know it’s there. We THINK we know what it’s made of. We are pretty sure what it does. We base our science on evidence, but nobody has ever traveled there and to think we understand it completely is foolhardy.
Ditto God. His ways are (very obviously) not our ways. But what if we trust they are BETTER than our own?
So, what’s at your core, God?
Are you a god of the Old Testament, angry and vengeful?
Or are you a god of unconditional love and justice, like Jesus?
Because the two look nothing alike, and I got tired of pretending they did.
Like the Emporer’s New Clothes, every other believer seemed to be dressed in their faith to the nines, expecting the King to be robed in glory, but you’re the only one who can see that he’s naked. Figuratively, of course. I ain’t trying to be weird. But at some point, I had to say, “Excuse me, ya’ll. BUT CAN YOU NOT SEE HE ISN’T WEARING CLOTHES?” In my own heart, I had to see the emperor as vulnerable and stop listening to how everyone else perceived he was dressed.
I am happy to say that coming out the other side, I choose to believe the latter. And since I’ve lived in the latter, I have peace. I finally have the spiritual peace that “it is finished” means IT IS FINISHED.
I have the ability to love ALL, without taking their ‘inventory’ and determining their worth.
I no longer just tell folks I’ll pray for them. I just DO it. And I try to be emotionally available to them myself, because how else is God supposed to love on us if not through each other? That’s how he gets shit done.
In conclusion, I’ve never physically been to the earth’s core. Nobody has. It is mysterious and no matter how we define it, we have to have faith that it will keep the Earth spinning. We will too.
But I do think I know God a little better now.
He created us to love us, and to teach us to love one another.
He keeps me close like a magnet and draws you near too.
He guides my steps as the circumstances change and shift like tectonic plates.
Excuse me, but God is wearing nothing but LOVE for you. Even if “everybody else” is “hearing from God,” has “a hotline to God,” has read the whole Bible, is a “Super Christian” in religious circles, or sits on a church committee (or seven.)
Grab my hand and let’s journey to the center of the heart of God.
The core has been cooling down since the creation of time, softening, just as his heart is soft for us; just like Jesus.
I am at the core of that heart, and so are you. He loves you to the center of your being.
A conversation between Fundamentalist Me and New Me:
FUNDIE ME: “Lord, if I ever stray from your will, please just take me home before I disappoint you.”
NEW ME: “Wow. That’s a little dramatic. You are asking God to let you die if you ever start asking questions of a spiritual nature? Isn’t that basically crossing all the “t”s and “i”s, so in case you ever DO stray you can get God on a technicality?”
“No. He’s a good, good father. I will walk each day by faith each day. Because Oh! how he loves me so...”
“He is. And he does love you so. But that prayer is literally the definition of ‘living by the letter of the law. I remember how much you love music. You’ll appreciate it even more in the future. Did you know, all music is worship, by virtue of being a creation of the Universe? Led Zepplin, Indigo Girls….”
“Deceived. Let’s change the subject. This country is going down the tubes! Jesus must be ready to return! Turn before you burn!”
“But ‘it is finished,’ I thought. “To me, that means that it’s a finished work.”
“Speaking of work, this nation was built on…”
“Yeah, in the future, you don’t support blind nationalism.”
“I know that’s not true, because God would have taken me home already if I stopped supporting the nationalist movement. I love my country!”
“Sweet girl, It won’t be the same country by the time you get here, trust me. Better in some ways and so much worse in others. You will care about social justice…”
“Gosh dang! NO.”
“And the death-wish-before-doubt prayer that God will take you right off this earth before he’d let you become liberal….er, um, I mean unholy fallen daughter of the Most High King. You’ll see how whack that is.”
“We are all born unholy. Did you just say ‘whack?'”
“We are all already holy. We are all redeemed. We are all saved. All means all.”
“WELL, I NEVER!”
“Actually, you do. You will ‘never.’ And your heart will be full, because you have no other motive than love. You’ll go to Pride rallies and pass out Free Mom Hugs…”
“No. There’s no way. You can love them without approving of their lifestyles.”
“… And the people there will sometimes dissolve into your arms and sob, because their own parents reject them just on the basis of their sexuality.”
“Well, they shouldn’t. BUT you’re playing fast and loose with ‘grace’ to ‘condone’ all that.”
“What’s to condone? As turns out, that’s not what loving unconditionally is supposed to look like; having ‘buts‘.”
“I mean, love the sinner, hate the sin. You keep saying ‘love.’ Love is discipline. So that’s not what God meant.”
“Isn’t it? Once I filtered the BS out that I feel like Jesus wouldn’t approve of, it made things so clear.”
“Did you just say ‘BS’?”
“Yes. And I say a lot of other potty words too. After repressed for so long. I now know that cussing is not what God meant about keeping our language and hearts pure. He meant don’t use your words – even scripture – as a weapon towards others. Using language for cruelty, exclusion…”
“You don’t say the ‘F word,’ Lord, please say ‘no.”
“Oh yes, you’re quite fond of that word. And the funny thing is, so are many of your ex-evangelical girlfriends who never swore because a Proverbs 31 woman wouldn’t say naughty words, and that was the standard for the godly faith of a woman.”
*Plugs ears* “LALALALALA…”
“Oh, you will learn that Eastern religions have a lot of truth. You’ll do yoga on occasion, and…”
“Listen. It’s perfectly effin’ okay.”
“You went and said the ‘F’ word.”
“Then let God correct, as he is far more persuasive and compassionate than we could ever be. Your job than we can be. Just love one another. He wasn’t just whistling Dixie when he said, ‘love is the greatest of these.”
“It can’t be that simple. You cannot go around willy-nilly approving of people the way they ARE, when they should…’
“Yeah, you’ll learn not to ‘should’ all over other people. And it IS that simple.”
“Well, that’s not ‘love.’ The BIBLE CLEARLY SAYS -“
“Yeah, about that…once you study Christ without 2,000 years of human dogma considered, you’ll learn the Bible ain’t too clear, period.”
“Lord, why am I still living? Oh the humanity!”
“Calm down, you’re going to love God more than ever when all is said and done. Not the concept of God you grew up with, though.”
“Well, I KNOW God, and…”
“You know the absent or spiteful god. God is incredible. So let him out of the box, sister girlfriend.”
“That’s scary. That’s gotta be the devil talking.”
“Yeah, that’s a whole other subject for another time. In the future, Fundie Jana, I’m going to love you, too. Because you strived so hard for a God to accept you, when your very existence proves that acceptance.”
“That’s New-Agey. Please repent. Before it’s too late.”
“I’m extending grace to you. The grace that you have deserved all along, but never claimed.”
“That’s prideful. We don’t ‘deserve’ anything.”
“And you’ll see the bigger picture and realize every single belief you practiced was necessary for you to be free in the end. And you will be free.”
“That doesn’t sound right.” *Wrings hands*
“You’re so afraid just to be. Please believe God is not trying to get you on a technicality.”
“But the ‘human heart is deceitful….”
“God wouldn’t have place a curious mind if you weren’t allowed to doubt and delve.”
“I’m so worried I’m going to lose the love of God if I open my mind.”
“Yes, that’s what kept you sick and stuck for a long time.Reconstructed You will be safe. You will be strong. It is truly for freedom that you have been set free.I love you just the way you are.”
As an adolescent, I was terrified of “making purple.”
Those of you in the evangelical world know that kids in youth group are warned on mission trips (lock-ins, religious rallies, the woods behind the church, etc. and so on) to not fool around with boys if you’re a girl, and girls if you were a boy. Blue + pink = purple (get it?) Many a time, a youth leader has been driving a bus full of kids and said, “SHOW OF HANDS!” and all the teens would have to lift their hands to show their hands were not in places they shouldn’t be. Purple places, I guess.
And of course, they weren’t in the wrong for monitoring the kids. They are liable and it is not the occasion for those kind of shenanigans. It’s the subversive idea that your sexual purity determines your worth as a young woman that bothers me.
The youth group I attended (religiously) as a teenager was quite the circus. I was a hand-wringing thinker of deep thoughts, and I wanted answers. At one point, I made an appointment with the senior pastor, (who was later revealed to be having affairs with three women in the congregation, Oh, the irony!) to talk about predestination. What I would later learn is severe anxiety propelled me to find answers, and I couldn’t let it go. I’ve always been a seeker. Plus also, I was scared to death of Hell, so I needed to know these things.
I also carried a Bible to high school with me every day, like an amulet. It served the dual purposes of making me feel holy, and keeping the “bad kids” away, lest I be tempted. I also wore a ring to signify my purity to remind me that I didn’t want to lose value as a woman by fooling around. How awful that is to me now.
All I knew was that the human heart is deceitful above all things – never trust it. And to love yourself? Sacrilege! That’s vanity and placing yourself over God, you dirty heretic. Jesus said to love everyone, but throughout 2,000 years of human dogma, a long litany of stipulations had been applied to loving self.
“That’s an awfully big question,” the pastor said at our appointment. And then he launched into a diatribe about how God chooses who will make the cut BEFORE you are even born. This was very disturbing information. Was I behaving for nothing? “But everyone gets a choice,” he continued. It made zero sense whatsoever but who was I to question? Questioning was especially egregious and rebellious.
I can tell you now, loving yourself is NOT a sin. In fact, it’s essential. You need to have the ability to be tender with yourself, which requires love. And these days, Love is quite literally my religion – I am learning to love myself and actively loving and accepting others.
I will say that I don’t believe “hooking up” habitually is good for the mind and spirit. But you do you, Boo. To each their own. It’s enough to take my own spiritual inventory; I surely cannot take yours.
But purity culture? I instilled that in my own daughters from an early age, as it was instilled in me. In retrospect, it’s janky. Not because teens having sex is a good thing, but because I basically taught my daughters without realizing it that a substantial part of their value hinged on being “pure” for your future husband. Not that I myself made it that far, I did not. (I discovered alcohol, which was a game changer, and is an entirely other story for another time.)
It’s the self-worth factor that ires me. You must stay pure, and none of my kids – all adults now – ended up that way, by the church’s standards.) The message that you are a commodity that has value, but your value can be reassessed if you do naughty things. Again, it seems so obviously wrong now.
The boys are told not to engage but are not held to the same standards at all. Where’s their purity rings? Where’s their chastisement? No bueno. Can you say “Patriarchy Jr?” (And yes, I have apologized to my daughters.)
I know this firsthand because in tenth grade, the youth leader for the church I attended – who had adamantly told us never to watch “The Breakfast Club,” because it was of the devil – had the idea to host a lock-in at the church that was also a TOGA PARTY. Yes, a toga party. We wore SHEETS to the lock-in, because what could possibly go wrong? Hoo boy. These kids definitely needed monitoring!
Animal House had nothing on our group.
I was so terrified of sinning, I sat in the sanctuary for most of the event. But many kids in the gathering space were a’sinnin’. The youth leader fell asleep around 11 pm, and (surprise!) the kids did not.
It ended up being a big scandal, because when parents found out what happened that night, they raised holy Hell. Lots of my friends got in trouble for doing things in the sheets IN THEIR SHEETS. We had a whole youth meeting to address the Purple and prayed the lust away for an hour. Or that was the idea.
And it was then that the seedlings of faith in the church started to grow in wonky. Because the way the church proper took on things was contradictory. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Or worse, ‘do as I say because I have the inside skinny on God.’
Still, I would cling to the church for another 30 + years because FEAR. Oh my God I was so afraid to trip up. That people-pleasing follows me around still to this day, if I don’t do my shadow work.
Churches are just made of people – many well-intentioned. They are trying to save other souls from eternal conscious torment (that a “loving” God doles out if your ticket isn’t stamped “Pre-destined” because they TRULY believe we are all bound for Hell at birth. And this is confusing because they very often DO care and harbor no ill will. They, like I was, are mired in the letter of the law.
But to paraphrase with the vernacular of youths today (and I’ll write about what I believe the issue of Hell later,) that shit cray. Also, I CAN’T EVEN anymore with the religiousness. I seem to be acquiring a repulsion of all things church that are not of Jesus. Like, on a primal level. “That’s NOT what he said!” I want to shout. “That’s not what he was about!”
I’m not saying sin isn’t a big deal. I’m just saying love is a bigger deal.
And I want to be what Jesus WAS about. I don’t want to follow rules of an ancient text. I want to accept all and love all. Period.
Truly, I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater though. I’m keeping my Jesus, because what you cannot learn from an entity like the modern church, you can feel in your bones. Yes, I know it sounds woo-woo, but we are equipped with spirits conjoined with Christ, he is already there, you don’t have to carry a Bible everywhere you go or bruise your knees hollerin’ on the floor of a prayer room. You are already destined for glory, even here as we travel Earth-side. This revelation is EVERYTHING.
Plus, Jesus came pre-installed in my hard drive before I was born. That was a really nice service he provides for us ALL, as redeemer of all.
And that, my friends, is part of the long and winding road that is this journey. Placing purity over people. Putting the kibbutz on shame and guilt of past mistakes, while showing yourself grace in the future. It’s doing the ultimate reassessment of you value through the eyes of a loving God. It’s revelation of identity.
Since opening my mind and learning to trust that conjoined Spirit, I realize that the church is just wrong about some things, but that doesn’t make them – or the Me of six years ago – bad people. They are just doing what I did as a young mother and for most of my life, a self-proclaimed Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry about all the lies filtered down for ages, but I’m starting to see that it would be really easy for me to fall into giving the anger a permanent home in my heart, as I feel so deceived. That’s the very heart Jesus inhabits. If I am unkind to people in the church, I am no better than when I was a raging fundamentalist with nationalist leanings and an evangelical bent. (Oof. That smarts!)
I pray that the pain of your upbringing and living in religiosity is quelled. I pray that you break off the shackles of believing you are inherently “bad.” I hope you find safe friends to walk this out with you, and that you too try to remain kind to all. And I pray that you learn to love yourself, as you deserve.
Purity culture is really about finding out you are already pure in the sight of God.