I grew up in a Church of Christ.
For a long time, I didn’t want to name it out loud, fearing that it would somehow be disrespectful to my family, and my husband’s family, all of whom are still faithful members. To tell my whole story would mean mean admitting both that I went to a Church of Christ…. and that I left.
At some point though, I realized that it was all just part of my journey. Part of what brought me to where I am today (and I LIKE where I am today!) Not good, not bad, but neutral.
I used to go to a Church of Christ, and now I don’t.
My early religious upbringing was very traditional, and very conservative. There was a lot of emphasis on rules, and dogma, and about getting it “right.” Question-asking was highly discouraged.
I grew up with religious tunnel-vision, and it didn’t ever feel right, but it was the only thing I knew.
By the time I hit my mid-20’s I was…. disillusioned. We weren’t supposed to question… but I had nothing BUT questions. A “good Christian” was a traditional, fundamentalist, conservative Republican…. but God had made me a radical, liberal, tree-hugging hippie. And most damning of all: My Bible was telling me how to love… but much of what church had taught me was how to judge.
I didn’t know what to do with it. With any of it. I was stretched, and challenged, and uncomfortable, and the only thing I knew was that I was not going to figure it out if I stayed where I was.
I needed to question. I needed to grow. I needed to shed my old skin.
The ironic thing is that during that time, when I took a giant step back from institutional church, most everyone in my life assumed that I’d “fallen away” from God. And the exact opposite was true! That was when I truly found God, for the first time in my life. In the muck and the mire and the questions… there He was. I always believed in God. Always felt like I had a relationship with God. But I never truly OWNED my relationship with God until that period of time that I left church. I never truly UNDERSTOOD what it meant to have a relationship with God until that period of time that I left church. Never really understood faith. Never really understood grace. Never really understood freedom in the context of Christianity.
And now? We’re not currently going to church at the time of this writing, although we’ve been to many different lovely non-denominational churches over the past several years. I can’t claim any one label anymore when it comes to my faith, other than a truly devoted, whole-hearted follower of Christ. I believe:
~ that Jesus was about radical love and inclusion for ALL of God’s people, not just the ones that think and believe in a certain way.
~ that faith isn’t about knowing all the answers, but recognizing that no one has all the answers. It’s about constantly searching for more understanding, and about having grace for both ourselves and for the people around us.
~ in questioning, everything. I believe in refusing to be spoon-fed. I believe we were given thinking, working brains for a reason.
~ that many of the tenets of mainstream Christianity (including but not limited to those pertaining to homosexuality) are damaging and hurtful to others, and need to be seriously re-considered.
~ that the greatest message of the Bible, and the one that should be the backbone of our faith is found in Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? ”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
~ that my journey won’t look the same as your journey, or your sister’s journey, or your neighbor’s journey, and that that’s okay.
~ that it’s not my job to preach, or to convert, or to judge…. but to simply live out my faith, and live out the love of God to the best of my ability. I believe that when I screw up, I need to get up, brush myself off, and do better the next time.
I am not your “typical” Christian, and I own that. I embrace that. Because the thing is, I’m not interested in being more of a Christian. I’m interested in being more Christ-like. And I can’t help but think that if there weren’t such a current disparity between the two, the world would be a whole lot better off.
(Photo by John H Wright via Flickr)