As I browse through other people's MySpace profiles and I see their religious affiliations and spiritual leanings I sometimes feel a pang of guilt for not being such a gung-ho Christian as to wear MyFaith on MySleeve, or at least making my devotion to Jesus more obvious on my public profile.
Over the last few years I have undergone a radical spiritual transformation with regard to the way I see God, humanity, the world and myself. Admittedly I have become a bit of a cynic and skeptic when it comes to matters of faith in the traditional, religious sense and I find it difficult to authentically express what's in my heart without appearing as though I carry what I abhor in all circles: Judgment and hypocrisy. Let me do my best to describe my journey for those of you who may be interested in catching a glimpse of the path I'm on, or for those of you who have put me on the Prayer List.
I grew up calling myself a Christian. I tried to make the right decisions and do the right things because I was taught that's what The Bible says, and what God expects. There were standards to uphold and I made every attempt to meet them. Late into my teen years, I grew tired of trying so hard to measure up to this impossibly high marking stick; thus beginning my rebellion away from God and the church. This lasted for a few years, and I must pause here and say that I am terribly sorry to anyone whom I hurt during this time in my life. In the search for happiness I became selfish and embittered and had little regard for anyone else. For that I am deeply sorry.
Several years later I became involved with an incredible group of people who called themselves Christians but were nothing like the Christians I had known, or had been trying to be. They were loving, forgiving, selfless and kind. They welcomed me into their fold with open arms and genuinely loved me, despite my arrogance and insecurity. It took a while but I began to come around towards God again, seeing a new picture of this Creator who didn't want anything from me… he just wanted me.
Flash forward a few more years. Phil and I are married, I am pregnant with Ocean and we go to a festival called Breathe at the Columbus Ohio Vineyard. Jay Pathak, a pastor in Arvada Colorado, is talking about the difference between Christians vs. Followers of Jesus and something about this just resonated and took root within me. I realized that I had been fighting a culture war as a Christian, still holding people to the same standards that had kept me imprisoned for so many years. I used religion as an excuse for judgment, hate, hypocrisy and arrogance. That weekend, something broke inside of me and I realized what an ass I had been. In an instant I stopped giving a rip about "religious political issues"; what's being taught in science class, who people sleep with and when, what our money says, what people do with or to their bodies; the list goes on and on. In less than 30 seconds my personal motto went from "Thou Shalt Not" to "Live and Let Live… and just love."
I left cultural Christianity behind that weekend, and have since identified myself as a student of Jesus. I love him, I learn from him and I spend time talking to him. I'm convinced that none of us are "In" or "Out"; we are all on our own spiritual journeys and are searching for ultimate truth and meaning in our painful, screwed-up lives. I love all people now, regardless of who they are or how they live. Jesus hung out with everyone and the only people he got pissed at were the religious people who were forcing man-imposed regulations on the people around them and ultimately taking advantage of the social, spiritual and political underdogs of the day. So I guess that's where I've been for the last few years. I struggle with judging cultural Christians who would rather point their pious fingers at what they deem to be sinful rather than reaching out towards the hurting people in this world… there are so many. But it's a lot easier to point at someone else than to look inside and see your own ugly blemishes… which is my own admission as I grapple with my judgment toward western Christians.
So you may have been thinking that I've lost my salvation or that I'm backsliding, or whatever other buzzwords the western church uses to pigeonhole those of us who are looking for deeper meaning from a God who is the power of Love, Hope and Mercy personified, and whose depth is infinite. But the truth is that I would prefer to be on the Prayer List, because I need all the help I can get in continuing to struggle through this tension of the mundane and the supernaturally joyous existence of which we are all a part.
And that is where I currently stand.