When I was a little girl I remember going to Sunday school with my best friend and being asked if I went to church or if I knew Jesus. I remember something about being told I’d go to hell and that sounded like it must be a scary place, so I was afraid.
Then when we lived in Alabama, as neighbors walked around accessing damage in each other’s yards after Hurricane Katrina, a woman asked us where we went to church. We told her the name of the Catholic church we had attended a few times since moving there, I noted the look that flashed on her face, and a few months later when I was out for a walk with my newborn baby, she turned her back and refused to return so much as a wave or hello.
And when I was in my very first Bible study there were women who had a conversation about choosing to only be friends with other Christian women because non-Christians were sources of temptation and couldn’t possibly have any positive impact on their lives or on their walks with Christ.
It’s the very un-Christian things that many Christians do that made me leery of pursuing my own beliefs. These people I met caused me to distrust Christians (even though I’ve always considered myself one), certain that any conversation with one of them would turn into a situation where I’d feel judged. The man telling me I’d go to hell? Intimidation and fear tactics to teach about Jesus is, in my opinion, not the best way to prove your case (especially to a young child). The woman who wouldn’t speak to me for being Catholic? While I’m no longer a practicing Catholic and attend a different church, I still feel fiercely protective of my former faith and a person’s right to worship in the church and religion of their choice without judgment. And the women who won’t be friends with non-Christians? I get that we all tend to gravitate toward like-minded people, but flat out refusing non-Christian friendships I think is narrow minded and petty.
I could be wrong about all of this. The most humbling thing that I’ve learned is that I don’t actually have all the answers. I don’t think anyone, not even the most learned theological scholar or Physicist or woman in my old neighborhood who’s attended church three times a week for 55 years, has all the answers.
For fear that you’d think I was one of them, I’ve been afraid to tell you.
When we moved here to Tennessee two years ago, I was invited to join a group at a church for women who had just moved, called –get this– Just Moved. I went for one reason and that was because they offered free childcare. I figured I could do anything for two hours, even if it meant listening to a bunch of Christian mumbo jumbo if I could get TWO! HOURS! of CHILDFREE! time.
But then, Monday after Monday, I kept going back not only because of free childcare, but because there were women in this group that introduced to me a kind, loving, forgiving God.
These women listened each week as I shared many moves worth of anguish, anger, and rage. And one day, one of those kind women looked into my tear filled eyes and told me to take that bag that I carried on my back, overfilled with all that anguish, anger, and rage, and give it to God.
I didn’t (and still don’t exactly) know what that meant. I don’t always get the Christian buzzwords and lingo, but what I think she meant was that I could let God heal my hurts and move forward with His grace (another word I’m not sure I can exactly explain) and guidance. So that’s what I did. And my life has changed in ways big and small ever since I did.
But I know that what I just said sounds a little weird and Christian-y, so I’ve been afraid to tell you.
We started attending a church that has a rock band, with talented musicians and everything. There’s also childcare, and you know how I feel about that.
I totally understand now why people ask when they first meet people, “Where do you go to church.” Sometimes they are being one of those Christians, but the rest of the time they are being one of those Christians that just happens to really like where they go to church and simply want to pass on the information. No strings, no judgment, no “have you heard the Good News?” attached.
The band is really that awesome.
We also talk about this God who is good and forgiving, and I really, really love knowing that.
I just haven’t said anything because I don’t want to overstep my boundaries and make you uncomfortable, so I’ve been afraid to say anything.
I know that there’s a lot of things that, as a Christian, I’m “supposed” to believe.
But, there are many Christian beliefs that I don’t know how to reconcile. I’m okay with this, I still have a lot of learning and growing to do and I think it’s okay to have questions. I also think that at the core of this whole new part of me, is true faith in what I do believe and acceptance that there are things that perhaps I’m not meant to understand. I believe, without letting other Christian’s bad behavior cloud the goodness I’ve experienced and I believe even though this may affect the way you think about me.
God is big, bigger than anything I can fathom. All I really have is faith in His existence.
My beliefs have inspired me to be a softer person, one who loves and doesn’t judge (much) (okay, this post was filled with judging them, I need to work on it), so that’s why even though I’m scared to death to say anything, I’m telling you now.
I’m also telling you that this blog isn’t going become a blog about my faith, even though it’s my blog and I can write anything I want. What I really want to write about is my goofball kids and post my pretty pictures, and share recipes and tell you about embarrassing things that I do. If Jesus happens to show up in some posts, then so be it, but He won’t be my primary subject. I’ve just had these words swimming in my head for months and I needed to let them go.
I also get to mark off one of the items on my 2011 to do list! Score!!