I’m just going to jump right in, because I’ve been putting this off for far too long. And it may be the fact that I’ve had a horrible past couple of days, or it could be the Spirit finally reaching me, but I have tears in my eyes as I type this intro.
I wanted to write this not only for clarity and peace of mind on my end, but also for anyone else who may be in the same boat. It’s okay to feel this way, and I want this to be a safe place where we can all talk about it and chug through it together.
A brief history on my spiritual upbringing – I grew up in a Christian household right down the street from my church. The community that had been cultivated in that church was decades old, and through a story too long for this post, my family ended up leaving. At the age of 7 or 8 years old, I was ripped away from my friends and a life that we had created at that church. Relationships that my family and I had made there were never the same after we left, and I still carry that burden with me when I visit.
When we left my family and a few other families that had left with us started a new church. It was amazing to grow as a tween and teen with this church, seeing all the amazing things God was doing in order to bring community and love into the neighborhood we had chosen. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but we were one big family and we all were so happy to be loving and praising God together, whether that be in someone’s living room, a nearby park or our eventual home on Main Street.
After nearly a decade with that church, my parents decided to separate. Looking back now, although it was some of the hardest years of my life, I’m so happy they did this. They both deserve the happiness they gave my sisters and I growing up, and being together just wasn’t the right decision for them or our family. But our new church and family did not agree with this decision, and decided to…how to say this nicely…relieve my parents of their positions in the church. This action broke me. To this day, I can truly say that that was the start of my complications with churches and church communities. I still have problems with trust and that is something I’ve been trying to work through. Let’s continue.
Growing up during and after this, I was attending church camp every summer. Whether serving or attending, every July I had a new “renewing” of my relationship with God, but come Fall I fell right back into old habits. It wasn’t until an authority figure close to me told me that they almost did not let me serve again because of the way I was living and portraying my life on social media. After this happened, I really started taking into account my way of life and how it was affecting others.
For the next two years I was “on fire for God.” (That phrase…lol). After joining my local bible study at Montclair I was asked to become a leader and that year was….well, it was amazing but also very strange. I turned into a different person. I started cutting people out of my life that I thought (in the moment) were brining me down. I changed my lifestyle, I started restricting myself of things and actions that eventually put a strain on several of my relationships. I just changed, and not in a good way. Although I felt “alive” and closer to God than I ever had been, I still felt lost. I wasn’t myself. It wasn’t until I had broken up with my boyfriend and gone to a retreat with my bible study friends that I realized I felt as though I had been brainwashed. Brainwashed into thinking that if I said these things, did those things, if I wasn’t this person, I wasn’t a a true Christian.
This stopped me cold. I stepped back and realized – yikes, I’m getting emotional again – how superficial and backwards being a Christian can be. I remember how proud of myself I was to go back to that camp and tell the leaders that I was now a Bible Study leader myself, – “Can I please be a Senior Counselor now?” I was proud of myself to tell my Christian family members and friends that I was in a Christian group and was going to church every Sunday and “living the life of a true Christian.” Now this is great, and it is great to be proud of yourself, but it was the act of being able to tell these people that I was a leader that brought me to do it. It was pride. Ugly, coercive and manipulating pride.
I know that since last summer, which honestly was a great summer, I’ve realized a lot of things about myself and the way I was raised to think of what a Christian should be. And it wasn’t just my parents who said these things, it was my friends, my camp leaders, my teachers, my mentors…
I will admit that right now, my relationship with God is at a standstill. I know that He loves me, and I know that I love Him and that He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End. I know this. But I feel incredibly disconnected and lost. I keep telling myself that this lost feeling I feel is not related to Him, but deep down, I know it is. I’ve had a relationship with God my whole entire life, through good and bad, and right now…I just don’t. I feel as though I’m missing a part of myself.
For the past 6 months I’ve been “living in sin” or however you want to spell it out. I’ve been doing what I want to do, without feeling conviction or like a “bad christian.” I’ll be honest with you, dear reader, it has been a feeling of liberation and a freedom like I’ve never experienced. But everyday, I’m always hit with the thought, “Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you to take advantage of His never ending forgiveness and grace.”
I’m constantly reminded of the amazing things that God has done for me in the past 22 years of my life, and how much I truly owe to Him. But this time around, I want to love God and cherish Him the way I want to, the way I feel is right. I’m still very confused and lost, but I’m desperately hoping that He still has room for me in His heart (I know that He does, but sometimes it can be hard to believe that). I want to feel truly free and happy in my relationship with Him, not like I’m locked in some sort of lifestyle where I feel convicted with every action, or like a fake when I try to worship and it just doesn’t feel right.
I also know that this post will not sit well with a lot of people, friends and family included. It has taken a lot for me to write this and I apologize if it is confusing or I contradict myself, but it is how I feel. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions but I ask you not to tell me that I’m wrong. This is how I feel and this is how I need to proceed with my life and my relationship with Christ.
It is up to me, not up to others, how I choose to live and love in Jesus Christ. He gave me that freedom by giving me free will, to make the right choices and to love others the way that He loves me. You have the exact freedom to do the same. Do not let other people tell you how to love God, or that you are not loving Him correctly. That is frankly, in my opinion, ridiculous.
I understand that this will be difficult for me, because this time I’m following my own rules. Like I said, I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions and advice for how to go about this.
I’m scared, but honestly very excited to have a relationship with Him again. Life is hard, being a Christian is hard, and we need to speak about it more openly if anything is to change.
Thanks for reading.
Let’s do this,