I remember when I first became a ‘born again christian’. I remember the soul driving push of my alter call. The complete craziness of my instant decision to walk up on stage and become baptised in my dress.
I remember the fire in my heart.
As all ‘baby Christians’ do…I went to church every Sunday. Hung around, chatted to people, was smiley, polite and nice. Immersed myself in a culture of faith/religion/Christianity that was very new to me. I had attended a Catholic University and in fact was a small group leader for a religious retreat, Encounter, as well as a participant and member of the back-up crew. I loved it. I flitted around throughout my four years there going to mass, but never becoming Catholic and never really immersing myself into the ‘churchy’ group. I had gone to a couple of Christian churches, but nothing really stuck.
I had an open heart when it all started. When my heart was on fire. I realised very quickly that perhaps I wasn’t pure enough, I swore way too much and instantly found the social dynamics between men and women (who were in their 20-30s) very odd. Very guarded. Very awkward. Very stifled. Very suspicious of any ‘wrong doings’. As my year of immersion and church progressed, which involved an Ignite course as well as session in overseas volunteering and an hour commute to church weekly…I began to see past the smoke machines and artsy church video bulletins.
I started to hear things such as:
- well, he is defiantly someone who you want to stay away from Michelle. He’s asked SOOOO many girls out for coffee, I wouldn’t trust him.
- I don’t even want to consider a man who isn’t as equally-yolked as me. He must be a strong, good-looking, kind, generous, self-assured Christian male.
- Oh him, he’s just one of my friends.
- Sex. Oh, if you have sex, it will ruin your life. You’ll never ever be able to come out of a relationship without being ruined if you engage in that.
- I just can’t seem to find a good Christian girl, they’re all either stuck up or weird
It swirled around me. I tried to stave off the cynic. I tried to re-focus myself and be open to new ways of thinking/feeling/acting. It climaxed when I got an email from a leader of the nondenominational Christian group of 20/30s outlining rules for dating when you’re a Christian
- don’t pray together
- don’t spend periods of time alone
- go out double dates or with groups of friends
I phoned the leader and asked him why he felt that this e-mail was something that needed to be spread around to the 800+ members who were receiving it. I found it offensive and juvenile to be giving to people, especially since some of whom had been married before, and it came across as a fear-mongering propaganda.
His response: because I felt it necessary after one of the members came to me confessing his sin of sleeping with his girlfriend. He wanted help and guidance in this area…so I sent this out and told him to leave the group until he stopped sleeping with his girlfriend.
That’s when I stopped regularly going to church.
I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I felt trapped by the smoke, the fog machine, the bright lights and the sentiment in my heart that rules were more important than the way in which ‘my’ Jesus would have approached the situation. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I cussed too much, I wasn’t pure enough. I was too much of a rebel. I questioned too much. I just wanted to scream ‘relax a bit people and stop box ticking others!’
Maybe I’m not a true Christian. Maybe I’m just too cynical. Maybe I just need to relax!
I have walked into churches again since that time, but I just can’t do it. I just can’t get passed ‘it’…I’m not sure what ‘it’ is, but I just can’t stomach most preachers. I can’t stomach more worship services and I can’t stomach most of the what I feel is the ‘happy clappy sugar-coated’ crap that is perpetuated..when I just want people to stay it like it is.
We were homesick for something we could not name, but we were slipping. The structure of the evangelical church service was not big enough to accommodate the deep questions of our hearts.
I felt like I was breathing a new breath. I felt like YES …. she gets my heart. I have been reading my bible and halfheartedly drumming along on my own bible studies for the past 2 years. I’ve recently fell back in LOVE with the podcasts from ImagoDeiCommunity in Portland, OR. I guess it’s better to listen to a preach then to nothing at all.
But her quote sums it up. My heart, my mind, my life, my way, my views feel WAY to big for mainstream Christian services. I want to see people who are all colours, backgrounds, looks, walks of life. I want to be in an community that is enriched by loving God and loving each other. I want to be taught, desperately taught, the history behind it all. To be fed people’s thoughts BUT given the space to decompress and process them on my own regard. I want to be able to have a margarita, a strong coffee, and a really fabulous conversation about everything that has to do with life, faith and maybe even Aussie sport.
I don’t want to be stifled.
It has taken me a long time to get over the complete disappointment of what transpired the year after I became a Christian. I still don’t think that I’m over it, and to be honest I don’t think that I fit into that mold…and I’m forever grateful for that. I want to be able to speak with my non-believing husband about God, religion, faith…but I feel helpless sometimes in exposing him to the idea of faith because I know so much of it is contrived and so unappealing for non-believers. It’s just not real enough.
The future will be a mix of both these things: the devotion and the cynicism. You have to find a way for them to coexists within you. Let them destroy each other, and your fragile faith may shatter entirely. ~Addie Zierman
I feel more thirsty than I have in recent years for a community of believers. I feel a growing desire to be nourished, challenged and supported by others in my own journey. I guess now, it’s time for me to look outside of the hurt and cynicism in order to allow my heart to be open to however that manifests itself.