Hmm...I had an interesting encounter these past few days with a version of my former self.
I came across Jeremy Myers' blog "Till He Comes" a couple of months ago and have enjoyed reading his thoughts on what "church" maybe should look like. In the last few days, he has been doing a series of posts that are generally about the concept of removing the fences from around churches and let Christ draw people in....and he attracted the attention of a couple of people who vehemently disagree with his whole concept. They made a lot of accusations along the lines of 'heretic' and 'blasphemer' and 'going to hell', etc., etc., etc....and I got drawn into the debate for a few days...and was told I had rejected Jesus and was following Jeremy to hell. Sigh. And I realized a couple of things.
The first was that I really did not have the inclination to argue, which came at about the same time as I realized that there could be no profit in it because I was not going to be heard and they would not be able to pull me back into that thinking....
The second was that I felt no great need to defend myself or justify myself or prove my point. And THIS feels good. :-)
But, this exchange has stirred a lot of thoughts and I am going to try to share them coherently....
In trying to explain my position and why I disagreed with their position, I used specific Bible passages that have come alive in new ways to me recently. After spending a year and a half not even being able to read it without getting pissed off, this is a good thing. Unfortunately, they did not see the verses in the same light I do. After a few exchanges, I realized that because of the lens they view the Bible through, no amount of debate will convince them. I know. I used to see things that way, too.
It's the position that the Institutional Church (IC) promotes. Nearly every IC I've seen does this to some degree. They promote an attitude of, "Our denominational doctrine is the only correct one. You must believe and defend our stance or you are not really one of us." The threat of deception into hell looms large. I remember what it felt like. Hanging your faith hat on one denomination's doctrinal statement is a dangerous and tricky business. Any time someone disagrees, anger and fear rise up in alternating measures. You must correct them - win the argument - prove you are right and they are wrong. Why? Because if you don't, then the foundations of what you think God is all about (what the IC of choice or birth has taught you God is about) begin to shake and crack. And that is scary as hell.
And until God planted me in the middle of an ugly IC situation - let me see it for what it really was, and then led me away from the IC - to a place of learning truth (on so many levels), there was nothing that would have enticed me away from the pseudo-sense-of-security the IC offers.
And it was neither an easy nor fun process. Those of you that have followed my blog through the years have gotten a taste of it. That first year out of the IC was a confusing mix of joyous freedoms and deep anxiety. As I have mentioned in other posts, when I left the IC, I entered into a place where everything I had ever been taught about God and church and religion was shattered with the wrecking ball of reality. Most of what I thought I knew about my childhood and family was also shatter by a series of crashing waves of truth....and frankly, at the time, I wasn't sure I would survive. Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to.
Having the illusions and defensive barriers of a lifetime come crashing around your ears is no picnic. (ha!) I spent my days sitting in my car at the park trying to continue reading the Bible and talking to God and talking to my aunt on the phone to try and keep a semblance of sanity. I spent my nights sleeping in my dad's garage on a couch (I was living there and had a bedroom with a bed in it) because it was the only place I felt safe. I spent as many nights as possible at my friend's house. I would lie in bed and just shake. The fear that I was going off the deep end spiritually and mentally dogged me all through this time. I'll never forget in January almost a year after I had left the IC, I was reading the Bible and was in Numbers 5. This chapter has always bothered me. It seems so unfair...and I got angry. I held my Bible up and said, "God, do you see this? This sucks! It's ugly. It doesn't sound like you. Explain this to me." His response sent me in a direction I never expected to go...especially at his leading. He simply said, "Relax. It wasn't written to you." It was at this point I began to quit reading the Bible for a time. At the time, I wasn't sure I ever would again.
Now, you need to understand. Before I left the IC, I read at least 8 chapters a day - every day. I studied the Bible. I wrote papers, led Bible studies, made charts and timelines and....and I don't regret that I did that. It is good to know the Bible.....*grinning* But is also good to know when it's time to lay it down and let God talk to you directly....
I was desperate for TRUTH. And I began to learn that although facing the truth about church, family, yourself, can feel like it's going to annihilate you - it won't (almost, maybe, but...) - it really will set you free. And over the last few years, as I have grown away from that initial system shock, I have been taught by God some incredible, religion defying truths. Then, after he wrote those truths on my heart, he took me back into the Bible and began showing me, with the fresh eyes of freedom, that this truth was actually written in its pages...but as long as the religious filter of my childhood was over it, I would never have seen it.
Truly, it is amazing to me - he loves me enough to break those chains of bondage that were slowly but surely killing me and set me into a larger place - a freer place - a truer place. And I also recognize (and can now live comfortably with the idea) that I do not have the whole picture. There is far more to God and his plan than I will ever be able to comprehend. For a while, after I began to come out of the shock, I was afraid to write much because I knew that in 6 months - a year...I would probably see it better than I do now and be embarrassed at what I wrote. I am a little embarrassed at some of the things I wrote while in the IC. I actually did a 53 page 'study' on Paul's letter to the Romans. Yikes! I am just about ready - after more than 8 years - to take a look at it and see what I did....could be painful, but there might be a little gold scattered.
So...back to the topic being hotly debated at Jeremy's blog....I think that one of the biggest problems with the IC is that attitude of having a corner on the truth. But they don't. Most have some truth...and a lot of man's ideas. The insistence to the contrary, of necessity, creates an 'us vs. them' mentality. And they don't see that as a problem. In fact, one of the commenters actually said it was was necessary - desirable. The concept put forth was essentially: preach the Law at 'them' until they repent. Then let them in the fence....one actually said that if the Law was not preached, then no one would know they needed to repent and so, without the Law, there could be no real salvation. He demanded to know if I was suggesting that I came to salvation without having the Law teach me I needed it. Sigh. So I will say here, on my own blog, what I chose not to get into on someone else's blog....
As I have recounted often in my posts, I cannot remember when Jesus was not a part of my life. I don't have a 'conversion date'. I have found that I am not the only one. I can tell you places along the way where I have made conscious decisions to reaffirm my love and need and desire for Him. I have moved closer to him - He draws me in. His love is overwhelming and, for one who grew up in the abusive way I did, it is often perplexing. But it doesn't stop. So the answer to the question is: no, I did not have (or need) the Law preached at me to know I needed to turn from 'my way' to 'his way'. In fact, it was the preaching of the Law to me that very nearly destroyed my relationship with him. And I know many will not be able to accept this as valid....
Hmm...one of the passages that was thrown accusingly at me was from Matthew 7 - the one that says there will be those who brag about the wonderful things they did in Jesus' name and he tells them to leave because he never knew them. This is a very familiar passage. He has shown me things from it - it is interesting the wording. He doesn't say they are rejected because they didn't know him....it was because he didn't know them. What he's taught me about this is...a big part of being set free by the truth involves me being honest with him. It involves being naked, bare, nothing hidden before him. It involves not trying to pretend something isn't there - not trying to pretend I believe something I don't. Honest communication with him, sharing everything - joy and sorrows, pains, hurts, fears, doubts, hopes, dreams, everything like he was my best friend - because he is. Brutal honestly. Letting go of the fear of getting it wrong and just being open in his presence.
Knowing about him - even knowing him to some degree that allows working of miracles in his name is not the point. The point is to look inward and know ourselves - let him fully in to know even the bits we can't bear to look at. He is gentle - so gentle. He washes us from the pain of honesty. This is cleansing, freeing pain - like when a wound is cleansed or a broken bone is set. But without that honesty, there really is no relationship. And after all, the relationship is the whole point.
Have I got this all figured out? No. There is still a lot within my own heart I haven't looked at...I am really only able to with his help. And he takes me at the pace I can handle. And I can't even honestly say I always want to be honest. It does hurt. But...I talk to him about it. I want to want to....and he smiles and says that is enough for him to work with.....
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Hmm...I had an interesting encounter these past few days with a version of my former self.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As the title & header of my blog may suggest, I have a prophetic bent, so this month's topic definitely grabbed me. The past few months have been full of a lot of challenges - from having to go to church food banks to get through tight places (and that is a horror story unto itself) to becoming involved with a small fellowship of believers burned out on religion but passionate about the felt presence of God.
For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know these last 4 years have been full of doubt, pain, healing, frustration, and a passion for finding truth. I think these elements will be with me for a long time to come - I think they are, perhaps, just part of life on this planet - at least mine. So....
Hmm....as I have become involved with this little fellowship, I have been challenged to remember that just as I have tendrils of religious bs still clinging to me in places, so does everyone else who has fled the IC. We probably will always have bits and pieces that trail along - like that annoying bit of toilet paper that gets stuck to our shoe but we don't see...but everyone else does. I am learning to make allowances for that in others and in myself....
I have also been challenged to return to the core of my relationship with Jesus. It is a relationship that goes back as far as I can remember (probably even farther). It is so easy to get to a place where you don't want to offend people by talking about Jesus. But if he is my best friend, someone who has been there for me through every hurt and every victory....
To give perspective, I think about my dear friend that got thrown out of church because she wouldn't lie about what the pastor did to her. I left with her, have stuck with her. She is an awesome friend. And I don't care what people think about me because of my friendship with her. I have been mocked, pitied, condemned, and who knows what else. But it doesn't matter. I know the truth and I am honored to be her friend. And the friendship I have with her is worth every bit of it....
So....if I am willing to take abuse and slander and ridicule for being her friend, why should it be any different with Jesus? The relationship I have with him is more valuable than anything anyone might choose to say or think or do. Truly, I would rather die than live without him in my life. That may seem dramatic, but it is absolute truth. I have never known what it is like to be without him right there, constant, strong, a presence that does not fade. A friend. And honestly, I hope I never do. So I have been challenged to return to that faithfulness to the friendship - a faithfulness that any true friendship deserves.
I have also been challenged, through involvement with this little fellowship, to not let go of the hard won freedoms I have gained in the years since I left the IC. I have become acutely aware of how much condemnation was a part of my daily life. Instilled through abuse from family, from the IC, from twisted doctrine and legalism, from rigid demands of conformity to a specific interpretation of what being a Christian must be. Just last week, I was startled at how easily I fell back into the pressure to 'conform' to old standards of religious correctness - triggered by the religious phrases still used by some in this fellowship (though I also have seen that was not their intent). But as my friend reminded me, I only fell into it for a couple of days before i smelled the bs and dropped it. It has served to remind me that my freedom is mine to keep or relinquish, but it takes a willingness to offend in order to keep it. One of the things Jesus told me very clearly in the last few weeks is that I need to let go of the fear of men (gender neutral). Truly, no matter what someone else may think about it, no one - and I mean NO ONE - has the ability or authority to, in ANY way, affect my standing or relationship with Jesus. Period. That relationship is personal and one on one. To really, finally start to understand that really no one can do that.... is a whole new level of freedom for me. I'm not sure I have words to convey the freedom - the power - this simple truth has for me. I am recognizing that choosing to pursue Jesus outside of the religious boundaries of the IC is beautiful, freeing, scary, challenging... The religious doctrines of the IC offer security - do what we say, how we say, and we guarantee your place in eternity. Breaking away from that is not as easy as I would like. But really, it is an illusory security. That is one of the most damnable aspects of the IC, to me - that false sense of security. I think, for me, the pursuit of truth demands risking that alluring promise of security for a far more real and beautiful place... I have told God I want truth, even if it annihilates me. And I think that is actually a far safer position than the one religion offers.
I am also realizing, through my involvement with this fellowship, that there are still wounds that are sore. My healing is not complete. But it probably won't be this side of death. I am seeing that all of us in this group are wounded in various different ways. We are all being challenged to give each other the space to heal with dignity. And learning to trust is slow, but I am seeing glimmers of hope in this. For the first time in my life, my voice matters to the others in the group. That is, oddly, a bit confusing - overwhelming, even. But it is also healing - new friendships being formed with trust reaching out cautiously, hopefully.
What is the result? I am finally starting to make steps in the direction of actually walking out the visions I have seen. It is exciting and a little scary. But really, there is no other thing to do. I cannot go backward without giving up my integrity - to go back would be to lie about what I have seen and experienced.
On the practical level, the challenges continue. I have been on unemployment for 13 months - so many job applications - so few interviews..... and things are getting pretty tight. But above all, I am learning that the fundamental element of faith is to simply keep moving and not give up.
Joy Wilson at Solacetree: The Blessing Of Losing Your Faith
Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes: I Have A Dream
Glenn Hager at Breathe: Uncomfortably Numb
Linda at Kingdom Grace: On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Sally at Eternal Echoes: Where Are The True Prophets?
Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved: No Compromise
Alan Knox at The Assembling of Church: My Word of Prophecy: Quit Listening to Prophetic Voices
Liz at Grace Rules: Listen
Christine Sine at Godspace: Surrounded by Prophetic Voices - Clouds of Witnesses that Call Us Out of Numbness
Amy Martin: The Window of Suffering, the Beginning of Hope
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head: Rising Up From Below
K. W. Leslie at More Christ: What Is God Challenging You To Do?
Steve Hayes at Khanya: Murder of the Cathedral
Leah Chang at Desert Spirit's Fire: Wall Street, Our Street
Bobby Aunder at Deconstructing Neverland: Shift
Minnow at Minnowspeaks: Day of Dialogue