I am not everyone’s cup of tea, as some might say.
I prefer coffee, anyway. With plenty of sugar.
I mean, I consider myself an adult but I am nowhere near adult enough for straight black coffee.
But some people don’t even like coffee.
And the thought of me desecrating a perfectly good cup of joe with cream and sugar??
Anyway, there are people who don’t find my sarcasm hilarious. Some are offended by my fondness for crude humor. Many people are very disappointed when they hear me mutter a “damn” or even a “mother-flippin” (( not even the real F-bomb, folks. I’m not THAT hardcore… )). It’s just gross and immature, or something.
Well, shoot…sometimes “darn” just doesn’t do the damned thing justice!!
Either way, I like those people…really. I like to hear their side of the story. I like to understand why they think my occasional potty-mouth is so offensive. It won’t necessarily mean that I will ever NOT use the words…I will probably do my best to avoid using my filthy exclamations around those people, though.
I may have a foul mouth at times, but I do have manners.
“So what??”, you might say to me…or to yourself as you read this. “Nobody is liked by everybody.” You’ll roll your eyes and sip your black cup of adulthood and be tempted to go back to your financial report full of big numbers and math. But you will keep reading, because nobody actually WANTS to do financial reports full of big numbers…right??
What’s the big deal? Why even bother to talk about it if my story is no different than anyone else’s? So some people don’t like me.
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said??
#nothing #jokeisonyou #GoDoYourMath #nerd
Ok, not really. Although I do not understand why ANYONE would ever CHOOSE to spend their life pouring over numbers, that really isn’t the point.
My point is…I don’t like church.
I SAID IT.
Yes, all of this is actually just to gather up the courage to tell you that I do not like church.
Oh, and all of that was to also let you know that…
…if what I just said makes you wonder if you even LIKE ME anymore??
You’re not alone.
I am NOT everyone’s cup of creamed and sugared hot beverage of choice.
ESPECIALLY when it comes to church.
So…church. This word, much like the word Christian, has a different meaning for every single person on this beautiful planet. Some definitions might be similar, but no matter what – these words and their meanings rely so heavily on each person’s own world views that not a single one is exactly the same.
Every person, every story, is different.
Every church, every Christian, every Sinner is absolutely different in some way.
And this is why, whenever I hear the words “Church” or “Christian“, that is never the end of the conversation for me. There is more to be heard, more to be told.
I grew up in church. In my world, this means I grew up attending Sunday services. For awhile my family and I attended a church with my Grandparents. I won’t bother going into the denominations of any of the churches I have set foot in, because honestly…I don’t feel like it matters.
I have been to, listened to and attended SO MANY CHURCHES (denominations)
(( on my own, in an attempt to simply find the truth and figure out my own beliefs ))
Eventually, my parents made a change and switched to a new church. This time, we stayed. My parents served the church in so many ways, as all of my friends’ parents did. My Dad was an Elder, my Mom did a little bit of everything. We spent a lot of time in that building. I grew up in those hallways, in the classrooms and as a part of that congregation.
It was routine, I knew what to do and who to be.
I read my Bible and carried it in a well-worn case with special pens and highlighters.
I memorized and recited verses.
I showed up on Wednesday nights for every youth event and class.
I went to bed every single night praying for my future spouse, for the “lost” kids in the public schools and for any and all friends and family who were doomed to be damned to hell because they didn’t know and love Jesus.
(( I often prayed that Jesus kick me out of Heaven and take all of the non-believers instead. Like…all of them. ))
Mainly, it was because I would start with one person and then felt guilty for not loving the next person enough to give my eternal soul for them. So I would include them. And then that just kept going and going and going until I just gave in and said…every night…
Just send me to hell. I deserve it anyway.
Save everyone else and I’ll enjoy my life a whole lot more.
In Your Name I Pray,
I lived my life focused on death, on hell-fire. I lived in fear of judgement and damnation.
And it wasn’t anything out of the norm.
Everyone around me was raised the same way. My friends were all classmates or attended the same church as me. Most of them went to the same daycare as I did. Most of them had siblings who were friends with my siblings.
We were like a cute little tribe of dedicated prayer-warriors, constantly in fear for our fellow man.
We were all raised to love the sinners and hate the sin. We were all taught to prioritize purity. Never, never, ever date anyone. Not until you’re older and educated and financially stable.
(( And, as a girl, not until I had been swept off of my feet by my Bilingual but very White, Christian Prince Charming who was a straight A student, Youth Leader and aspiring Pastor with full scholarships and good, married parents who were preferably involved in Conservative Politics and publicly supported Republican Candidates ))
Please Note – none of this really matters or changes anyone else’s stories…it’s just my story. It doesn’t even have anything really to do with my parents’ stories or the stories of my peers or siblings.
I grew up “churched”, and to me – this was “churched”.
I grew up “Christian”.
And then our family moved away to a very, very different world than any I had ever known or been exposed to. Every single day of my life, attending a (( GASP )) public high school, surrounded by an almost overwhelming presence of a new Religion that I knew nothing about – I was like a fish out of water.
The first day of school, I remember sitting in my Mom’s car crying so hard I could barely breathe.
“PLEASE JUST HOMESCHOOL ME!”
The truth is, I was terrified of that school. I was terrified to step into a building I had always seen as a house of sinners, a home for the “lost” to congregate and do sinful, hateful things like kiss boys and say “Damn”, outside of the Biblical sense of being “damned”. That was acceptable, of course.
Imagine my surprise when I finally walked through those doors and was not only greeted kindly by smiling, happy faces of genuinely friendly people my own age…but that some of them…EVEN ONES WITH MULTIPLE PIERCINGS…were actually…
This is when I really began to notice major differences in denominations and churches. I began to take note of the consequences of not following rules, rules I had never even heard of. I watched as people were excommunicated from some churches and cried with others as their parents committed the ultimate sins of divorce or adultery and were ostracized. I sat in silence, bitter towards adults in my life who refused to listen to me as I tried to understand why RULES trumped LOVE.
“You’re too young to understand love.”
“You’re too young to understand the necessity of bi-laws and restrictions.”
“You’re too young…”
Fast forward many years, many arguments and late night discussions (( emotionally charged scream-fests )) with my concerned parents as they watched their churched Daughter spiral into the depths of the ways of the world…
I fell in love with a boy who was churched. But he was raised in a different church, a very strict church with mostly good intentions, but a lot of rules. He wasn’t bilingual, had zero intentions of being a Pastor, had never volunteered for anything except to give someone a ride home after a party.
I did my best to explain it to them. I did my best to explain it to everyone.
I tried to make them understand…he was more of a “Christian” than ANYONE in my life at the time.
And it had nothing to do with church.
Beyond being “churched”, I recognized something in him that my parents didn’t…that most people around us didn’t recognize or appreciate.
This Boy…the one I was specifically told NOT to see or speak to and especially not LOVE…
He loved people. He cared about his friends and family, so much it hurt him physically, emotionally and mentally when anyone else was hurting. He was honest, he never ever tried to be anyone but himself. He just lived his life and loved people. He was selfless.
(( as selfless as any 16 year old boy could possibly be… ))
It was intoxicating.
So I’m going to go right from there and wrap this up, finally…because honestly, that is where everything changed for me. With that boy, when I was 15…maybe 16 years old…
That was when I realized that I didn’t like church. I didn’t like being “churched”. I didn’t like living in fear or ending my days praying for God to damn my soul to hell in order to save other people who didn’t know any better. I didn’t like seeing so many people tell that Boy that he couldn’t love me until I joined his church. I didn’t like my parents and so many of their peers tell me I couldn’t love him because he would never meet the standards and expectations of the perfect spouse that “God” had set for me.
So when I say, “I don’t like church”, this right here is what I really mean to say…
I LIKE LIVING MY LIFE, STRIVING TO LIVE LIKE CHRIST.
Love people. Serve people.
If a woman walks up to the doors of a church building with no shoes and no food on a cold, blustery day and you KNOW there are shoes and a hot lunch INSIDE of your church building…
…you give her the shoes.
…you feed her lunch and send extras, in case she misses dinner, too.
Don’t wait for others to seek you out.
Don’t stand inside your church building and wait for people to come.
LEAVE THE DAMN BUILDING AND GO FIND SOMEONE.
Talk to them just to listen. Walk with them just for the company. ASK them what you might be able to do for them. Pull some of their weeds. Gift them an hour of your life, an hour of your attention.
Show them Christ’s love.
(( and this is just to get you started… ))
In my life, I have done the church thing. I’ve spent countless hours following the absolutes of a man-made, man-driven church. I’ve dedicated countless hours of my life to fear, to pain and to hopelessness for those around me who fall short. Fear and self-destructive thoughts and behavior controlled my life because I knew I would always fall short. I have followed the road of rigid restrictions and guidelines and lost sight of what really matters.
I’m nowhere near perfect, especially as I continue to try to find a place within a church congregation. (( I still WANT church! )) I crave community and accountability. I despise ignorance when it comes to leadership choosing rules over love. I refuse to stay silent when church funding is wasted frivolously as people in our cities starve. Sometimes I am too vocal, too opinionated, too stubborn when it comes to these things. Sometimes, I’m a thorn in the side of the comfortable and I’m labeled…
#unteachable #arrogant #selfcentered #crude #loud #lacking #whiny #toomuch #toomuch #TOOMUCH
The way I see it, CHURCH isn’t meant to be about the building. It isn’t about the rules or the schedules. It isn’t about the lighting or the quality of the sound. It isn’t about appearances or memberships.
We have one opportunity, AS CHRIST’S FOLLOWERS / CHURCH HERE ON EARTH, to live out our lives as living, breathing examples of God and His unconditional love. And when there are so many people looking around wondering…how do I know God is real? I feel like the church of absolutes is failing…failing miserably.
Because when you’re so focused on the rules of church, you eventually lose sight of why church exists in the first place.
How do you know God is real?
Because of those hundreds of Bible verses you memorized once?
Or maybe because of your marriage, held in a holy building, after you saved your body, mind and soul for your own Prince Charming…
Perhaps you know God is real because you have served missions, teaching others about your absolutes and you’ve experienced the relief that the “lost” feel when you’ve laid out the guidelines for Heaven…
I know God is real because I have seen His love change lives.
Because I married that Boy and because I have never felt more loved, more understood or truly safe with ANYONE else in my life MORE than when I’m with him.
I know God is real because I’ve loved others as I believe He might.
I know God is real because we have incredible blessings in our world like DOGS and BABIES and SCIENCE and SIGHT. We have JOY and true fellowship. We have coffee beans and laughter and we have waterfalls and deep, deep oceans.
I know God is real.
And I still don’t like church.