One of the most incredible stories of my life has been the time when I first experienced God for myself. It was as pure and as unadulterated as a God experience could be. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had just been introduced to the Great I AM.
I was alone, in my apartment, crying on my knees, completely lost in pain and depression. I spoke aloud to a God who I hoped was there and right in the midst of my wrenching sobs…a calm came over me that was out of this world, literally.
I was not a Christian, did not attend church, did not believe in attending church and could care less about the “process of religion”. But I was desperate for the pain in my life to cease, and He showed up.
Over the years I joined a church, publicly ‘gave my life to Christ’, got baptized, busied myself in church activities and so on.
While I believe that those things were part of a greater purpose for my life, I wasn't always on the ‘right track’ in the midst of my new found and extremely active church life. There were plenty of days when I felt like a failure, that I couldn't keep up spiritually, that I would never overcome certain obstacles and sins in my life, that I wasn't good enough, or pure enough, or just plain enough to represent God.
There was always a comparison going on in my mind with the ‘elite’ of the church who got to run Bible studies and women’s groups or prayer groups. I had been interviewed but never ‘chosen’ to take the lead in such things because (I imagine) I just couldn't seem to be the image that goes along with such privileges. It seemed that this God that had met me on my living room floor in my tiny apartment so many years ago had far too many demands that I could not keep up with, and He had no time for an average sinner like me anymore. It seemed that I embarrassed Him or His image far too easily and I couldn't wear my Christian badge without getting smudges on it. It was as if I was ‘saved’ only to feel ashamed of my own existence once again.
Now, those of you who truly have an organic walk with God know that those feelings did not come from Him but they came from my internal dialogue, the enemy of my soul and yes, the religion that I immersed myself in.
It has taken a GIANT step back from all that has become familiar to me by way of Christianity to regain my footing and once again walk with the God who visited my apartment many years ago. It has taken much failure, to understand His mercy, which is a humbling and needed experience in order to be a compassionate person once again.
You understand that with religion sometimes comes a sanctimonious mindset that sets oneself above others, particularly “unbelievers and people of the world” (which are labels, tags and misconceptions about people we don’t really know.) I would have easily fit those categories many years ago. Fortunately, there was one person in my life at the time who never made me feel like an “unbeliever” but simply a friend and she didn't always bombard me with invitations to her church when we talked. Sometimes we simply talked about life.
When I listen to Christian dialogue now, I sometimes cringe at the way we shout to the roof tops our beliefs on social media and in any other forum that we may be heard from, without so much as listening to the hearts of other people around us. It’s as if we are so spiritually fragile that we think that listening to someone else’s heart or opinion may damage us for life. It may just do so, if your foundation is purely made from an inherited belief as opposed to having a true encounter.
I find it hard to believe that in the midst of Jesus eating with “sinners” that he never once listened to their hearts, looked at the pain in their eyes and was moved with compassion to show love and mercy.
I sometimes see scriptures plastered on social media in what sounds like an angry voice or with condemning intent, in order to convict others but done so with an enormous lack of compassion and love for the hurting people all around us. Such behavior is often doing more harm than good and creates a greater resentment for those of us who use the term Christian to describe ourselves.
We forget to share our own stories and struggles because either we feel that we have come just that far from imperfection, or we were simply born into Christianity and have inherited this way of life from our family, so we can’t relate to anyone but other believers.
We use our own personal convictions, such as what we eat, when we fast, our choice of entertainment, what we do on Sunday mornings etc… as a banner to show others the life they should be living. We find it easier to control with our message than to love from our hearts, people who are making different choices than us. And we call our way right as long as there is scripture to support it.
I can honestly say that I would have probably never walked into a church building or become a friend of Christianity had God sent a ‘Super Saint’ my way who did not have any faults and failures of her own. The mere fact that her life was so humble and open, yet she was able to speak the name of Jesus as if she truly knew Him, floored me. I grew up believing that if you weren't the best example of living pure and holy, then you were no example at all. Thank God for truth.
I have a loooong way to go with my approach to living out my faith. I don’t always say the right things when challenged, not by the world but by other Christians. I seem to understand the outside viewpoint more than I do the “inside” mindset, mainly because of never feeling quite “good enough” within those four walls.
So, my conflict is in reverse. I don’t see the need of always bragging about my moral stand when I know good and well that I only have a moral stand because of the grace of God. I don’t in anyway feel superior about my life choices because they are different from the current cultures, simply because in one instant my life can change and I could be standing face to face with a decision that I never had to make before. It’s by the grace of God that I will know what to do.
Having been on both sides of the glass, this I know for sure: a stone can be thrown on either side but all it will do is shatter the walls, and injure the innocent, while causing more harm than good.
May we all come to understand the loving power of true humility…