I'm reading a book by Rachel Held Evans called "searching for sunday: loving, leaving, and finding the church." It's about a "millennial" raised in evangelical churches who left because there wasn't room to be found inside one for her doubts and true concerns that beset her since they went against the stands of the church.
I left church for other reasons, and haven't gone back for still more, but it isn't that I don't want to. It's because I'm still scared of what I will find.
Before I get into what I've been thinking about, I want to post this quote from Brennan Manning that Evans uses in the middle of her book:
"When I am honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty, I am trusting and suspicious, I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer."
I don't even have to get down and dirty honest with myself to realize those things anymore. I do feel bad about feeling good. Pat says I would be a great Catholic with the amount of guilt I feel about being in a healthy relationship and having a good time in my life. And yes, when I find myself NOT feeling guilty, I worry that something is inherently wrong with me that I don't.
I have left behind a life time of legalism, found even in evangelical churches and non-denominational churches, but especially in a plain Mennonite church. For the most legalistic of all, if they knew anything about me now, they would all be aghast with how far gone I am on the road to hell. I cut my hair, I wear jewelry and makeup, I've been divorced then remarried then divorced again, and now I am living with a man and enjoying what the world calls a healthy relationship -- all without the benefit of marriage at all (even though they would not recognize it even if I had legal documentation).
The fact of the matter is, if I am going to hell, I'm pretty sure it would be because of things that happened or didn't happen when I was a loyal-every-Sunday-morning-and-Wednesday-night-and-daily-prayer-and-worship practicing Christian.
I always doubted. I always feared. I often felt great love from God, but not always within the church, and always with tentativeness.
The great hymns spoke to me of God's majesty, Christ's sacrifice.
But Margaret Becker and Rich Mullins spoke to me of the possibility of God loving me in spite of all my doubts and many sins.
For they are many.
I have always struggled with being judgmental. It is my single biggest failing.
But in the past, I was judgmental about things that "Good Christians" were allowed to be judgmental about: homosexuality, liberalism, sexual sins, etc.
Now I'm more judgmental about people with unaccepting, close-minded attitudes. I am more angry about people bashing Caitlyn Jenner and hurting animals than I am about homosexuals asking for equal marriage rights. I'm less concerned about Martin Scorcese than I am about Joel Osteen. I'm less inclined to be forgiving to Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker knowing what I know about how they were just the tip of the iceberg. I'm less worried about wearing the right clothes and being modest (though yes, I still dress pretty conservatively for a woman in 2015) than I am about people thinking my friends and relatives who are gay have a legitimate reason to say they are -- because they were born that way. Not chose that way (too many of them have said "who would choose this" - meaning "in the world's present climate" and not "because the idea repulses me but I can't help it"); not made to become that way, but - gasp - the possibility is strong that even God knew and still made them. Because what a person does with his or her body is not as important to him as what they do with their hearts.
I never knew Jesus.
There, I said it.
I learned about him. I read stories about him. I prayed to him, but never felt comfortable doing so.
I think we got it wrong so many times.
Even Jesus said to pray to God. And pointed to him as our father.
So that I could do and that I did.
But having a relationship with Jesus eluded me.
I think I would like to get to know him. But I want to know the one who hung out with sinners...since I am the biggest one I know. I want to know the one people say loves me enough to love me the way I am...but too much to let me stay that way...and doesn't withhold anything while I'm trying to come along.
I think God loves me where I am at. I think he's disappointed with me for some of my choices. Maybe even the one that has brought me the most happiness I've ever had in my life.
I don't know if that's true...it's just what I feel should be true.
Because when it comes down to it...I don't feel good enough for him.
You know what I like about myself? A lot more than I used to. I like my feet, and how I write, and how I love words, and how I laugh, and how I love people, and how I am open to new things.
But what I don't like is how I doubt so many things.
That isn't to say that it was easier when I was so sure about things, because it wasn't. When I believed everything about the Bible the way it was presented to me, it was less brain-intensive, but not wholly satisfying. I think when I've struggled and fought to know what I believe, it will be more meaningful to me.
Anyway. I'm struggling. And wanting to not struggle. But I know I need to struggle more.
It's like my weight. I lost weight. And I want to be at my ideal weight. But I'm tired of trying. And I know I need to lose more.
Nothing worth having comes easily.
It's going to be a while, I know.