I spent a long time angry at God because I was angry with other Christians. I couldn’t understand how, if they spoke to God as they seemed to, and heard from God as they claimed to, they couldn’t understand God’s heart for other people. How could God let Christians get away with the kind of cruelty they espoused towards others? Towards me, my friends, strangers whose stories I’d heard? Christianity seemed, to me, to be a big farce. A way of slapping an “I’m okay” sticker on people’s most virulent behaviors. It was okay to gossip in the name of God, judge in the name of God, castigate in the name of God. It was okay to torment people as long as you were doing it to save them!
There had been a time that I had embraced the Evangelical lifestyle. Handing out “Jesus Pamphlets” at the park, demanding that my friends recognize and leave their sins, burning all my non-Christian music and trying to read the right things. The thing was, it made me miserable. I had gone from a suicidal depression into a grudging last-resort relationship from God. And that depression had deeply colored the way I viewed God. I had seen God as wanting my life, but wanting it because he was the possessive Jealous God of the Old Testament. I didn’t truly understand God’s love for me. And the Christian lifestyle I’d adopted seemed to reinforce the idea that God didn’t particularly care for me. Living without all of the things I loved- my fantasy novels, my music, my pride, my inert sense of what was and wasn’t appropriate behavior at the park… These things all were impossible for me to deal with.
I took to forcing myself to live with Christianity with the same kind of zeal I attacked everything in my life. I viewed my distaste for the lifestyle I was living as a challenge, a test of faith. Sarcastically saying “Jesus is my boyfriend” as a way to justify my inability to have a relationship with the opposite sex was supposed to fulfil me. I didn’t confront the fact that I ran away from relationships because I was terrified- I justified it with my faith. Burning all of my old music and devoting myself to only pursuing what was “good and holy” was supposed to reinforce my devotion to God. So burn the fact that it was leaving me bored, that all I had to listen to was what I saw as falsely cheerful tripe. It was supposed to fulfill me, so it would. I would “fake it till I made it” if it killed me.
And by the time I hit my late teens, it was certainly killing me. I was back to listening to the music I liked. So DMX and Staind and Nirvana weren’t on the approved list? Oh well. I was back to wearing the clothes I liked. So tight tops and black lace skirts and leather knee high boots and pink hair weren’t a good Christian look? (Not to mention the huge tattoo on my lower back…) Oh well. So being depressed and angry at God and thinking “Jesus will never fill this emotional hole in my gut” wasn’t the right attitude towards God? Screw it. So refusing to Evangelize and telling the people I was hanging out with that I didn’t care how they felt about Jesus, that was their business, is shirking my Christian duty? By the time I started wrestling with that one, my attitude was to reply, “F*** IT. I want to be able to be friends with my friends, get out of my faith. I don’t want to talk about it!”
And for several years, I confused the above with having a crisis of Faith. But, in the end, it wasn’t really a crisis of faith I was having. It was a crisis of Christianity. There is a famous Buddha quote that reads: “Believe nothing merely because you have been told it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings — that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.” That quote affected me profoundly. So many of the tenats of faith I’d been raised with simply went contrary to my internal compass. And who gave me that compass? Who gave me my conscience? Would God have created me to react so adversely to Christianity if he wanted me to be a Christian? What in the world was going on here?
Then I realized something else. The Bible has this to say: (Romans 2:14-15)- Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This verse has been used, for some time, to demonstrate that God guides man’s law by guiding his heart. That written inside of each one of us is a code that can guide us to God’s heart for our lives. And I, by trying to be what other people percieved as a Good Christian, was denying that code. I was denying who God made me to be by trying to be who other people wanted me to be.
What I needed to do was seek after God’s heart for me, to leave behind the trappings of the Lindsey of Old and just try to be the best disciple I could. But not a disciple of the church- a disciple of God himself, of Jesus.
(to be continued…)