Why do people always put themselves in boxes? I believe this and that so I belong in that group… Funny thing is, even if you don’t put yourself in a box there’s always someone ready and willing to do it for you. It is clear to me as I look back over my life that I’ve always wanted to have some sort of defining lines to govern my thoughts and actions. The problem is that eventually I would have to step out of the box.
I’ve been reading Militant Ginger’s blog here and there for around two months now. He is a regular poster so I haven’t read everything, but I find him rather interesting. He is not a U.S. citizen but is married to one. They are about to have their first child in the next week or so. He has a lot of opinions and shares them freely. He is very interested in our political system, current events and has a great grasp on our history. I always leave his blog mentally chewing on something. I started to respond to his last post in his comment section and then decided to respond to it here on my blog instead.
I am about to get up close and personal so if you are not into reading about someone’s real thoughts then you might want to click over to another blog. I’m also going to step out of the box.
Militant Ginger was raised Catholic but no longer believes. His wife, however, does. When he writes about Christians and/or religion in general he is very passionate in his disdain.
I was not raised Christian. My parents weren’t anti-Christian or anti-religion and they allowed me to go to church if I wanted to. It just wasn’t talked about. The first time I asked Jesus into my heart I was 8 years old and had been going to a Southern Baptist church in El Paso, TX. They had a little bus they sent through the neighborhood to pick up kids. I don’t remember my Sunday school teacher’s name, or even what she looked like. I do remember she made me feel special. I wasn’t interested in the Children’s Church so I would go sit with her in the adult service. I decided I wanted Jesus in my life and went forward at the end of the service and with the Pastor, accepted Him into my heart in front of the congregation. A week or so later, I was baptized.
Just before I turned 9, we moved to Seattle. I became instant friends with a girl in the neighborhood whose family was very involved in their Presbyterian church. Over the next 3 ½ years I often went to church with them.
In the middle of 7th grade we moved to San Diego. From that time until after I graduated from High School I was only able to go to church here and there. Just after I turned 19 I started going to church with my aunt’s family. I did not feel like I was a Christian anymore because I hadn’t been going to church regularly all those years. A couple of months later, we moved back up to Seattle and I met my husband at a new church. Just prior to meeting him I had gone through a dramatic experience with sect of the Pentacostal church that was really more like a cult. I decided to get baptized a second time. It was a painful time and it bred fear in my mind and raised a lot of questions. Rather than try to find the answers I focused on my new boyfriend. Within months we both stopped going to church and did not return until I was pregnant with our first child.
After a couple of years I started asking questions. I was told by someone on the church staff that I thought too much. And I wasn’t getting any answers. I didn’t understand why what I was reading in my bible was not always lining up with what was being said. There was also this expectation that you already knew certain things from being in church your whole life. I found it frustrating.
Eventually we found a church that made sense to me and where things lined up. However, there were still things that bothered me. Things that if you talked about them, people would question your salvation over. Like what exactly is a personal relationship with Jesus? What does that really look like? Does He actually sit and talk with you? And how exactly does the Trinity work?
You know what? I still don’t have those answers. I even decided to not believe anymore. I wrote about it here. But I do believe. I don’t know why, I just do. There are some that will have a problem with me sharing this. They may even question whether I am truly a Christian. It doesn’t matter. I know. I think one of the problems with churches today is that once you’ve been a Christian for a certain amount of time there is a stigma involved in sharing doubt. I really feel for the Pastors that fall from grace. I often wonder if they could be honest about their own struggles, doubts, questions and fears that those things wouldn’t grow in the dark and overtake them completely. But Pastors are supposed to have all the answers and they aren’t supposed to have any struggles, right?
One of the things that really bothers me is when thousands of people die in a tsunami, floods, or earthquakes. There are those that will stand up and say it was some judgment against them from God. It is like they all become one big thing and they cease to exist as individuals. I believe life is precious. Something inside of me yearns to make a mark. I want people to know I existed. I want to do good things and help people… love people. When I read history books I feel panicked because so many millions of people before are nothing but numbers in a book. They lived, they loved, they had meaning... didn’t they?
Our son turns 16 in a matter of days. He is our youngest child and the only one that will be left at home come August. Our parenting days are coming to a close. We are only 41 and 42 years old. Both of us have grandmothers well into their nineties. What are we going to do with the second half of our lives? Is it wrong as a Christian to want to leave something behind that says you existed? Is it wrong to have a hard time when great groups of people just die? Does God really care about the minute details of our life? If you admit to struggling with those things… is there some sort of judgment for it?
Does God really exist? Everything around me screams of a creator… whether it be God or people. I cannot accept that it is all just some cosmic event with no intelligent thought behind it. Do I believe in a literal 6 day creation? The time frame in which the earth and the universe were created does not matter to me. God is God. It says in Genesis that those things were created in days. There is great debate over whether that is literal or figurative. There are those that believe that if you don’t believe in a literal 6 day creation then you don’t believe in the inerrancy of God’s Word. But what if you don’t really understand that? Can you admit that? Can you step out of that box and not step into another box?
What do I believe? I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I believe in the sinful nature of man. Yes, I believe we are born that way. I’ve had three children and they do not come out as moldable lumps of clay with which you can create what you like. Did I sit my babies down and tell them they are rotten little sinful beasts in need of a Savior? No. I taught my babies that they were wonderful gifts from God, that He loves them and that he made a way for them to be reconciled to Him through Jesus. I believe we are saved by grace through faith and that there is nothing we can do to earn it. I believe many Christians have totally messed it up by painting themselves and others into a box. The term Christian covers a wide array of Christians with wildly different views.
What do I believe about homosexuals? I believe it is wrong and goes against nature because they are not able to reproduce. Do I believe God hates them? Absolutely and unequivocally not! Do I hate them? NO. Do I believe it is a sin? Yes. Just like I believe overeating is a sin. I overeat all of the time. I try not to all of the time. Did I choose to struggle with eating all of the time? No. Do homosexuals choose to be homosexual? I don’t know. I don’t have that struggle. But… I don’t know why anyone would. I believe whatever struggles people have is between them and God.
I’ve tried to be a perfect Christian. I really have. I’ve gone through years and years of inner turmoil and pain because I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be what I thought I was supposed to be. I’ve gone through years where I felt alone and cut off from God and searched my life continually for all the reasons it was my fault and I was unworthy.
We are saved by grace through faith. What does that mean? Jesus said it was finished when he was on the cross. None of us were around then. How could someone pay the price for us before we were even born? And what’s the deal with blood? Why the sacrifices in the Old Testament? Why does there have to be blood shed in order to reconcile us to God, the Father and Creator? If God is God then why can’t he just forgive us and save us without all of that? I get that He gave us free will. I just don’t understand why all the other stuff? And where did God come from?
It makes me wonder how time really works. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that God’s time is not our time. If Jesus paid the price two thousand years before we were even born and it was finished then… wouldn’t that mean that when we accept that forgiveness that all of our sins are forgiven then and that means before and after the conversion moment? I don’t know anyone that has been perfect and sinless after they became a Christian.
Can I say I have all of these questions and still be a Christian? Yes, I believe so. Is life fair? Heck NO. I really did not like the story of the prodigal son for many years. I totally identified with the brother that stayed behind. I feel differently about it now. I often wonder if it’s a picture of when we get to Heaven and how the church going, law abiding Christians might feel about all the other people there.
The truth is I am a mess. I believe because I believe. I have questions and I don’t have answers. I don’t believe I am always right. It is what it is. A big mess.
And just to be clear... I do not believe that we are actually God ourselves in case anyone thinks I'm headed Oprah's way.
I hope that this will help Roland of Militant Ginger understand me, a conservative Christian, just a little bit better. I can only speak for myself, but maybe there are other Christians like me. But, please, don’t put us in a box.
**Note: Due to some of the responses I've gotten privately I wanted to come back to this post to clarify something. I am not in a crisis. Even when our oldest daughter left in January and turned our world upside down, I was not in a crisis of faith. I had a lot of questions. I didn't understand. But, I am beyond questioning God's existence. I've accepted that I have questions without answers. The above was my being honest with Roland of Militant Ginger about my faith. I wanted to reach him on a personal level to show him that Christians do not just blindly follow and not think. At least, I don't. And I don't think I am alone in that. To be honest, it was not easy to hang it all out like that. But, I did because I didn't think it would be authentic unless it was the truth... even the parts that might make me seem juvenile or too simplistic... or even stupid. I believe Jesus Christ was the messiah foretold in the Old Testament. I believe we are saved by grace through faith and that it was finished on the cross. It is not about what we do, it is about what was DONE. It isn't about rules and striving to live a sinless life. It is about acceptance and love. It is about freedom. I don't have to understand all of it. My heart aches for anyone trapped in the lie that once they are saved they must live a sinless life. Even those that might say that they know that, in their hearts they still struggle and feel unworthy because they don't think they measure up. It's already done! That is the simplicity of the gospel and the good news. We are free from the law of sin and death.