you can hear something so many times that it becomes truth to you. it becomes a standard by which you live your life. it becomes doctrine.
i developed a doctrine of faith from those who taught me, those who i watched and mimicked, and those whose example i was “supposed” to follow. after years of hearing teachings, watching behaviors, and following examples set for me, i have realized (with the help of a few close friends) it is time to start over.
i have to start over to realize a God that isn’t ashamed of me. i have to start over to realize a God that doesn’t want to damn me to hell at the first sign of sin in my life. i have to start over to realize a God that loves unconditionally and wants to know me in the same way that husbands know their wives. i have to start over to realize a Holy Spirit that exists in something besides the evidence of speaking in tongues (and no i’m not getting into that - that’s a whole other post). He desires a closeness and an intimacy with me beyond my wildest imagination.
i understand that my past has shaped me into who i am today. however, i wonder about some of the things that were put into my head. i wonder about some teaching i received and the forcefulness with which it was taught. you see, there is beauty in approaching a relationship with God as though we are children. Jesus even goes so far as to say that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14). how heavy the responsibility of the shepherd of those children. children are vulnerable. they have no preconceived notions of what things are “supposed” to be like. they have no predetermined agenda. they simply take the information you give them and digest it at face value. they are easily molded.
my childhood was shaped with what i believe to be good intentions from those in authoritative roles in my life. however, somewhere along the way, it became less about a relationship with God and more about the selfish nature of man. “what does this person have that we can use?” “what talents, gifts, or abilities can we siphon from this one?” “in order to serve in this area of the church, you need to be willing to complete the items on this checklist in a manner approved by this person.”
what i learned growing up is that denominations matter. we aren’t one body of Christ. what we are is a collection of fish tanks and, by God, our fish tank is the biggest, cleanest, and most decorative in the city. in fact, our fish tank is the only fish tank that Jesus loves. other things i have picked up are: in order to have a relationship with Jesus, you have to be in one of those tanks, you can’t be blessed if you aren’t within the friendly confines of the building, and above all else, we are going to take up the offering because well....it’s that important.
can we possibly get more Pharisaical than that?
why do we spend our time competing with one another? why do we focus on white washing our tombs and ignoring the bones inside? let’s be honest and look at the houses within a 10 mile radius of our churches. do you even know the people living within 10 miles of your church? i’m guilty of it too, so no, i’m not throwing rocks at your glass houses (at least not without throwing them at my own). if our building is clean enough, and we put on a big enough production, people will flock to our fish tank and beg to become members of our club that we call a church. i hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that simply isn’t going to happen. no one is going to decide to follow Christ because the choir moved them with a rendition of Oh Happy Day only rivaled by Whoopi and the other sisters.
there is a fundamental problem. in my case, for my childhood and even until now, there was a slow evolution of a man made doctrine. things were said and done in plain sight (and some behind closed doors) that would make you scratch your head and wonder what kind of person would think or say those type things. you can hear something so many times that it becomes truth to you. it becomes a standard by which you live your life. it becomes doctrine.
but all is not lost. i am entering what i am calling a Personal Awakening in which i am realizing there is more to following Christ than being the whipping boy. my perspective of God must change. my outlook on life must change. i don’t need to be on the defensive at all times. i don’t need to be ashamed at all times. and i certainly don’t need man to give me his approval in order that i might feel significant among his “flock”.
i am learning about a different God now; a God that pursues me. i am learning that i am pursued by a God that is holy. He didn’t create holy and He didn’t decide one day to be holy....He just is holy. He just is. i am learning that God wants what is best for us. God wants good things for our lives. i am learning that bad things sometimes happen to good people but in the midst of heartache and pain, there is good growing and many times our eyes cannot see what that is. but the beauty of who we are in Christ is that we don’t have to understand. that isn’t our job. we can find rest in the fact that we simply have to follow. does that mean the road is easy? i can tell you first hand, emphatically, NO! it is not easy. but neither is suffocating because your feet are in too much pain to lift up on the spike driven through them to elevate your body to gather enough air to sustain life for just a second longer.
i am starting over. i am becoming a different person. i am finding my identity in Christ.
should you find yourself in the extraordinary position of being responsible for the caring of souls while they exist on earth, think very seriously of your responsibility. it is a heavy burden to bear and people follow you because they trust you. let not their trust be misplaced. study God’s word. study the life of Jesus and learn; because the moment that you cease to learn, you cease to lead.
disclaimer: (it is important to understand that i am not laying blame at the feet of my parents - in fact, over the years, i have had several intense and fruitful discussions with them regarding my relationship with God).