Warning: I am about to get transparent about my faith and the struggles I’ve been having lately. Totally stripped, totally vulnerable. If it’s not your thing, carry on. I’ll be back on Friday with a less intense post. But I had a breakthrough with my faith and I felt the need to share.
It’s easy to believe in the lie that we are the only ones going through whatever trial we are going through. We believe nobody else has ever felt this way, or thought that thought, or felt that whisper of anxiety rush through our body. We are the only ones. We are alone. There is nobody that will understand us and fear of judgmental words and snarky feedback keeps us from fully expressing how we feel.
For a long time, I believed in the lie that I was the only Christian who ever messed up. Who ever back slid. Who ever stopped going to church or reading her Bible or praying.
I just wasn’t good at this Christian thing! I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t cut out for traveling the narrow path and denying the self and taking up my cross and all other sorts of Christianese phrases.
I mentioned before that I haven’t been regularly attending church for well over a year now. It’s probably even been more than that. (And yes, I understand that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than parking your car in a garage makes you a car… or however the analogy goes.) I can’t remember the last time I had dedicated, consistent quiet time – time alone with my Bible, my journal, my prayers, and my God. I only send out prayers when I need something or I’m praying for a friend and they’re these quick chats that barely last a minute or two. And let’s not even get into all the messy part of not following Jesus… things of the sinful nature, of the flesh, of doing things I know are morally not what I want or believe in but I continue to do because the world is shouting at me that it’s cool, or okay, or marking something as sinful is stupid. YOLO, right?
So I started believing this lie that I’m the only Christian who has ever stumbled. I mean, there are Bible verses that state if you have truly given your heart to God and trust in Him, sin shouldn’t even be a part of your vocabulary. I think. I’m actually terrible at Bible verse recall. (I mean, if I’m going to be laying it all out there, I might as well admit that as a girl who grew up in church, I know startlingly little about the Bible.) (Obviously, I get the Big Parts, like Abraham and Noah and Moses and David and the disciples and all that jazz.)
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve had this belief that if you’re saved, you shouldn’t ever doubt. Or sin. Or even think about living for the world. You should be YAY JESUS all the time and nothing can ever come between you and Him. Even though I read blog posts of Christians being completely transparent about how tough the Christian life is, read books about it, listen to songs about it. It’s everywhere! Yet I’ve been struggling with this image of being the Perfect Christian and the Perfect Christian does not stumble or doubt, she never struggles with sin. Now that she’s following Jesus, she isn’t even tempted by what the world wants. It’s Jesus 24/7 for her!
It’s just not that easy. Life is messy and chaotic and wonderful and beautiful. It’s full of ups and downs and twisty turns and complete stops. It’s heartache and happyache, tragedy and celebration. Lately, my faith has felt incredibly brittle. It’s felt like this part of me that was once there and now isn’t and I’m not even sure what I want from it anymore. Definitely not the faith I’ve had for the majority of my life.
Maybe it’s the theory of not feeling good enough. Not understanding this love Christ gives to me and it’s so foreign to me, so ridiculous, that I do everything in my power to prove to Him that His grace is wasted on me. I need too much grace. There’s got to be a limit on this stuff, right? I have to be running low on grace. I come back to Him and it still feels way too good to be true so I start testing this grace stuff out, waiting for the moment when He decides I’m a lost cause and to try and save some other girl. A girl who is more worthy of His love, who tries harder and does better and is probably prettier and skinnier, too.
I don’t want to be the messed-up Christian. I don’t want to be the girl who can never seem to get it right, who doubts, who cusses like a sailor, who is more concerned about living in a way that will make the world happy than a way that will make her God happy.
Because the thing about God is that He sees our potential. He knows where we can go. He understands our imperfections and our faults and why we backslide. He is perfect love. He places no conditions on us, no limits. It’s just there. Full, beating, bursting. For us. When we’re ready. When we need our hundredth helping of grace. When we realize the only way to make it through another day is to grasp tightly to Him and trust He will carry us through.
And all He asks of us? Love. Love yourself, love your neighbor, love your enemies. Love your friends, love your family. Love the broken, the hurting, the helpless, the weak. Love the ones who we think don’t deserve it, love that person who wronged you, love that person you wronged.
It’s not about doing things perfectly. It’s not about perfect church attendance or sending out the perfect prayers five times a day. Just because I’m struggling doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian, or that I’m an impostor of my faith. It just means I am human. It means I’m normal.
And when I stop placing limits on my faith and what it means to be a Christian… when I take God out of the box I self-righteously put Him in, thinking there is no way He could really be who He says He is… magic happens. I realize what faith is all about. It’s not about works. It’s about love. It’s not about perfection, it’s about imperfect, messy, beautiful love for Jesus. Following Jesus was never meant to be easy. Read any book of the Bible and it’s easy to see that faith is hard and it’s complicated. There is no done, there is no finished, until we meet Him. Stumbling is all part of the journey. Stumbling is an incredible opportunity for growth.
I’m not a bad Christian. I’m not a good Christian. I am just someone who loves Jesus and wants to show that love. I want to learn more about God and I want to be better at attending church and reading my Bible and praying, but I also understand that’s just one part of this faith. There’s also a bigger part and that’s trusting God and loving His people. That’s the part we get tripped up on. We get so caught up in the legalities of religion and forget the whole relationship part. We forget that God is love. He isn’t harsh words, or judgments, or picket signs outside of abortion centers. He’s the one listening to that girl who is scared to death about the thought of having a baby alone, He’s the one holding her, He’s the one showing her she is so much more than she imagines. He’s not the one yelling at her that she’s a murderer. He’s the one giving her love and grace and compassion and kindness. That’s the image of God we need to have.
This faith… it’s not about works. Or perfection. As one of my favorite authors, Mike Yaconelli writes: faith “is complex, complicated, and perplexing – the disorderly, sloppy, chaotic look of authentic faith in the real world.” My faith is sloppy. It is chaotic and disorderly and complex and perplexing and complicated. It is ALL OF THE ABOVE. And yet. And yet God still wants this girl. God still has major plans for this girl. And I want to be holding His hand throughout my journey, trusting His voice to guide me.
I’ll probably always stumble and struggle and sin and falter. It’s human nature. It’s what we do. Nobody is perfect. But just as God is intent on giving me helping after helping of grace, I’m going to extend it to myself. Grace. To be imperfect. To be messy. And to know this journey will be bumpy, but so well worth the ride.