My walk with God has not been at all what I was led to expect. I’ve always only known living a Christian life as following all the rules as they’ve been presented. This never fulfilled me though. The harder I tried to be “good” the worse I felt. It was never really working anyways, my faults were only pushed deeper inside.
Yes, I prayed. Yes, I read the Bible. Yes, I attended every meeting. I checked all the Christian boxes. I took active roles in the congregation. I did it all and I still ended up dead inside despite my longing to be closer to God in a real, unhindered relationship of love.
At a point in my convictions, at a point where I tried everything, at a point where I couldn’t attend one more service without experiencing that promised relationship with God, at a point I couldn’t try any harder, at a point I couldn’t give any more—that is when I just openly, un-piously, cried out to Jesus to make sense of all the right things I was doing that still left me barren inside.
And he answered.
The journey over the past couple of years has been absolutely amazing. It’s been like learning to fly when the ground has been ripped from beneath me. Yet, out of habit, I’m still trying to feel for the ground.
I’m no longer tethered by shackles. Those images I always envisioned of the chains falling away finally came to be, but not because I did what I was told by others to obtain that freedom. In fact, a real relationship with Jesus is almost contradictory to most of what I was told. Jesus will come to us right where we’re at, but it often involves hitting rock bottom in our ways before we truly let go and let him work in us.
But don’t you think Satan is tricking you? Of coarse I’ve considered this. This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. Most with my personality don’t speak their point of view without very careful consideration. “Satan” has no means to embrace with love the way Jesus has. I can understand why people are so concerned when they are still tied down by institutional obligations and their livelihood depends on that. I can understand those who would rather stick with the familiar and have been made afraid that their salvation will no longer be affirmed if they make the slightest deviation. None of that is really living though, not like Jesus taught.
For me, the love of Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has driven out all fear of such punishment, because there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18).
Regardless of the persecution I may receive—especially from the religious—I will continue to follow God. I will continue to sympathize with those he has led me to, even though they’ve been cast off and labeled by everyone else. Everyday, God is revealing new things to me, some of which bring me to tears (and I’m not a very emotional person). I see people who’ve been hurt, abused, and lied to. All their hope in a loving God has been torn away because they’ve been led to believe lies about our loving Father. They’ve been presented with a god that more resembles Satan. A god that would require fear, hatred, manipulation, bigotry, racism, violence, murder, and, oh yeah, the almighty dollar.
Jesus represents the Father yet didn’t represent any of this stuff, regardless of how it’s candy-coated (John 14:7).
I’ve come to be more comfortable with the “tax collectors and prostitutes” than with the religious elite. I’m beginning to understand, in some small part, why Jesus related more to those isolated by religiosity than those propping up a system that was in their best worldly interests to propagate. I still love those people, but to be brutally honest, it’s hard to even have a conversation anymore with all of the religious posturing and presumptions.
This isn’t at all what I expected. I thought climbing the ladder of religion would get me close to God. Instead, I find his presence more with those who have been isolated, ignored, condemned, or otherwise despised as moral abominations to avoid lest salvation be lost. Praising God that I’m not like “them” never drew me any deeper into a relationship with Father (because in actuality, I am like them)(Luke 18:11-12).
I don’t write these things out of anger or to shame anyone. I write them because they are often glossed over and coated with religious pleasantries. These things seem to hurt God’s heart, yet are held to as a religious standard of exclusivity. I write, because of the great sadness I see in others and the burden on my heart. I write for those who feel trapped, burdened, and who are just playing along so they aren’t condemned.
I write these things because I would rather die following Jesus than to be comfortably miserable in a loveless religion.