Last week I was writing a post about the withering away of my bitterness towards institutional religion. I never got around to publishing that piece as some other things came up. After some beautiful conversations with God this weekend, I was rereading that draft and could see, after only a few days, how much my viewpoint was changing.
Admittedly, I’ve had my objections to the institutions, and still do, but many were from a place of severe disillusionment. God didn’t really try to force me out of this state, but gently guided me and eroded away all of my disappointment and heartache. Now, I’m beginning to be able to love the religious people again but in a better, more real way.
Before, I loved those who were raised to acknowledged the same views as me while distancing myself from, if not vilifying, those who were different. As I studied the Bible and talked with God more and more, I started seeing discrepancies with that approach. One day, after asking a series of questions, the carpet was ripped from under me as I saw just what I was supporting.
My heart was broken to say the least, but I felt Jesus’ presence strongly comforting me. It was like he was physically there wrapping his arms around me. I began to interact with those I was led to believe I should avoid. To my amazement, they were surprisingly human. The dehumanization techniques I had been blinded by were blown away when I actually entered into their individual lives to try to understand them more, while laying aside any of the presumptions I’d had before.
After that, I became quite bitter with religiosity. Now, I’m beginning to be able to love more openly. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of an institution again, but I feel like I’m able to find common ground for loving discussion with others even if we don’t see eye to eye. I don’t feel a need to force my viewpoint, but rather just openly and honestly listen and respond as the Holy Spirit guides me.
This journey is wildly unpredictable, but I’m loving the new things God is showing me everyday. Regardless of how obstinate I’ve been, he has led me to a better understanding and a deeper relationship. Jesus has turned the negative experiences and attitudes I’ve had into beautiful opportunities to love others. Maybe that’s a part of the plan—to redeem all of creation through even our most despondent conditions.