The last few years my faith has taken a hit. Or rather, my faith was found failing. Either way, I’m not sure right now what faith means.
I keep remembering the verse from Hebrews 10, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” That verse, over all the others, seems to be the one that often hits me over the head like a God-sent guilt trip. Because of all that I was taught (i.e. brainwashed) during my time in the church system, I still feel at times like walking away equals my faith failing. It stands with a tiny thread attached, but it is attached nonetheless. However, this verse is one that keeps me questioning more than all the others.
Faith Issues & Church Attendance
It’s a strange verse to find yourself doubting God with. My hair stylist is Buddhist and she brings up complaints against Christianity like Abraham going to kill Isaac or the Israelites slaughtering children. Maybe the explanation of sin seems like a good enough explanation to me. Honestly, it all kind of bothers me, but I’m not sure I dwell on those details as much as the ones that seem applicable to faith. Is God going to ask me to sacrifice my child? Most likely not. Is He going to ask me to murder the offspring of evil ones? I doubt it. But the issue of meeting, or gathering as a church, seems like a big deal.
I received a comment recently after posting about happiness. The comment made some good points about faith and God and at one point, I truly would have agreed wholeheartedly with what he said. It’s not that I disagree. I just don’t know what I think anymore.
Christ vs. Christians
the secret of true happiness, apart from a loyal dog, carrot juice, and clean underwear, is being 100% committed to serving and knowing Jesus — being submitted (something that hopefully any good wife should understand), and seeking to hear his voice and follow the path that providence delivers.. (not to mention.. her husband). Oy.
Submitting to Christ. That’s where it’s at. Yet it’s not where I’m at. It’s not that I reject Christ. Maybe it’s more that I reject everything I’ve ever heard from Christians. And although I want to believe the Bible, I’m finding it hard these days to reconcile what a lot of Christians have shown me over the years with what Christ in the Bible has said. Specifically, gathering together with other Christians. I just feel like that’s too much to ask of me lately.
Toxic Behaviors in Christianity
First of all, it seems that Christians reject the idea of science-based anything. Mental health, autism, and abuse are often labelled “spiritual problems”. Anything that smells of self-help is belittled or looked down on because of that wretched “medical community”. But I’ve found a lot of help from the medical community. Dealing with autism and mental health issues in my own children, I’ve had to trust the medical professionals. I don’t always agree 100% with everything they do and say, but overall, they’ve been helpful and have driven me to make good decisions regarding my children and their needs.
I get tired of the judgments from Christians. Not only do they prevent people from getting real help, they made it hard for me to accept hard problems as anything but spiritual ones. This led to a lot of shame as a parent. These days, I sometimes wish that I had received help much sooner. I wish I could go back in time and tell those Pastors who told me to “keep it in the church” to STFU.
Elitism & Favoritism
Secondly, Christians seem to live on an island, surrounded by their own chosen islanders which they refer to as “the church”. But it’s not really “the church”. The church consists of anyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus and abandons their old ways to follow him. But Christians seem to want to categorize everyone. Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Evangelicals…there’s a church building for any belief system out there and they separate themselves by those beliefs. They also seem to have levels for these belief systems. Baptists and Calvinists might think they have the upper hand in the God department over Catholics and Lutherans. Catholics and Lutherans may hold to their traditions from ages past and think they are superior. But these groups don’t intermingle. Instead, they go off in their corners and avoid each other. That bugs me.
My theory on God (which could be entirely wrong–I never claimed to know what I’m talking about) is that whoever God brings across my path is someone that is worth talking to and interacting with. Talking to an atheist isn’t going to cause me to go to hell or become evil by association. I heard someone say that God is in everyone. I’m not sure I believe that. But I do believe that God uses everyone, even people who hate him. If God knows all things and “establishes man’s steps” then certainly, no encounter is random.
A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
The more I distance myself from church people–the one’s who claim I’m going to hell if I don’t attend, or shame me for not going–the more I conclude that church is organic & what God wants us “to do” is really quite simple. We can’t force it. We can’t manipulate plans and schedules and meetings and call that church. A church is not a place, but a people. So wherever I am, there is the church.
Neglecting the Simple Faith
Maybe neglecting to meet together is far more dangerous when we opt to only fellowship with only one group of people. Maybe the truth is that we become discouraged when we are forced to only converse, hang out with, and call one small group of people (that happen to go to the same building as we do) “the church”. When we limit God to just one place, one time every week, doing only organized “church ministry”, I believe that is when we feel discouraged and disheartened. This is neglect of those God puts on our path naturally.
I know some people so involved in their church that when we asked to get together with them, they invited us to church. When we said we couldn’t go, they couldn’t hang out. How is that being Christ-like? “I’ll only associate with you if you attend my church functions.” That’s just bizarre. I want to understand them, but I just feel hurt by these things. This makes it a difficult thing to want to even associate with most of them.
So my faith seems like it has taken a nose-dive. I have more questions than actual answers. I find it hard to talk about God to other people because sometimes I don’t know what I believe anymore. I am tired of the manipulation, elitism, and shaming that Christians seem to display to hurting people. I’ve learned too much about boundaries, healthy relationships, and healing to ignore it when I see it’s opposite, which often times is ingrained in church people. They live in dysfunction and never question any of it and that’s why I struggle so much with believing in Jesus. If Jesus is for the downtrodden, the broken, and the hurting, why is the emphasis in most churches to be perfect, look good, and not associate with people who think differently? What are they so afraid of?
I don’t want to belong to a group of people who fear everyone and label them as evil and good. I want to be free to think, to learn, to grow, and to be apart of the world that God has made and live my life without toxic behaviors as the norm. I’m grappling with how that connects to the Jesus of the Bible when there seem to be a thousand misinterpretations of Scripture and Christians who rather use it as ammunition instead of as an olive branch to knowing the Author of Love.
Maybe in time, I’ll find my answers.