Certain favorite bloggers of mine have taken up the assignment of blogging 31 days in a row (#write31days), and in an attempt to re-galvanize my own writing, I decided to join in the fun. The idea behind this particular blog-a-thon is to be as real and vulnerable as possible, which is (almost) always a healthy exercise. I've tried blogging marathons in the past (to varying degrees of success), and my seminary schedule does not allow for much flexibility. so the process may be fitful or short-lived, but it couldn't hurt to try!
Day 19: I Picked Jesus Part 1
I did not grow up in the church, but came into the Christian fold by way of a Young Life camp at about thirteen. This meant that, for a short time anyway, I enjoyed a faith untethered to anything besides the love and goodness of God, a salve for my badly bruised adolescent soul. Shortly after my conversion, however, I noticed a disorienting phenomenon cropping with increasing frequency: other well-meaning Christians began attempting to saddle me with political and social baggage which had nothing to do with my faith in Christ. As a good Christian I was apparently supposed to support war efforts in Iraq, deny climate change, be uncomfortable around LGBTQ people and fit neatly into certain gender roles. No matter how much these habits and attitudes chafed against my lived experience, they were price of admission into the Christian country club. And I wanted in, so badly.
I don’t regret coming to be part of the church either, not most days. The commitment I made to Christ that summer ten years ago saved my life, and not in some vague, nebulous sense, but really and truly. God stepped into my story at the most-needed moment, in such a way that I hardly doubt His goodness now, even while I struggle with the ins and outs of church culture and politics. So I stay, even as I struggle. I stick it out, even while all I have to offer God and my faith community is a tangled mess of doubts and frustrations.
To get a sense of what God saved me from (to use some church language), you’d just have to know my early years were marked by some severe abuse, dysfunction and instability, all which produced in me a profound depression that lasted for much of my childhood. I am so grateful, then, for the men and women who reached out to me during those dark years and demonstrated for me a warmer, more beautiful and holistic way of living. And they were, by and large, church people. They embraced me, accepted me, affirmed everything about me, and it saved my life.
Imagine my utter disillusionment and incredulity, then, when I noticed the same people, the ones I knew to be capable of so much love, failing to extend the same to certain other people and groups, all for reasons which seemed so shallow and arbitrary to me. How could my friends and faith community speak welcome and inclusion with one breath and dismissive, ignorant bigotry with the next? How could they love me despite my faults yet condemn my neighbors and classmates for their “sins”? And how, in God’s name, did I make the cut? If they knew the real me, if they could see my deeper sins and shames, they would surely reject me too, right?