Thursday, September 4, 2014

I'm not always angry, I promise

I've grown up in a very conservative Baptist background. Every church I've been in, Southern Baptist. Even though North Greenville doesn't claim it directly in the name, it should be called North Greenville Southern Baptist University. I had a lot of love poured out on me from my different church families to the professors at North Greenville, and that's what counts. But despite the good stuff, there's been a lot of mental and emotional barriers I've had to break through.

Barrier 1. There's always been an undercurrent beneath the messages in church or Sunday school that tells me if I don't go to church every Sunday and Wednesday night, tithe 10% every week, pray regularly in a really specific way, or read my bible every morning before I do anything, that I'm not a good Christian.

The idea of trying to be a good Christian will cripple anyone spiritually. I was wearing myself out because I was trying to live by a "one size fits all" formula. Is it important to pray, yes. Should you read your Bible, yes. Should you go to church, sure. But you shouldn't do these things because you feel like you have to do them. Or worse, if you're like me, you do them because if you don't, you feel like you're disappointing God.

The Bible exists, I believe, for wisdom, history, art, worship, and encouragement. I know it's crazy and radical, but I don't think you have to live your life 110% by the Bible to be what Southern Baptists call "saved." Jesus' love is free, okay. You don't have to pray a certain prayer or live a certain formulaic lifestyle in order to claim the life he's already paid for. Once you recognize what he's done for you, everything from here on out is a response to that realization. Trust me, once you get what Jesus did and who he is, you aren't going to want to live the same way.

Barrier 2. Particularly during my teenage years, even if the message in youth group was on Esther, the benediction would some how have "don't drink alcohol, don't have sex, don't do drugs" in it every. single. time.

I didn't struggle with those things in high school and I still don't today. But they were beaten into my head so much that I got hung up on all the things I shouldn't do, i.e. sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, and breaking the ten commandments; therefore, my spiritual growth was totally stunted. I wasn't doing things to help people, I wasn't worshiping, and I most certainly wasn't enjoying Jesus. I was beating the living hell (pun not intended) out of myself because I was never good enough. Whoops, I told a lie before I even realized I was telling it - I'm the worst, I'm a failure, Jesus is disappointed in me. I had no idea how to have an actual relationship with Jesus so I certainly wasn't giving or receiving any love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, pineapple, pomegranate, etc. 

Barrier 3. I believed the lie that God never wants you to have anything you want. God is called the Father for a reason, and luckily he's a perfect parent. All loving parents want to give their children everything they want because they love them. But as we all know, not everything is good for us.

A lot of Christians say that God always gives the best thing for you, but I don't totally agree with that either. There have been things in my life that God had made it clear to me I needed to let go of. And I fought him hard on it. I asked him to let me have what I wanted and so finally he did. You can probably guess what happend. But the awesome thing about God is, not only did he use those situations to make me a better me, he turned it around and gave me what I really wanted (and surprise! what I needed, all in one).

The place where I nerd out is where I can see every single step that God has orchestrated for me to be where I am. Fun fact, if my parents would have moved us where they had originally planned, my current boyfriend and I would have gone to the same high school and would probably now hate each other based on how ridiculous we were as teens. But no, he's here now, exactly how and when I needed his logic and encouragement and sweetness and beard during all of the hard transitions I've been through over this summer. I have the most fun with him and he brings me a lot of happiness. (S/O to my bae )

Which leads me to number four.

Barrier 4. All your happiness is in God or you shouldn't be happy. Haha, that's a good one. This issue was two-fold for me. I can't tell you enough that it's okay to be depressed. It's okay to be angry or frustrated; it's okay to be frustrated or angry with God. Emotions are not sin, they're godly and he gave them to you because he also has them; how you act on them is where sin happens. Just because you follow Christ does not mean you will or should be happy all the time. That's wildly unrealistic.

Another lie I believed is that God is a selfish bully and we're just little puppets that he plays with for fun. It's the parent thing, again. God loves us unconditionally so he's not going to dump horrible pain on us just because he can. If you're in what Southern Baptists like to call "a storm" you can probably figure it is one of five things:
  • God is giving you what you want and you're regretting your decision
  • Satan is putting you through the wringer because he wants you to curse God and abandon your faith
  • God is strengthening and growing you as a person in a way that you'll actually get it
  • It's a consequence of something stupid you did or someone stupid before you did coming full circle
  • Or it's just life. 
God gives us things that make us happy. It's called pizza. I am praising the Lord, hallelujah, every time I eat pizza. But seriously, just because I'm not reveling face down on the floor in the presence of the Spirit does not mean I'm not worshiping. To be honest, I feel the closest with God and the most thankful when I'm driving to work through the Blue Ridge Mountains listening to Trevor Hall's "Volume." 

Barrier 5.  This whole idea that "you have to be Jesus to someone." I am Alyson; I am not perfect. Jesus is Jesus; Jesus is perfect. Show people Jesus by the way that you love them, because he is a totally separate person that they need to know personally. If people are looking to us to be Jesus, they're going to be horribly misled and call us hypocrites since we aren't perfect and we will fail. But Jesus won't.

Again, I made myself miserable and exhausted trying to bee 100% self-sacrificial and wise and patient and content and prayerful ALL THE TIME.

Jesus doesn't ask us to be him. Do you know what he asks us to do?  "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 20:30-31)

Did you get that? None. Nothing. Nada. That is greater than loving God and your neighbor.  In that order. Period.
Now, how that love looks is up to you. He's given you specific desires and traits because they'll both glorify him, help others, and make you happy. You aren't a terrible, scummy, disgusting worm, you just act like one sometimes.

Jesus loves you, I love you, it is always about love people. Don't lose sight of it. 

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