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It’s been a little while, so I’ll give the quick version of the update and then dive in.
I left my church back in March of this year. It was a rocky ending. Things just started falling apart, I didn’t feel invested and I didn’t feel supported. By the end I didn’t even want to show up.
So I decided I needed a break from church in general. I hated hypocrisy, back stabbing, fakeness, pressure to be someone I’m not and all of that jazz. So I decided to no go anywhere for a while. I got involved in a small group that formed out of a University Site that the Vineyard puts on, and that has sort of acted as my church family since March. It’s a bunch of young professionals and it’s a place where I can air all my dirty laundry and feel supported and encouraged to just keep digging, keep exploring.
So I’m in this exploration phase now I guess. My bad experience in the church has helped me realize that I faked it. Yeah, I said it. I’m a big fake. I tried to live up to expectations of who I was supposed to be…this big leader in the church with great potential. I found my identity in how other leaders in the church viewed me. If I got to rub elbows with the big wigs and brag about it later I felt like I was in the club so to speak. I wanted to be liked, respected, followed…because it made me feel self-worth. But the pressure got to be too much. I couldn’t live a double life forever. My heart didn’t experience the same things my mouth said I did. My experience of God was next to non-existent, yet I was trying to lead people to a deeper understanding of him. So I finally cracked. I finally gave in. I quit trying.
I will put this out there – I’m pretty sure God exists. And I’m pretty sure the whole “being in a relationship” with him is probably true too. I see it in other people, so why would I doubt that? Only problem is – I don’t experience it. It’s hard to keep pretending I have this experience with God when I don’t.
So, I stopped trying to work for it. The problem comes here: I would read a book by Francis Chan or whoever and they would talk about this really deep, really moving experience that drives them to be all out for God. It’s not like they talk about getting the shakes or being slain in the Spirit everyday or whatever, but somehow, some way, they have this deeper relationship that they actually can feel. They can reference it. They can tune in to God and what he wants. So naturally I felt like I wanted that. I had a hunger to have this experiential relationship, not just the head knowledge I was carrying around with me. So I would follow the steps I had learned my whole life…read your bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow. Only problem was, I wasn’t growing at all. Once I finally had no more “church responsibility” to keep me going – I finally just gave up. And I am resolved to be done trying.
Because my whole life I’ve believed in a works based righteousness. That if I’m going to be close to God, I have to have my shit together and that I have to be reading, praying, fasting, meditating, evangelizing, fellowshipping, leading, worshipping…and that all of these things are going to help me be closer to God.
I once tried to witness to a kid a couple of years ago, and I started stumbling over the fact that he told me he believed in Jesus. Naturally, as a good Christian, I told him that you weren’t really a Christian if you just believed in Jesus. You had to prove it. Do some stuff. Like, prove to God that you really do believe it. Because, ya know, belief in Jesus is supposed to make you different.
Belief in Jesus hasn’t made me any different. So it’s really hard to tell someone about the life transforming power of believing in Jesus if you can’t even give them any first hand experiences of how you’ve changed.
But ya know, in my conversations with others recently I’ve come to the realization that it doesnt matter how much shit I do, God isn’t going to be coaxed into showing up. So I’m not going to keep trying. Last time I checked, Jesus showed up to people who weren’t looking for him at all. Paul was trying to kill Christians. Peter, James, Andrew, and John were just trying to make a living fishing with their families. So maybe my answer is to stop being a Pharisee – studying the law and trying to tell other people how to experience God – and maybe I just need to do my own thing. If God is going to show up – I’ll be waiting. But I’m unwilling to go back to what I used to have. If this surface level hogwash is all that “being in a relationship with God” is, then I don’t really want it. It’s a load of guilt and pressure and no peace – and frankly I’d rather not pursue that anymore.
So in the meantime, I guess I’m just sitting here waiting. I refuse at this juncture to earn my way back into God’s favor. Reading my Bible, fasting, leading…all of that is just my efforts to get back in God’s good favor. It’s just putting another quarter into the God-Jukebox and expecting something to play for me.
You know the funny thing is…I feel like I’ve tried to ask God to show up too. I go to this small group every week, and I’ve prayed and been prayed for, that God would show up. That he would reveal himself. That I would feel him, even in some small way. I even went to this conference where the speaker was praying that the Holy Spirit would reveal himself to everyone, even in some small way, and I was ready – arms open to receive whatever God was going to do…
and he still hasn’t showed up. Don’t know why. Don’t know what else I’m supposed to do at this point. This cosmic game of hide-and-seek isn’t really that fun.