Let’s face it. Religion is a touchy subject. Everyone has their own opinion and most of those opinions are extremely personal. When it comes to religion, people have very deep-rooted emotions. Now, if you let it, this post could be offensive to you, or you can be open-minded. My goal is not to change your religion. My goal is to open your mind to something far greater, yet so simple that it will change your world forever.
Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, non-denominational. These are all religious sects that I have been a part of at one time or another. Everyone’s faith and religious experience are going to be different, even if you’re the same denomination.
My religious beginnings
I was born into a Catholic family. I learned some prayers, I got on my knees to pray and that was about the extent of that. When I was elementary age we began attending a Methodist church. Still very formal and it had similarities to the Catholic church. Once I went to visit my Irish Catholic aunts out of state and my grandmother was adamant that I NOT mention that we no longer attended a Catholic church. While I was there, I was expected to kneel beside my bed and pray to a statue of mother Mary.
In middle school and high school, I attended a Baptist church. It was there that I was baptized. This church was much different. Less ritualistic but they had very strict rules. Baptists don’t drink like Catholics (at least not publicly anyway). One summer I stayed with a family that attended another Baptist church and I was instructed NOT to mention being on my high school dance team. Baptists don’t dance. (Remember Foot Loose?) At this particular Baptist church the men were not to have long hair (even though I have never seen a picture of Jesus with short hair) and all the women wore dresses, never pants.
I was a good kid. All was going well. I was a youth leader, I didn’t party or have sex. I was a “golden child.”
Until I wasn’t.
My religious ending.
When my grandmother died, I took it pretty hard, as most humans would, I expect. I began to party. I started dating a boy that I thought I would marry and I lost my virginity. I was no longer the “golden child.” One day, I received a letter from a close family friend condemning me in the name of the lord, for the choices I had made. I began to believe that church was for hypocrites or those who were perfect, and I was neither. I stopped going to church or reading the Bible. I began to resent God, religion and all talks of faith. I went on with life, without the hypocrites breathing down my neck.
Years went by. Outwardly my life seemed pretty good. I was married, had a decent job, lots of friends. But something was still missing. It seemed the more I searched the further away this “thing” was getting. I know now that its because I wasn’t ready. This was part of my process.
People would say, ” Just trust in God. Keep the faith.” When you feel like God has abandoned you when you needed him most, for being human, for being the person he created, for trying and failing and making mistakes, it’s almost impossible to “keep the faith.” It’s as if he’s playing a game that is unattainable to beat. And if he loved me why didn’t he step in? God know’s there were plenty of opportunities.
Now is the time. I’m ready for the truth.
One day while I was talking to a patient, at a job that I absolutely despised. The patient told me his story.
Due to his years of extreme alcoholism, he lost everything. His wife left him and his kids hated him. One day, he picked up a book that changed his life and kept him sober for the past 23 years. The next time that patient came to the office, he brought me a copy of that book with his name written on the inside cover. He said he had given dozens of copies away and the only thing he asks was I not keep it. But instead, I was to read it, add my name to the inside cover and share it with someone else. “Maybe one day that book will make its way back to you and you’ll be able to see how many peoples lives have been touched by it.”
I began reading The Shack on a flight out to Las Vegas. I can’t imagine what the people around me must have thought. I straight up ugly cried. I mean, I was a sobbing, snotting mess!!! My world was flipped upside down. The image I had of God (who looked oddly like Gandalf) sitting high up on his throne, looking down on all the pathetic people begging for forgiveness…….vanished.
I realized “religion” is man-made. God doesn’t care if you’re Catholic, or Baptist or Buddist or Islamic. He knew that we would make mistakes, that’s why he gave us freedom of choice. Yes, he has given us “guidelines”, which man has taken and decided to use against one another. There will always be sin. No human will ever be free of it.
Stop comparing yourself to those who judge you because they are no better and no worse. They are as we are…..human. Do YOUR best to fulfill God’s only desire…….
You, my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command. Love your neighbor as yourself. -Galations 5:13-14
Once you let go of the notion that God has put you on this plant to live to be judged and die to be judged, you will open your mind up to a whole new universe.
For the past 3 years, I have been attending a non-denominational church. Their motto is, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s just not okay to stay that way.” If you walk into a church and you feel uncomfortable, that’s not God. Find a place where you feel welcome. Some attend service online, others feel their spiritual connection while in nature. Find what works for you. This is your relationship with God, spirit, universe, whatever name you prefer. It’s time to enjoy your human journey and know, you’re not alone in this.
Please feel free to leave a comment or share your spiritual journey. Also, if you haven’t read The Shack, give it a try. Then, share it with a friend. Even if this book doesn’t resonate with you, it may be just what someone else needs.