Relationship Not Religion – My Backstory
To give you the whole backstory, I need to start at the beginning … Or at least my beginning, some 30+ (eek!) years ago.
The oldest child in a devout Christian family, I have attended church since birth. Dedicated as an infant, memorizing bible verses as a toddler, attending Awana’s and the whole nine yards. At the young age of five it made sense to have Jesus in my heart since He so badly wanted to be there and forgave me of my sins. I have continued in the church my entire life, yet from the time of receiving Salvation there was a notable holding pattern in my walk with Christ for many years. Well … holding pattern is an understatement …
Philippians 2:12 speaks to working out your salvation with fear and trembling, yet for too long I had an incorrect understanding of what this meant. I wasted so much time on the fear and trembling.
Fear of what people would think if I showed fault or weakness.
Trying so hard to say only the right things, to have all the answers and to be a “good Christian”.
It was horrible and terribly hard. Hard to suppress the feeling to respond for prayer because others may see you. So difficult, working to appear clean and upstanding on the outside when you are hurt, lost, and broken on the inside.
As with most things, practice leads toward perfection. And I practiced religion. Pulling up to the church service Sunday morning our family vehicle could be filled with yelling and tense emotions, yet the moment you slid open that door, happy faces were turned-on for the full duration of the service.
Prayers were memorized recitals of pretty words. Bible verses achieved like badges on a scout vest—won with competition and boasted about like trophies. Forget working out my salvation, I was working on my salvation.
How can I make this look better?
Well a good Christian wouldn’t do those things or say those words. A good Christian wouldn’t hang out with those people, or wear those clothes, drink that, or watch this.
Yet all my work left me tired and unfulfilled. Condemned. Insecure. Doubting. I would respond to the call for salvation again, just to make sure I was still “saved”. And one of the saddest parts, I attended Church every week, surrounded by Christians all the time and never said anything because I was supposed to have it all together! I worked so hard on my pretty facade that I couldn’t admit it was a sham. That I was working so hard to be a Christian because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and I was left with nothing. Nothing but hard work and emptiness.
Praise the holy name of Jesus, He rescued me! I will never forget the first time I heard that I could have a relationship with God. It was a Sunday morning in the seventh grade and it just about blew my mind. I was intended to have more with God! Things weren’t supposed to be empty and lonely! This new awareness started me on the path that I am still walking today as I draw nearer to Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all daisies and butterflies. There are times when I struggle to hear His voice above the distractions around me, and I don’t always like what He instructs me to do. Yet there is freedom here. Jesus spoke the truth when he said His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He doesn’t pile on more tasks and chores like a religious tradition. He removes burdens of guilt and shame and replaces them with peace and joy. This is no longer something I have to do, but something I get to do. I get to obey to show my love for Him. I get to hear His voice and have Him mold me more and more into who He has created me to be. I get to love His children and extend grace and mercy to them in the same way Christ has done for me.
These moments with Christ define me. He shares revelation about His character and His nature. He exposes my sin and enables me to walk in greater freedom. He molds and changes me more into His image. Years of my religious experience were wasted in stagnation, never moving never changing. Yet moment by moment He is moving me now. Moving me closer and closer to Him. And I’m excited to share my journey with you.