Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Have we always been so religious?

I used to be pretty religious. I grew up in a Lutheran church and would go every Sunday. I even taught Sunday school in my later high school days. When I went to college I fell away from church and have not really gone back. Every once in a while I go but it is not something I do on a regular basis. I struggle with trying to come to place in my life to know God and become a better person.

I guess my question would be have you both always been as religious as what you are now? If not, how did you come to know God the way you do?

Thanks so much.

Melissa’s answer:

I have been married to my husband, Bill for almost 11 years. However, the word marriage does not at ALL communicate with anyone what he means to me. In fact, to some people, it could communicate being bored, being unhappy, being bound to someone for the rest of my life.

However, I am sooo, head over heels, in love with him. I want to live my entire life knowing him better. I want to spend every minute of the day figuring out how to be better to him. How to serve him (b.c I love him…not b.c he asks me too). So, even though marriage fits our situation, I desperately want people to know that there is MORE to us than “just being married”

Well, it’s the exact same thing with my relationship with Christ. I could just copy and past the above paragraph to fit my relationship with Him!

I am sooo, head over heels, in love with him. I want to live my entire life knowing him better. I want to spend every minute of the day figuring out how to be better to him. How to serve him (b.c I love him…not b.c he asks me too).

All this to say that I actually don’t consider myself “religious”. I don’t feel at all that it communicates the desire and love and joy I experience from knowing Christ.

My relationship with Christ is NOT about rules (which religion often is). In fact, Christ broke ALL “the rules” when he was on earth. He taught us to love those who hate you and to take care of those who have nothing and to treat everyone equally…..not at all the rules implemented in those days.

However, I have not always been in love with Christ.
In fact, I use to be quite bored with the thought of anything “God related”.
I loved youth group b.c there were cute boys there
I liked church outings b.c there were cute boys there
I even liked being in the church choir at one point….b.c there were cute boys there
I have known OF Him all my life.
I have attended church all my life.
But, I didn’t always love him.

When I had been married a little over a year, things were realllly hard. I was not enjoying married life. I was not liking myself. I was pretty much just unhappy.

It was thru this time that I started to ask God to HELP me love him. To HELP me want to spend time with Him. To show himself to me in a way that I could understand.

Just a warning to you…when you ask these things of God….HE COMES THROUGH!! He completely has swept me off my feet. I LITERALLY can not live without Him.

I don’t just mean that I don’t WANT to…I mean I CANT. If I am on vacation and spend very little time with Him, I start to crumble apart.

HE is my life force….and it all started just by asking him to help me to know Him a little bit.

Don’t feel like you have to say certain things when you are talking to him, or act a certain way or be a certain person.

He ADORES you. He created you. And He will turn your life upside down if you just ask!!

Rachel’s Answer:
Thank you for your question. I love these kinds of questions the most.

First I want to address the question about if I’ve always been “religious”. The answer is no, I haven’t, and no I’m not. Religion is a following of traditions and rules, that’s my definition of it. I’m not religious. When people ask me what denomination I am I say, “Christian” and then I get a puzzled look.

Growing up we went to a covenant church, then moved and went to a Presbyterian, then moved and went to a Methodist, then in college I went to a Presbyterian again, got married and went to a Baptist church, now we’ve moved again and Joey and I go to a Methodist church. My dad is currently on staff at a Lutheran church. J How’s that for crazy?

I follow Christ. As long as we find a church we feel follows his teachings, we don’t care what denomination it is. So I can’t claim to be terribly religious, but I can say I am a person of faith

But even so, I have not always been so faithful.

I grew up in a very wonderful home, filled with Christians. My parents are amazing and they have always been strong believers. Faith was NEVER pushed on us, but they raised us with a great understanding of God and His love for us and they prayed we’d choose him for ourselves.

When I was 10, we moved to a suburb of Memphis TN. I started getting into things that a middle school girl shouldn’t even be exposed to and I used church as just another social network. I remember kissing boys (or more) in the back of the van on the way to a church camp.

When I was 14 I was pretty much ignoring God. I never doubted his existence, I just doubted that He cared about me and I didn’t feel the need to care about Him. To me, we just didn’t connect and I was ok with that. He had his world and I had mine.

The summer before I was going into 9th grade I found out I was moving back to MN with my family. It was awful; I had everything going for me in my current school. I had a ton of popular friends, I knew lots of boys in the HS were waiting for me to come to their school so they could date me and I was on the Pom squad. We wore tiny little sexy outfits so the boys could gawk. I had it all.

Then something crazy happened. I was about to break up with a boyfriend, but he beat me to the punch (don’t you hate it when that happens?). I was pretty sad he broke up with me and as the weekend was approaching I didn’t have any plans. However, I found out all of my friends had planned to go to a movie without me. They all made up different lies about where they would be so I wouldn’t know. The reason they did this was because they wanted to set my ex boyfriend up with a girl in the group and of course I couldn’t be there.

When I found out I was humiliated. I felt like I fell from the throne, and suddenly my very secure place in life seemed anything BUT secure.

My mom arranged a “date” with another mom/daughter from our church to go to the mall. The daughter was my age but she went to a different school. Even though I didn’t know her I could guarantee she wasn’t drinking and messing around with guys. She was a “good” girl.

I realized that in comparing myself to her, I wasn’t that girl anymore. I had slipped so far from the person my parents raised me to be, that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Not only that, my place in life was up in the air. Was I still in this group of friends? What would happen if this friend ended up dating my boyfriend? Everything was a mess and I realized how empty I was.

Everything that mattered to me was taken away in an instance and that left me a nobody. And I felt so alone.

I went to a younglife camp just a few weeks later with all the so-called friends. We had a good time, but I spent a lot of my time with one of my leaders. She was in college and she was so cool. She reminded me so much of my sister who had moved 1000 miles away over a year earlier.

She talked a lot about her relationship with God and how important it was to her. I could hardly grasp what she meant by that, but I knew one thing: she seemed HAPPY. Not because she had a boyfriend, or great friends or great clothes… but because she had something more. Something I knew I was missing.

I wanted with everything in me to be like her. To have her complete sense of freedom from the pressures of life, to have such joy and contentment in the heart.

That week I listened to the speaker at camp talk about how each of us is so unworthy of God, the one who created us, because we have sin in our life. This struck such a nerve with me. I was unworthy, so very unworthy. I was ashamed of who I was to my parents, how could I ever face my maker?

The next night the speaker told us about what Jesus had done for us.

That he had come down to earth, left his throne to be spit on and mocked and abused, all for US. He was a KING and he left everything to walk in our shoes. Then he paid the ultimate sacrifice. He died on the cross, one that was made for thieves and he had done NOTHING WRONG. But while HE didn’t do anything wrong, I HAD! And you had and your neighbor and my neighbor.

Every person who’s ever walked this earth, aside from Jesus, has committed sins. Sin after sin after sin. And Jesus died on the cross and took on ALL OF OUR SINS. Every single thing I’ve ever done wrong, and will ever do wrong. Even my little Brighton’s sins were paid for on that cross, and he hasn’t even committed any yet!! But he will. I can say that with certainty.

I have to be honest with you. Now that I’m a mom, I’m not sure there’s one single person I could give the life of my child for. He is so important to me, that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even imagine entertaining the idea. It’s beyond my comprehension.

But God did that. He watched his son die on a cross and go from completely perfect to carrying the weight of the world. God couldn’t even look at his son; he was forced to turn his back. In the end of Jesus’ crucifixion he called out to God asking, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”

God couldn’t even look at his own son because of the sins we committed.
And then he died.
For me.
For you.
And for all who don’t even believe in him.

And that I can’t ignore. I can’t walk away from that. I could never do enough to repay him, but the beauty is I don’t have to! He did it for free, for us.

I’m sure you know that just 3 days later Jesus was able to rise from the dead and he was pure and clean and cleansed of our sins. He walked around the earth for a few more months before going back to his place in heaven.

But all that he went through, and the sacrifice God made… even at 14 I just knew that I had fallen in love and couldn’t walk away.

I wrote in my journal that night at 14 years old “God I am yours. I don’t know what that means or how my life has changed, but I am yours and I feel the change inside me.”

I moved that summer and I have never been the same since. God has shown himself to me over and over again in ways I can’t deny. And each time I’m still in awe of that fact that he CHOSE ME.

So to answer your question, I haven’t always been this way, but from the moment it became real to me, I haven’t ever been the same.

If you haven’t ever done this, I urge you to speak to God. Tell him your fears, your concerns, but tell him you WANT TO KNOW HIM MORE. He will respond. In some way you will hear him. And it will be good.

1 comment:

-elyse said...

Thank you for this. I read both of your blogs regularly, but haven't ventured over here in a while. I really needed to read this this morning, so I guess God led me to it. You are both an inspiration to me.