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I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.
I mean, I’m still a Christian. I still believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. My faith in the truth of the Gospel still stands strong.
But I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.
I don’t know how to associate myself with the Christian culture, nor am I sure I want to do so. I don’t know how to interact with “normal” Christians, who haven’t been trained to interact with their faith in an academic way. I don’t want to interact with the ones who are mean-spirited and close-minded. I believe strongly in the integrity of the Biblical message, yet I am socially liberal in many ways. I don’t know how to integrate this way of thinking into a church setting.
And I’m not sure I care.
Let’s talk about real stuff, in real ways. Let’s stop answering every doubt or question with “You just need to pray about it.” That is the most fucked-up answer you can give someone. It’s not an answer at all. It’s a superficial cop-out.
When I say I’m angry at the men who have wronged me in the past, I do not need anyone telling me I just need to pray more/harder about it. God might be the healer, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to fix you overnight. (Is this assumption another consequence of our microwave culture?) When my friends have struggled with an aspect of their lives for most of their lives and have finally decided to embrace it as part of who they are, they do not need to be told to pray about it, in order to be “fixed.”
If I say I’m not sure I intend to date Christian men anymore, but would rather look for a person that I can be an actual partner with, I don’t need you to tell me to pray about it. I need to be able to have genuine conversations about these things with like-minded people. I need to be able to legitimately talk about the things that I am struggling to understand. I need it to be okay that I’m not sure.
One of my friends encouraged me with the following: God is always faithful, always there, even though he (the friend) is not. God doesn’t let us down, and surprisingly, lets us let him down. Unconditional love. His grace is fully there. And his grace is still there, despite what path we walk.
So let me walk my path. Let others walk theirs. And don’t try to fix us.
I am jealous of the writers that write best-sellers with their first novel. I am jealous of their talent, their creativity, their perseverance, their luck. I should discipline myself to write every day, to be persistent, to work on creating the ideas that I have never put down to paper.
Today I am convinced that I should have completed my Nursing education… If not the first time, then instead of going to seminary, when I re-considered beginning the program again. I could be gainfully employed right now. I might not love it, but will I love any job I take at this point? Besides, I could have taken my skills overseas, and that would have made it worth it.
I am obsessing and worrying over things that I have no good reason to obsess or worry.
I need to go back to church. Regardless of how hard it will be. I need to start this coming Sunday, no excuses. I’ll just go back to my old church and suck it up. It’ll get easier every time I go. (I even just wrote it in my planner, which as you should know, means it will happen.) I suppose, along these lines, that I need to start reading my Bible again. I’ve let my discipline lapse in my emotional quagmire, but how will I ever fully get out of it unless I’m actively pursuing Christ?
If you’re of the praying sort, keep my job search in your prayers.
Let’s get a few things straight.
The curse, after the Fall, is description, not prescriptive. In regard to women says, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NASB)
It doesn’t say “your desire will be to rule over your husband” or any nonsense like that. It says, despite the fact it’s going to hurt like hell to give childbirth, you’re still going to desire your husband (and what follows that… babies) and he will rule over you. That sounds about right when you look at the general human condition for the past couple thousand years. Women want the men in their lives and men treat the women like shit. I mean children. Or slaves or property.
That doesn’t mean that’s what God intended. It means that’s what ended up happening, due to sin. Now, you can choose to live under the curse, or you can choose to live beyond it.
And the male pronoun “he” is NOT genderless. Say what you want: it implies gender and it always has. The female pronoun “she” does not convey more gender than the male pronoun. It conveys the same amount. Since English does not have a neuter pronoun that indicates personhood, why are we so afraid of using “he” and “she” interchangeably? God does not have gender, so why must we assign it? And if saying “he” doesn’t indicate maleness, then why on earth would saying “she” indicate femaleness? Do you want to be stuck in an oppressive religion and culture forever?
Moreover, Jesus’ gender on earth does not dictate his deity. Rather, the other way around should be true. Jesus is a perfect human, not a perfect man. (But as one writer noted, tongue in cheek, “If [Jesus] had been female, no one would have noticed when he gave up his life for the sake of others.” Not to mention the cultural climate would probably not have taken him seriously if he had come as a woman.)
Think about it. And free yourself to serve a genderless God who is equally for both women and men.
I want to live in a fairy-tale world.
Everything feels wrong with reality. I try to make my own, but sometimes I’m overwhelmed by what is actual. My daydreams do not always suffice.
I want to live in a world of music and poetry.
Maybe when I am in Ecuador I will buy a mandolin and teach myself to play. I won’t bring my guitar with me, so I’ll need some sort of outlet.
I want God to make sense.
Alright, enough with the emotions. Onto real life.
Why do people feel the need to ask me what I want to do when I’m done with my schooling? Sure, I only have this semester of coursework, then a thesis. Yes, I’m almost done, almost to the point of being kicked out into the world. But, no, I have no idea what I want to do. I have a whole host of ideas, but I’m not committed to any one of them at this point. I think I’ll try to list them here, in no particular order, for mutual enjoyment and perusal:
1. Go overseas; work in an orphanage.
2. Go overseas; teach English.
3. Get a job at World Next Door and convince Barry to marry me. I think the second part might be a joke.
4. Get a nursing degree and go overseas.
5. Find a non-profit ministry job.
6. Get married and have a family.
7. Get any job I can find, pay off current loan, go back to school for more debt. I mean more degrees.
8. Get a ministry job, wait until I’m 35, and start adopting babies. (One parent is better than no parents?)
9. Change direction entirely and become a writer.
10. Some combination of some of the above.
I do feel confident that God will open doors as they should be opened. I don’t have to worry about it entirely. Opportunities will arise (or be found) when they need to be. For the time, I’ll be in the area until at least December, when I actually graduate. After that, well, by then I will hopefully know better what my direction should be.
EDIT: I need to add one more thing!
Either married or single, being involved in whatever ministry it is (church/parachurch/nonprofit), I want to have a house known for hospitality. That is probably an ultimate goal regardless of my life situation. I want a home that is open to others, where they are welcome to come and just be.
I came across a thing I’d never seen before, called the vow of nonviolence. Many make it year after year after year, which is the point, I think. (See the original here and the blog where I stumbled upon it here.) I’ve included the vow itself below:
“Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…You have learned how it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.’
Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus
- by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
- by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;
- by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
- by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
- by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
- by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.”
I’ve been talking this over with a friend, and I’ve realized that my reasons to not make the vow are merely excuses. These are principles I believe in, so why not practice living them? It is not that this is a be all and end all; but it is a guide that can help remind me of some good principles I desire to live out. And unless I start practicing living a nonviolent lifestyle, it will never happen.
My biggest struggles aren’t with the things that might come immediately to mind: physical violence is not a temptation for me. But I am violent with my words, and I definitely don’t live a lifestyle that helps to end violence or evil.
So this is my vow, for the next year, for the rest of my life. I’m sure it will expand and grow and adjust as time goes on. But this is a great jumping off point in my opinion.
A friend of mine tweeted this last night: “I don’t think God typically cares where we are so long as we are being faithful there. Unless he makes a specific command it’s up to us.”
Where, what, how, perhaps those all fall into the same category. I like to compartmentalize everything. I like to have everything clearly labeled. I don’t like the messiness of real life, of living out faith. And I quickly lose perspective and simply zone in on one aspect of whatever situation I am in, instead of trying to step back and see it big picture. Hence I find myself backed into corners, all the time. Because I back myself there.
I need reminders of reality. I need reminders that we’re not merely puppets, but that God allows us quite a bit of freedom in life, provided we are living out faith. My life is not a mapped out perfectly for me, with every step meticulously planned, so that I have to fear of making a wrong step which will plunge me into inescapable failure. That’s not how God works. And I know that. I just forget it. Frequently.
But God is good. And He is patient. And He is faithful.
Okay. I know. I only just switched into the MDiv TS program, and because I felt like God was leading me to it. And now, only a few weeks later, I’m 95% certain I’m going to switch back to the MABS and finish up by next December at the latest? What kind of non-committal, mind changing person am I?
Let me tell you. I have been in nearly panic mode of stress, combined with seriously hating my life, since I made the switch. That can’t be right. And last night, I laid in bed, and all I could think is: maybe it’s not about the degree. Maybe it’s just about being willing to do what I’m asked, willing to make changes for God, to try new things, to not be afraid to fail. Which sounds weird to say that this means to me that I could change back. But… if it’s not about the degree, and I have zero desire to finish or even receive an MDiv, why not switch into something manageable? Why hate my life? I’ll go where He wants, I’ll do what He asks. But I don’t think I need an MDiv, and I don’t know that God necessarily is directing me to that. (Yes, this sounds wishy-washy and like I’m making things up. Deal with it. Life is messy.)
And I could still write my thesis on gender identity. Instead of trying to run from this passion, why not embrace it? Why be afraid of it? Maybe my voice should be added to the mix.
I am feeling very discouraged and overwhelmed lately. I feel entirely inadequate when it comes to school. Plus, the workload and classes for next semester nearly terrify me. I’m tired of characterizing my life as being a student.
One of my friends from undergrad has been fighting brain cancer for the last year, and he has now been put in palliative care and it seems as if a brain tumor has gotten the upper hand… It is unsure if he will make it through the weekend. We are all praying.
He’s 27, a man of God in every sense of the word, full of life, loving, kind, in short, an amazing person who has focused his life on living fully for God. And now, short of a miracle, he’s dying. I’m not close with him, but our school was close knit, being so small.
I’ve often said I don’t think I deal with grief well, and I don’t. And I think this is part of what is making the idea of school feel so insurmountable right now. Because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything useful with my life. And I don’t feel like I’m preparing to be useful. I don’t feel like I’m living, but that I’m on standby. And this friend, who lived life so fully, is dying.
Don’t give me those Christian platitudes about God being in control and everything turning out for good. This is not part of God’s perfect plan. Sin, fallenness, death, none of that was part of the original intention. And when we’re fully redeemed, it won’t be. So how are we supposed to deal with it now?
My appreciation of the Old Testament has been notoriously less than it should be. But lately, I feel like I’m finally starting to get it.
I’ve been reading through the Prophets, and finally, I am seeing God’s heart. It’s been so good.
I think I’d write more, but I’m just that tired. I really wanted to say this, though.