[Fair warning: Sorry, guys! I think this is going to be a long one…]
You know what? I’m incredibly grateful for my upbringing. My parents love the Lord and I was in church for as long as I can remember. Not just Sunday morning, but Wednesday night, Sunday night, and Thursday night choir practice when I got to the right age. I was privileged to go to Christian camps as a teenager, a Christian high school, and a Christian college. I have a rich heritage of faith. Who knows how many times those principles that have been so instilled in me have kept me from the brink of disaster? I don’t know. I’m honestly blessed.
But let’s be real here. Growing up in the church and more importantly, church culture, presents its own kind of challenges, right? At least it did/does for me. Truths that haven’t quite take root in my life look familiar enough to make me feel like I’ve assimilated them. Words and the right responses come easy, but the heart is slow to follow or absent altogether. Diagnosing sin is painless because it doesn’t move much beyond the identifying stage.
There are lots of blogs and websites out there right now on this and surrounding topics. Some of them refer to spiritual abuse of the church, some simply feel disrespected for going down a path that their church didn’t know how to respond to. There’s a lot of angry, hurt, bitter, and grieving people who have been wounded by the church. By people they sat next to in the pews and even by imperfect leadership. I don’t think that any given church has it all figured out. They all do their best guided, hopefully, by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit and not other motivations. The American church is so steeped in tradition that I wonder sometimes if we could function without it. If we truly hear the Spirit or just tell Him our plans and move on. I wonder that in my own life, too.
There are undoubtedly people who have left the church and are still processing their own various hurts. I would never want to diminish these wounds. We all have our own “stuff” to work through. I certainly have mine!
Here’s the thing. I don’t have a dramatic epiphany to share, just a gradually realized one. This all came to the surface fairly recently because ever since I’ve been in Colorado I’ve struggled with fear issues. Now, I’ve always been a worrisome girl. Even as a child, I remember sleepless nights turning a particular anxiety over and over in my head. But it never impacted my life in any real way until I moved out here. You might remember that my first blog post showed the roll-over car accident that ushered me into life in Colorado. The accident came out of nowhere. And while the Lord was gracious to preserve my life and the life of my passenger and allowed us to walk away with just cuts and bruises, that event had a profound affect on me emotionally.
I didn’t realize it at the time. I moved into my first place here–a condo that I could afford on my very own!–and was slowly integrating myself into my new surroundings. I met with a new friend who shared her frightening experiences living alone. Suddenly, I was sleeping on the couch with hairspray at the ready (I figured that it would probably work the same as mace in a pinch). A few weeks later, my car got broken into further driving home the feeling that I wasn’t safe. Subconsciously I thought, “If the wreck could happen out of nowhere, so can anything. What will be next?” And my life became about limiting those potential disasters.
Every single intellectual thing that I knew from my faith upbringing, I hurled at my fear. I listened to worship music to try to ward off thoughts of terror so I could sleep. I shared my struggles with other believers. I pulled out the Psalms. I listened to sermons. I read a respected leader’s book on fear. I met with a mentor. I found a solid church. I joined the choir. I sought out and met with a biblical counselor. For years upon years.
Nothing kept the fear at bay. And the Lord took pity on me and sent me a roommate.
I have a dear friend with whom I shared some of my recent fears. Her response to me saying “I’m just so afraid” was “Well, just stop”. Oh, of course? Why didn’t I think of that? I should JUST STOP. But here’s what I’ve learned: fear is not easily reasoned with. Logic doesn’t work. Emotion takes over and at that point you are just along for the ride if you’ve let it get to a certain point in your mind. So this is where I really needed a deep-seated relationship with Christ and not merely an intellectual faith. And I’d spent all my time accumulating knowledge with very little thought to that particular piece of a faith-filled life.
It was clear to me that I didn’t trust God because my actions were glaring in giving me away, but I didn’t know how to trust him as I would a human being. I knew I was supposed to and that He was in control, however, applying that head knowledge to my situation proved to be elusive.
So, I did something that a lot of people in my circle might not have approved of*. In a desperate attempt to go back to the basics, I sought out a Beth Moore study on the Fruit of the Spirit at a different church. And boy, has it changed my life. Does that mean I’ll take everything she says hook line and sinker? Nope. But this Bible study has given me a wealth of truth in a way that hasn’t just lodged in my head, but has penetrated my heart. Usually my notes page looks like this (I sure hope I’m going to be able to decipher these notes later, guys!).
Three top reasons why I love Beth Moore:
1. She’s reminded me that studying the Bible isn’t boring, it’s extraordinarily relevant and it can not only change your life, it can change your day. And I really need my day to be changed by Him. All the time.
2. She’s funny. I love that she infuses humor into her teaching because it makes her so relatable and drives home truths in a way that stick with you through the laughter.
3. She’s been the catalyst for me to learn more about the Holy Spirit in a way that I never have learned about him before, even though I’ve looked at Galatians 5 at least a thousand times. It could be that my churches and chapels taught these things before and I just missed them. It’s possible. But I also think conservative churches don’t talk much about the Spirit lest we become like “those charismatics” and start speaking in tongues. This study isn’t about that. It’s about walking in the Spirit and it’s been a revelation. I feel like I’m finally starting to piece together the link that’s been missing for years. It could have easily been a different teacher or another study. But this is what the Lord is using in my life right now. And I’m so thankful.
There you have it. As you might expect, many threads of thought have been zipping through my head for a while now and I’ll probably delve deeper into them here at some point. But for now, you’ve read enough and I’m ready for bed. It turns out blogging doesn’t pay my bills and hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go tomorrow. 😉
So goodnight! And sleep tight.
*Please forgive me for ending this sentence with a preposition. Sometimes I just can’t help it, even though I know it’s wrong!