|Not the route I took...|
But the really important thing -- I think -- is not telling about my life so you can be oh-so-impressed with how spiritual my path has been or how wise or strong or faithful I am (because truly, there's no reason you should).
No, the only really important things to pass on are the two lessons I've learned (nearly always the hard way) in my getting-close-to-50-years. The kind of lesson-things hardest to learn, hardest to accept, and hardest to appreciate -- until you finally start to reap some benefits from them.
The first lesson is:
Human beings (especially, but not only, educated ones) can always-always-always be counted on to make healthy things hurt, simple things complicated, inclusive things cliquish, loving things hatefilled, and easy things hard.The second lesson follows the first:
...But, if in the deepest recesses of our deepest heart (where maybe even we can't see it yet), if we are even the slightest bit willing, God is always at work behind the scenes to get us where we need to go, anyway.Let me share briefly how that worked out in my life, just to show an example.
Maze Turn # 1 - I was introduced to God through a fundamentalist church of the 1960s.
That was how I spent my childhood. So, yeah. Do I even need to detail the mess of ungodly, unbiblical, and anti-Christ ideas I absorbed from the truly very well-meaning and intensely (false)-Bible educated people in that church? Most of you will say "No. I get it." But for those who don't, let me just sum it up this way: By the time I was eight years old, I was convinced I had already been such a sinner that I deserved hell so bad even Jesus couldn't save me.
And it just didn't matter that these church people adored me (and they truly did -- all the way up to when I was an adult and they discovered I'm Gay.) They all belonged to a faith culture that takes the Good News of Jesus Christ and turns it inside out, remaking it into something fearful, painful, violent, self-centered, hypocritical -- just like their unhealed hearts. Even though I left their church when I was eleven years old (they couldn't answer my questions, and that bothered me) their false and twisted and self-serving Christianity damaged me in ways I wouldn't even begin to understand until forty years later, when I finally encountered and was healed by the true Jesus Christ.
Yet what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? He was instilling in me a love for the Bible, for one thing. Unlike my fundamentalist forebears, I use and study the Bible correctly now -- but like them, I also cling to it, and refuse to be parted from knowing its truth.
Maze Turn # 2 - Trying to push the filth of fundamentalism out of my head, I became a tenacious, even vicious atheist by my 20th birthday.
I'd always been a huge science geek (even when I was a teeny little kid, my birthday presents were things like biology and geology books). But while before I'd understood science as just a way to study what God had created, now I started using science and logic to attack and level any and all religious belief -- including Christianity.
I meant well. I truly did. Like all my atheist buddies and mentors, I truly believed that any idea of "god" was nonsense and evil. I really believed that the only way to make the world a safe and healthy place was to eliminate all religions, and run things by logic and science, only.
Yet what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? He was using all that atheistic insistence on logic, and that hot flame of bullheaded atheistic arrogance, to scorch the fundamentalism from my heart. It took a number of years, but when He was done? Gone. All gone. Nothing ever even tempted me to believe fundamentalism, ever again.
Maze Turn # 3 - Once my heart no longer had to keep a door slammed against God to keep out the devil of fundamentalism, a tiny part of my heart slowly began to want God again. But the rest of me fled.
I had really done a great job convincing myself during my atheist years that God didn't exist. I now really had NO belief in Him any longer. So imagine my confusion to now all of a sudden have a sort of secret longing for God -- a God I was convinced was nothing more than a neurotic superstition. What was wrong with me??? The only conclusion I could come to for some time was that I had a mental illness of some sort. Nothing else made sense to me -- but nothing made my longing go away, either. In fact, it just got worse and worse.
And what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? If you're a Christian, you know exactly what God was doing: He was calling me back. He'd let me fall into the flea dip of atheism to rid me of fundamentalism cooties, and now it was time to dry me off and comb me out. Was I going for that? Of course not. I'm much too bull headed for that!
Maze Turn # 4 - So I started (reluctantly) checking out other religions. At least I wouldn't fall to the disgusting depths of Christianity! (or so I swore).
Pagan stuff is big in certain areas, as you no doubt know. I tried to get in to some of that, but I kept coming back to the same thing: "If I can't go with a God, why the heck would I go with a goddess, or multiple gods, or fairies, or wood spirits, or whatever!" It just seemed a put on.
I did check out some other religions, too. But same problem: if I'm not believing it works here, why would I believe it works over there?
What was God doing behind the scenes with all that? I'm sure He was shaking His head at how stubborn I can be, and how I continued to torture myself. Here I was trying to patch my longing for Him like He was a computer virus, but at least He kept me from falling into another vat of flea dip I didn't need. His hand was there.
Maze Turn # 5 - Then, since I hated the whole idea of "God" but couldn't make myself stop wanting God, I decided maybe I could soothe my longing by getting into a religion that didn't even have a god. That was my Zen Buddhist period. And I did pretty good at it. Got real good at being able to sit and do nothing for a very long time. Even decided at one point that I would become a Zen priest. THAT would fix that nagging God-longing, I was sure! I was starting to feel good about all this, finally.
But what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? Well, He seems to have let me go for a time. Just as I did get some healing from my atheism time (but couldn't stay there), I also got some healing from my Zen time -- but couldn't stay there, either. So one day a Zen priest that I admired more than anyone else in the world told me that because of who I was I belonged back in the Christian world. I was devastated.
The Zen priest's reasons were very Zen-like, and came right out of his Asian culture and beliefs in reincarnation (etc) -- so they had nothing to do with Christianity or God. But I'd gotten the healing I could get from my time there, and God knew it was time for me to go -- or I'd probably never leave. So, mad as a wet cat, out I went.
Maze Turn # 6 - Try as I might, I found myself still just too damaged by fundamentalism to go back to anything Protestant. So I became a Roman Catholic. Getting back to Christianity of any kind was still not easy for me -- in fact, it was more painful than anything I'd ever done before, with a LOT of stops and starts, before I could finally let God start to heal the damage false Christianity had done to me. In the end it took me three times and several years to complete the Roman Catholic mumbos you have to go through to join up, but then let me tell you -- I was full bore. I've never done anything spiritual halfway, I guess, so after finally getting baptized and so on, I was one intense Pope follower. I even let the priests abuse me for being Gay (one yelled at me so loud the whole church turned to see), and I just knelt there and took it. But dang it -- I'd decided to be a Christian, and I was going to stick it out!
What was God doing behind the scenes with all that? Continuing to heal me. Teaching me. And then turning my head ever so slightly so I started seeing a new angle. So I started seeing the (really BIG) false Christianity of the Roman Church, too. Since the "newness" was no longer covering for the fact that this wasn't a place to satisfy my longing for God either, after a number of years, I started thinking maybe it was time to go "home".
Maze Turn # 7 - Except I thought "home" meant a Protestant church. In fact, I thought that through several of them over several more years. But it didn't matter: Gay churches, straight churches, mixed / "welcoming" churches, and conservative, liberal, medium churches -- all. All just inevitably got me all excited thinking this was finally going to be the place I could be whole with God. I even became a pastor and church leader, myself (would have made my grandmother proud, and maybe healed her horror of my previous Roman Catholicism). And yet every single church / denomination / fellowship was a big #)^%*@ pile of human beings, along with all the cultural "church" poo they'd decided to pack on top of God as if that made God "better" or "more accessible". True, some where more poo-filled, some less. But since all that poo covered up the fact that Jesus is supposed to just be there, in your heart, without all the human poo (even your own), nearly all these folks were just as happy to sit around making more poo and calling for new revivals or campaigns to fill in the Holy Spirit gap even they sense on some level in their churches.They were so happy-tranced on what they could do with their religious doo-dads and titles and organizations and good works that they just assumed that must be Jesus in there, making their hearts swim. I still couldn't fill my longing for God. Plus, it was all just starting to gross me out.
And what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? Quite simply, He was doing exactly what He's been doing my whole entire life: trying to get me to let go of all the nonsense people (including me) make up about Him, and instead just sit with Him and do what He says! Doesn't mean I don't hang out with church people any longer -- I just no longer buy that they corner the market on Jesus, any longer.
It's taken me nearly every decade of my life to figure out that ideas like "God is about relationship, and not (even Protestant pretend-its-not-ritual) ritual", and "Jesus was serious" are true far, far beyond the self-congratulatory platitudes we make of them when we're twisting His meanings so we still get to do what we want to do, but now feel God-approved in doing it.
I guess if my life would have a "testimony", it would be that God moves even when we're in His way. He can see even when we're blocking His light. And He can work even when we're sleeping on the job. And my ridiculous maze of a life is good proof of that.
Thanks for taking care of all that for me God.
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.