It has taken me nearly three years to write this post as I have been so worried about offending people, but really I just need to let go and enjoy being myself. I cannot change the way I feel and I don’t want to go back to my old way of thinking – EVER AGAIN!! I know this will disappoint some people who may think we are spiritual gurus and I apologize for that – we are not super-spiritual although many of our ex-friends will already be nodding vigorously in agreement and probably uttering “heretics” under their breath. The truth is I have been on a spiritual journey the last three years and there have been times I have been totally cynical and confused by everything I have gone through but I am so grateful for this journey. I have moved from blindly believing everything I have been taught to questioning everything to moving from what I know I don’t believe about God to now what do I believe about Him? Sounds confusing I know but I am getting to a great place now.
I grew up with a good Christian education and I went to church as a child and teen. I guess I never questioned what I believed – I just believed it because I was told it was right. I believed the Bible was the Word of God and that every word was infallible and true. With this mindset and thinking I became an adult and my world view and value system was tied to my belief. As a result I went into ministry with Hubby and we gave all to it. It came first in everything in our lives and even our kids came second to our meetings and church planting endeavours. After all we were taught that God comes first, then family then, work etc. Our motives for loving people were always with the idea of converting them in the back of our minds because we believed that if they did not accept Jesus as their Saviour they would be lost and go to hell. I am mortified when I think of how I always stressed that my Dad was not a church-goer – how I worried about him when actually I think now he had it right all the time. He sees God in nature – when he’s in the bush and enjoying creation. That is where he gets invigorated and energized. That is how it should be. I always viewed God as an external being – out there in the heavens looking down on us. I don’t believe that anymore. I believe God is not separate from us but within everything and everyone. He is within every living and non-living entity and so we cannot ever be apart from him. So when Dad gets out into nature he is one with God whether he feels it or not. God is not found only in a church building once a week and how we experience and enjoy life with him is not a function or designed experience – it is different for each of us. My journey has changed so much and I am loving it. My compassion and heart for others has increased tenfold since I stopped religious practice and behaviour. I am convinced that religion is evil and causes dissension amongst man no matter what religion it is. Religion says you have to pick a side, become something, give up other things, and follow a set of rules. Even the most contemporary system still is a system so I am not only talking about the old religions. Religion tells you that you have to behave a certain way and so I find loving people without an agenda becomes very hard when I have to live this way. Some people will not feel this and their joy and identity may be in the religious system they attend – I am so happy for you and wish you well, but for me I was feeling stifled, boxed, characterised and defined by what I did in the system and not who I really was. Worse, I judged those outside of my religious system!!
I have not been to church for two and a half years and there is not one day that I regret my choice to leave. I have not missed those meetings one bit. I have loved having time for my family and to give to the community in ways that really count. For a long time I had to detox from church – I hadn’t realized how religious I actually was. I hadn’t realized how dumb I became as a Christian because I never thought to question a whole lot of things that just don’t make sense to me now. I am not even sure I believe in hell anymore but it doesn’t matter because my thinking has changed. I believe that Jesus came for all and that everyone is loved and accepted by him, that all are saved by his grace. To me it didn’t make sense when scripture says he loves everyone but then we have to believe and say a prayer to get saved. If that is the case then he did nothing for us and salvation is not a free gift but a gift that is conditional and based on us saving ourselves. Rather I see that all are his children and loved – some realize it and believe it and they may enjoy relationship with him by their faith. Those that don’t believe are still his kids though – they are like orphans – they don’t experience relationship like believers but that doesn’t mean they aren’t his son or daughter. I am also realizing that in religion we define how we have relationship with God – we pray, read our Bibles and listen to sermons. I would hate it if I had a relationship with my Dad like that. Imagine if I only saw my family on a Sunday and that I had to follow a program to communicate with my kids. Imagine if they had to follow a prayer formula to ask hubby and I if they needed something. That would be weird!! Family and relationship is noisy, messy, complicated at times but one thing that is constant is love. It doesn’t matter how many times my kids piss me off or mess up. I always love them and forgive them because they are my kids!! Why would God treat us any differently? Why would he say he loves us but then threaten us with a place called hell if we don’t choose to follow him? Is that love? Sounds a bit like Hitler to me!! This is what religion teaches us though and I don’t believe God has ever wanted us to believe that of His character.
I posted this on my Facebook page today because I am tired of worrying what our old acquaintances in church circles will think. I know there will be comeback but I don’t really care anymore. We have discovered over this journey who our real friends are and who only called us friends when we were in ministry or thinking the same way as themselves. It’s sad but true – when you think for yourself people can’t cope and cut you off but I am okay with that – I would rather have a brain and use it than have others dictate my thoughts and beliefs. So Dad, I apologize for ever making you feel not good enough and I salute you for being yourself and for loving life the way you do. You have taught us how really communing with God should be and shown us how we have missed out on some amazing family times when we have been stuck in the four walls of a church meeting. I reckon you have experienced the wonder of God many times in your outdoor adventures.
Hubby and I have felt free to be who we want to be – when we were in church there was always unspoken rules you would follow. Tattoos were taboo, piercings limited and so on. Well we have broken out and maybe it is in reaction to our confinement in the religious system. Hubby got a tattoo after he did his Ironman and I have since had a nose piercing which I love ( Mom take a deep breath – it is a small nose stud) but for once I feel I can be creative in how I express myself without needing approval or worrying what others will think. Have we stopped believing in Jesus – NO WAY!! I think we feel Him more now that we have knocked down the religious walls. We feel his love and know that we are meant to enjoy this life – I am convinced that is why Jesus came – everyone believes it was to die for our sin but I’m not so sure about that. I think he came to show us the true character of God as love and to show us how to live with others who are different to us and how to enjoy life. So enjoy my Facebook post which I pasted below.
I used to be critical of anyone who did not follow my religious beliefs – they were wrong and I had to convince them/ get them saved or show them the light, because after all what I believed was right and the only way to God. A change of thinking and I now realize how isolating and narrow-minded that is – how I even put God in a little box and dictated who He should love and how. I am embarrassed at my dogmatic, narrow thinking that was shaped and formed by a system that includes only those who think the same.- I believe God is good and loves all mankind – that all are accepted irrespective of their choices because of His great love, not because of our belief. There is evil in this world as we watch our news daily and WE have to be the answer to it – hoping that God will reach down and rescue us is living with our heads in the sand – He put us here to make change and be the change in this world. Unfortunately many believe that means trying to change others to follow a belief/religious system as the answer. I don’t think God ever intended that. Rather it is when we refuse to turn a blind eye to cruelty, injustice and we refuse to treat others who are different to us with arrogance and contempt that we make change and this world a better place. We cannot teach compassion, love and goodness in our doctrines if we are not willing to accept people unconditionally without the motive of changing them to follow our beliefs. I know this will infuriate some people and I don’t need pages of religious comments or scripture to get me saved again (really!!) because I’m not challenging anyone’s opinions or asking you to change your beliefs just verbalizing my journey and where I am at. happytobelieveGodlovesall# letshavemorecompassion# I want to love people because everyone is worthy of love and compassion.
I love this link from Jim Palmer
Compassion transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. There are so many things that divide us as human beings, but we all share the basic idea that it is good to treat others the way we ourselves would wish to be treated. We are one human family, and we are all in this together. Division, hatred, violence, ego, selfishness, greed – aren’t we tired yet? Compassion compels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the worth and dignity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.