I used to base my decisions almost exclusively on what I thought God wanted. Until…
Sometimes I think God plays “devil’s advocate” to get us to the end of ourselves. Or maybe more specifically the end of our thinking that can be less than helpful. This is what I believe was happening when Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up all his money to the poor and follow Jesus.
All to say, having been raised in a religious community my whole life, this has been one of the most difficult things to break out of. So ingrained. I call it witchcraft now. When you try to figure out the “spell” or the “potion” to try to basically twist God’s arm to do your bidding. A formula. Well-intentioned most likely.
Back and forth. This way and that. Something would work. And then nothing would work. Why?!
I think the answer was in the madness. On purpose. So the frustration would drive me to the freedom I didn’t even know I needed.
Why do I keep posting playlists of songs recently? Because I want to! I finally found something of me that always existed apart from religion. My love for music.
I remember that girl. The one who used to go to CD stores and flip through the cases. The old way. Where you went to the front and listened on the stereo before purchasing. Where new music was much harder to come by. You actually had to immerse yourself in a scene. Work for it.
I remembered just the other day another thing that existed for me outside of religion: rollerblading. Oh my gosh, I used to love rollerblading. Jumping off things. Going so fast. Getting the perfect surface. Roller hockey even.
You might not get it. You might not understand. But I am becoming a person again. Finding myself. After basically being in a cult for decades. I didn’t even realize it.
My personality was lost. There were several good things to come out of those experiences, but I lost who I was during that time. It has taken me so long to now understand that religion isn’t a personality. It isn’t a person. I am unique. And I lost that when all I thought about was what God wanted.
These last few years have been so frustratingly silent. I cannot explain how irritated I’ve been. At my wits end. Because I wanted and didn’t feel like I was receiving any direction.
Maybe I reached for straws. Maybe I wanted to see and hear something. Anything.
Silence. Just this one question in response to everything, “What do you want?”
I feel like an elementary school child. Given the keys to the mansion. To a billion dollars and a private island. Do whatever you want.
First I do nothing. Then everything. Then swinging wildly back and forth between the two until I find a rhythm. Find a groove. Find what works for me. Fighting fear the whole way.
One time. One time things got so bad when I was working for an incorporated religious institution, that I found a crumb of self-worth, of valuing myself. And I left. I walked out.
I remember that night so vividly. Literally dancing in an empty room. Freedom! I could breathe. Finally.
But it was too overwhelming. The next day I had to stand up for myself. And I did. But then felt immediately suicidal. (Don’t worry, this was over seven years ago.)
All to say that was one extreme. And the other looks like doing ONLY what I feel like doing. What I really want. But then being allowed to fall in that also. Why, God?
To show me. To grow me. To help me get where I’ve actually prayed to be. Even if I find myself fighting the process for what feels like every step of the way.
This is not some arbitrary theological discussion. Not just intellectual belly-gazing. This is everything. Anything. Whatever is done or could be.
Now I think I see. When you ask yourself what you want, you are exposed. You find out so much. You discover what is important to you. You start to see what really motivates you. You start to understand that sometimes you’re not the person you want to be. Not living the life you want to live. You’re reintroduced to yourself. You find yourself. For better hopefully more than worse. Even if the changes you decide to make won’t instantaneously yield a completely comfortable life.
You better get used to discomfort if you want to do this. You better acquaint yourself with navigating failure. But even that is answered prayers. I learn to love and forgive others, to have compassion, when I finally stop thinking those going through hard times are just lacking in religiosity.
I was a pompous ass before. Thinking I was above everyone because of all my religiosity. Always having simplistic bullshit answers for anything. Then I think God let me get my feet kicked out from under me. Sat my ass on the ground. If I’m so smart, then just snap out of it. Right? Just pick myself up and get back on “top”. Right?
Reality. A dish sometimes served best super cold. Haha. I’m grateful as much as it has absolutely sucked. I’m not the same me as I was several years ago. The old “off with their heads” bag. I’m better for it, but damn this was a big bitter pill to swallow.
Things aren’t binary. But God gets to the heart. To the finest points of healing. To make us better. Ultimately for ourselves in the long run. Of course along with all the others.
We pray for these things. Remember that. But also remember that above all you are loved. So much. Just as you are.
And fire purifies. What is being burned off is only what can be left behind. The best you. The one you forgot about. The one you will love, is waiting on the other side. Of course it’s a journey. But better days are ahead if you commit and see this process through. If you can let go of the means to the end. Trust God’s heart for you and lean in.