Christianity, minus the sugarcoating.

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Christianity, minus the sugarcoating.

I’ve had my moments lately of head-slamming frustration, fist-shaking anger, prideful temper tantrums where I stomped my foot and marked my territory and made it clear that I’m the boss of me.

Yeah… God won’t stand for that.

Sometimes, like just sucks. It sucks the life right out of you. Sucks your heart dry until all you feel capable of doing is crying, yelling, or disappearing. Anybody who argues against that has never been passionate about anything, has never trusted another human being completely, has never taken a single chance or stepped outside of their comfort zone. Successful people aren’t born successful; success is the result of diligence in the face of fatigue, perseverance in the face of obstacles, willpower in the face of isolation, commitment in the face of disregard. Success implies a necessary challenge; otherwise it would be nothing more than surviving. I don’t want to survive my losses — which are as much a part of life as breathing; I want to succeed from them.

The common misconception about what it means to live for Christ is that you suddenly get a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card.

If only.

It’s quite the contrary. You’ll find yourself facing sudden giants you never saw coming. You’ll find yourself hiking the loneliest mountains you never saw on the horizon. And you might pause in your walk to ask why on earth life became so much harder than it was without God in it.

Atheists (in my own personal experiences) typically possess this generalization that Christians are weak-minded, gullible people with no real desire to learn about how life works, with no real desire to become a successful person who willingly educated themselves about the real world. For any atheists that might be reading this, I dare you to try Christianity on for size. It isn’t for the faint of heart, I’ll tell you that much.

As a person surrenders to the Lord, they begin to see their life and the world around them as if for the first time. It is colorful. It is vivid. It is breathtaking. But the visual is no longer shrouded in old defense mechanisms designed to shield us from the pain. When others fail us or break our hearts we are forced to experience the pain in humility. No retaliating, no bitter words of contempt; nope. It’s forgiveness instead of blame.

I dont care if you’re the Dalai Lama himself; that’s rough. It unnatural to us. It goes against everything we feel entitled to do. And that’s precisely why so much of mainstream Christianity is a dishonest lifestyle in contrast to the true living God.

Success is not living in abundance any more than winning the lottery makes you rich; money comes and goes, friends. Integrity, loyalty, honor: these are the truths that endure forever.

The suffering that comes with walking in the footsteps of Jesus is not a sign that you aren’t Christian enough. It’s a sign that you’re alive, and that quite possibly… You’re getting it right.

Suffering is not from God, period. He is not the source of our many pains. And the fact that we aren’t miraculously rescued from our plights every single time we encounter them is NOT an indication that God is “punishing” us, or that we don’t “deserve” His mercy. In actuality, our very disbelief that we are forced to suffer at all is a great example of how little we understand of what the grace of God really is, and what mercy truly means.

His peace does not remove the problem any more than courage removes the source of fear. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be called peace and it wouldn’t be called courage. Courage requires an element of doom, it demands a certain challenge within us. Likewise, peace would not be peace without the presence of chaos. Yin and yang; that’s life. That’s real.

To suggest to a hurting person that God believes you can handle what you’re going through is like saying God is made of marshmallows. Ridiculous. If we could handle it on our own, what would be the point? He created us and He died for our salvation because He loved us unconditionally, and because He knew we needed Him. Do we bring children into this world because we are excited to have a baby and immediately send it off into the real world? That would be a huge waste of nine BRUTAL months, if you’re a woman. Naturally, we create our children with immense love, and a huge part of that love is tied into the daily things we do for them. Teaching them how to feed themselves, how to walk, how to read, how to take a bath and brush their teeth and handle bullies and be a friend to others. Those are the most meaningful parts of being a parent; the most beautiful aspects of having a child.

God knew we would be lost and hopeless without Him, and that is exactly why He paid the ultimate price for our redemption, so that we could hold on to the hope above all hope when there was no hope to be seen around us. We can do all things through Christ who STRENGTHENS US. Not through Christ who makes our life ice cream flavored happiness with rainbow celebrations in place of grief.

But I’m finding my own little rainbows in the middle of the thunderstorms. And the intensity of these rainbows is more brilliant than any box of Lucky Charms ever could be.

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18 responses »

    • Jeremy,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond. I am deeply encouraged to find my thoughts reaching someone whose beliefs and values are distinctly different from mine, and to see such honest mutual respect that is too often lacking in conversations of this nature. Very cool.

      I appreciate the gentle way you make the distinction between your views of the world & God and my own. I was agnostic for several years during (and after) college. I found myself repulsed by the many ways religion broke me down over the years, and yet immensely humbled, still, by the greatness of who God really is: an unknowable, indefinable being that could never be simplified by a human belief system. Over the years, God showed up and through His Spirit revealed Himself to me in ways that exceeded my own mental conceptions of who/what God might or might not be — I realized that even in my humble decision to quit fighting for some understanding of who/what God is, I was still placing boundaries that I had intended to remove by my own agnosticism. I didn’t seek out Christianity — even calling myself a Christian still makes me cringe on occasion, not because I’m ashamed to love Jesus but because I’m ashamed of the implications that word has slowly grown to imply — but I think I never could have become open enough to receive even the smallest presence of God in my life without Him seeking ME first, rather than me seeking Him and winding up feeling uncertain, even like a poser somehow.

      If you’re not turned off to this conversation by now, you should check out my previous post “If you tend to get your panties in a wad easily, please do not read this.” I would love to hear how the article makes you feel and what, if any, thoughts you feel inclined to share from your own point of view. I’m curious to understand more about your own agnostic ideals, as my own experience has taught me there are infinite variations on what ‘agnostic’ can mean.

      As a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I have no goal here of changing your perceptions, ideas, or beliefs, and I’m not trying to shove my own down your throat or anywhere that they don’t belong; I simply enjoy meeting someone with a healthy respect for opposing views, who’s willing to talk about them in a healthy, respectful, informative way. The world could use more of that.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Hey you. 🙂

      Perfect scripture. Thank you.

      It just occurred to me that I have yet to respond to your wonderful comment on my previous post; just want to thank you for the insight you continually contribute and let you know my silence was unintentional; we are preparing for a move, showing our house and getting things in order. That, mixed with my maddening attention deficit disorder complicate my ability to keep beautiful discussions flowing in a natural rhythm. Please forgive me for the delay and keep your eyes open for a response. Thanks again for your comments. They are a great part of why I post in the first place.

  1. Beautiful as always..your exquisite writing and your photo!! You are beautiful!

    As a self declared ‘spiritual but not religious’ person, if I defined my belief system, I would most be a Christian with a sprinkle of Buddhism. Buddhists, I think, believe suffering is a major part of life, and the acceptance of suffering alleviates the burdenof said suffering.

    I find myself, unfortunately, wondering at times of great distress, why is God punishingme? I think that is that hell fire andddamnation part of being raised Southern Baptist rearing its ugly head, and I have to remind myself that usually, I put my own self in whatever position I am in, and I try to let that go.

    Poignant and thought invoking, your posts always leave me with such astounding self realizations!

    • Oh lady. I adore you in a magical way.

      I was raised Jehovah’s Witness (partly) and became Free Will Southern Baptist (inadvertently) and lost every desire to pursue any understanding of God in college. I became “spiritual but not religious” and acquired a deep and lasting fascination with Buddhism that seemed very connected to my unavoidable awareness of a Great Creator, contrasted with my proclamations that any “Creator” of the Universe would be too infinite to be defined by human thinking.

      After college, I was content in my zen lifestyle of gratitude and peace in all things. I experienced losses but had mastered the fine art of embracing them, to become a stronger vibration of truth and a stronger spirit in light of that truth. It was a powerful journey, but somehow always remained lacking in some uncertain way.

      I felt peace. I experienced joy. I learned a silent wisdom in all things. And yet at the end of every day, there was an emptiness that no amount of transcendental meditation could quench, or could quiet, or evolve from, or satisfy. So I attempted to simply allow the emptiness to “BE” within me. Not resisting it. Not pursuing an understanding of it. Not hunting it down or chasing it out; just being aware of it and alive with it, as it was simultaneously being within me.

      I went through a series of unspeakable experiences, and over the course of several years I endured so many “HOLY JESUS” moments that I knew it didn’t matter if I called myself a Buddhist or an extra-terrestrial; I was — inescapably — a child of the most high God, the King above Kings. And I slowly discovered that no matter how I perceived my existence and no matter who I thought I was and no matter what disgusting pain religion had caused me in the past, the REAL GOD, the presence of His very real HOLY SPIRIT, were revealing in me not only who I truly was (and WHAT I truly was) but more importantly, who and what God really is, and always has been, and always will be.

      I share all of that to encourage you to seek out the truths in those moments when old thought patterns creep up and begin to tear you down; as I discovered, the most powerful and lasting discoveries were never found in the pursuit of Godless peace; I learned the beautiful art of letting my guard down and allowing God to speak to my soul in ways that only He could. He will do that, if you ask Him to. I’m not telling you to run from your current belief system, nor am I suggesting you follow my own path and my own revelations of truth. I’m simply letting you know that we seem to have a whole lot in common, and if I understand your heart the way I think I do, there are some magnificent and POWERFUL experiences before you.

      The other thing you mentioned was how suffering always trips you up; I’ll just share this:

      What many people don’t consider is how DEEPLY Christ suffered during His time on earth. How immensely almost all human being suffer at some point throughout their lives. People lose their children to cancer. People are victims of rape and kidnapping and abuse of many kinds. People go through natural disasters, unforeseeable tragedies of all shapes and forms. The holiest followers of God are prone to the very same pain as the rest of us, the same bewildering, mind-numbing shock and despair that every single person on this planet is susceptible to.

      There are times when your suffering may or may not have anything to do with your decisions and your own responsibility for choices you’ve made. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Why? Because the one who rules the earth is the enemy of our souls. Our own nature puts us at odds with peace and a life of virtue, which is why God LOVES us so deeply. Love is a verb. His love rescues us from the abyss of our own despair, it heals the wounds that we are all prone to encounter. It isn’t His RULES that set us free; that’s precisely why He sent His Son as the FINAL sacrifice for us all… Because there’s nothing that can keep us from His glory, from His Holy Spirit, when we realize Jesus’s death was an act of LOVE, not an act of GUILT-inspiring judgement that religion could use to keep everyone in fear.

      You know what God says? “Perfect love casts out fear.” (John 4:18)

      Take that, religion.

  2. Christ is a state of consciousness. You really nailed it with clarity! It is not an easy way out of anything and it is not a denial of anything. It is simply a more advanced operating system than that of fear and judgement. It is not a club that you pay a membership to in order to have access to heaven when you die, but a way for all of us to come closer to creating Heaven on Earth while we are living. My favorite teaching of his is to “know thyself”. The kingdom is within. Thanks for sharing your awareness with us and I smile at the avalanche of strength that is bound to hit you just around the bend.

    • Preposterously encouraging and as usual, a deep recognition of one specific thought-frequency traveled simultaneously and unanimously. It’s certain life that happens — life multiplied by more life — when you bare your soul and discover other souls bared and receiving your own with completeness.

      Christ is awareness. Awareness can debilitate if we haven’t first prepared ourselves for the full honesty of it… But not in the way everyone expects it to. People run from awareness for fear that it will cripple what small feelings of being okay they have left; when in actuality, awareness is the rock on which we stand that both leads us out of the quicksands of denial and also shatters the glass walls we’ve built around ourselves to feel safe & comfortable living in superficialities. It’s something everybody is scared of, for all the wrong reasons. Because (as you’ve said) it is more about looking WITHIN, with eyes wide open, than it is about learning how to stop looking around you with eyes wide shut. Truth begins in the self first, and the exterior is revolutionized as a consequence. Not vice versa.

  3. “Success implies a necessary challenge; otherwise it would be nothing more than surviving.”
    I try to remind myself of this in different words, daily. Now maybe I’ll use these words in my head and think of your beautiful face at the same time!! 🙂 Very lovely post, I have to catch up on some of your posts that I’ve missed, I hope you are well!

  4. I will revisit and comment thoughtfully, my brain has reached it’s maximum capacity for looking at computer screens for the day. 🙂 But had to comment on the tatoos. Nice photo brandy.

  5. From an atheist’s p.o.v (though I kinda loathe that term), the thing that I can’t at all understand is why you (general Christians, not at all meaning to sound accusatory) need to label yourself as a Christian; or any other religious form for that matter, in order to experience what you call ‘God’?

    Cause I completely get the whole need for transcendence. I even understand when you say that connecting with God physically changes you. But, for me at least, this feeling is merely a side effect from debasing your ego and connecting with the earth/universe around you. Granted, this sounds like a bunch of new age psychobabble, but from the perspective of modern physics and neuro science, we can learn to focus in on these sensations that you’ve so beautifully documented and make them accessible to all forms of humanity. And without the need to discriminate against people who hold certain belief systems, the unbelievers, if you will.

    You said that most atheists (that you’ve encountered) see Christians as weak and uneducated and ignorant – not going to disagree with that, 99% of my friends hold this mentality, though rather loosely and more humbly. I guess my point is that, as someone who’s not tied down to any religious dogma, it just means that you can take in the genuine wisdom from all religions. As well as science, and whatever else you fancy. In the words of Buddha “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” And a bit of Nietzsche to follow “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

    I always like getting the perspective from someone who’s religious and not antsy to talk about it. You seem that way. And, like I said, I have few actually religious friends (though, a lot are deeply fascinated by it from a philosophical / general interest stand point).

    So, well, hi. And sorry for the essay. I get carried away and try not to censor my fingers.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, which seem only filled with a kind spirit.

  6. I am humbled and in awe by the pure peace and genuine humility of your comment. Not only is it thoughtful, gentle, and respectful, it is articulate, inquisitive, and sincere. What joy it brings me to discover thoughts from such a different perspective in such an approachable tone. Thank you, sincerely, for taking the time to bounce your brainwaves my way.

    I find myself pulled in seven-hundred and forty-two directions, wanting to respond in thoroughness to what you’ve said. I have an invitation if you’ll entertain it: check out this recent post of mine (including the comments) and then we can pick up where we left off:

    https://thoughlifebeaday.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/if-you-tend-to-get-your-panties-in-a-wad-easily-please-do-not-read-this/

    Btw… I majored in Philosophy with focus on metaphysics, minoring in Psychology (just to give you a brief idea of my interests and areas of deep study); I spent years being completely romanced by Nietzche and Socrates, Aristotle and Kant, and so many others that brought my mind to life in so many unspeakable ways.

    I’m not opposed to the belief systems that differ from mine, and I do not consider myself more aware of God than anybody else on the planet, no matter what or who that person believes God might be, or not be. I am a nobody with a keen desire to understand a whole lot of stuff, who happened to experience a life-changing moment when the Holy Spirit made Himself real to me — as real as your own kind spirit, reading these words, wherever you might be. More real, honestly, than anything. Ever. Seriously.

    And I can’t set out to impose my deep understanding and connectedness to the divine on other people through the vicarious sharing of my own mind-altering experiences with the real, actual God any more than you can teach a color blind man what green is; nor would I desire to do such a thing. I simply walk out my truths in a humble regard for the beauty that lies within each of us, and the untapped greatness that every single person carries within them. Whether they think I’m a bible-thumping maniac or not. I don’t really call myself a Christian; I’m just a woman humbled in humility with inexplicable gratitude for the very real Jesus who brought my world to life. It’s my story, not anyone else’s, but yeah… I’m stickin to it. 😉

    Holla back!

    • I just had a read through the article you linked, as well as the comments. Not sure if I excavated any answer you wanted to divulge further.

      Again, I completely understand the human desire to fill that eternal and insatiable void that so many people – religious and non religious – feel can only be satisfied with blind consumerism (general, but kinda true). But I still don’t, and will never understand why God has to come in and fill the gaps. Mainly because there’s so much baggage underlying all religion that it, for me at least, weighs its concept and core nature down irrevocably.

      As for the philosophy stuff, isn’t it so delightful? Truth be told, I’ve never cared for Aristotle. I just don’t see what all the hoopla was ever about; I actually disagree with most of his thought lines. Jung, on the other hand, that guy was a superstar. And Einstein was quite brilliant as a philosopher as well. For me though, don’t know if anything or one would fall above the Tao Te Ching. That shit says all. Oh, and I just read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. So beautiful.

      I wish we were real friends, you seem like a good coffee buddy.

      • The irony: I couldn’t relate with what Socrates or Aristotle suggested. I never found much in their writing that resonated for me. I fell in love with them still, for the journey on which they took me in their thoughts. 😉

        I’ll be back later to clarify some things, answer some things, good stuff. You seem like a great coffee-with-conversation-type homosapien yourself.

  7. I am an atheist. And I have tried Christianity; I wanted to believe but didn’t and don’t. Unfortunately, its not something that can be forced. It’s is probably too complicated to be trying to summarise i a comment, I may write a post about it at some point , I have a note about it in my little black book you see…. I enjoyed this post. 🙂

    • Greetings! Thank you for reading and taking time to share your thoughts.

      I would personally say fortunately, it is something that cannot be forced. It’s not unfortunate from where I sit. Everything in history that has ever been forced successfully on human beings can ALL be traced back to one governing operating principle: fear.

      As intellectual beings, we innately understand the deeper, intuitive aspects of our existence (on a subconcious level, at least), and my heart hangs heavy with awareness of the hypocracy and emptiness that fear-based ideologies impose. It is a dog chasing its tail; fruitless, insignificant in light of the Divine. Divinity rests within each of us; whether or not we have a label for it, or an awareness of it, I believe (humbly and unassumingly) that it always was, and always is, the core of who we are.

      I don’t write about Jesus to choke-slam people into paying attention to my point of view; I share it gently with a wildest joy, a biggest peace, because I’m so totally humbled by His love. He loved me all along, even when I denied His existence or importance. It was unchanging. And that’s only my personal discovery, shared from a deep place of awe, and unspoken gratitude. I make no assumptions of what value it might or might not have to anyone reading the words. Believe it or not, I deeply empathize with your perspective…

      If your brain hasn’t fizzled yet and you find yourself in a curious wavelength, check this out:

      https://thoughlifebeaday.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/if-you-tend-to-get-your-panties-in-a-wad-easily-please-do-not-read-this/

      If you aren’t feeling it, I won’t be offended. But if you check it out, maybe there is an emotion or two that will register within you somehow.

      Good vibrations.

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