A faith evolution

To tell this story I have to go back a ways.

I became a Christian when I was a young mother in my 30s. At the time I was involved in an intensive Bible study that required me to study the Bible for about 30 to 60 minutes a day with Bible readings and homework questions with a weekly meeting for discussion groups and lectures. I spent 8 years in this Bible study, and I learned a ton and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour during that time.

I had been baptized when I was 18 years old in my family’s Southern Baptist church, but I had no idea what being a Christian was really about at that time. I was an organized person and liked to check off the boxes, and I was about to go off to college and needed to check off that “baptism” box. So I succumbed to the pressure that Southern Baptists apply every Sunday, and I got baptized. It did not mean a thing as I had no clue.

When my children were young our family was heavily involved in our church, and because I was a stay-at-home mom I spent a lot of time volunteering in the church over the years. I loved and enjoyed all this work, and God gave me a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get these things done. I have found that when God wants you to do some work for Him, He provides the energy and the desire to do it, and that was certainly true in my case.

I look back on those years now and realize how really immature I was in my faith in a lot of ways. I cringe at some of the self-righteous things I said to people at times and how much I was up on my high horse.

When I was in the midst of doing all this church work, I started feeling led to perhaps seek a seminary degree. I never felt led to ordained ministry, but I thought teaching might be something I wanted to do. I started doing research into seminary degree programs and what might be a good fit for me. My pastor at the time heard about this from a friend, and he took the time to pull me aside and encourage me to go for the seminary degree. To this day I remember him encouraging me and the faith he showed in me by giving me those encouraging words.

As I researched this idea and prayed about it, I felt like God kept giving me a message. And the message was, “You don’t love people.”

I thought about this and prayed about it. And I realized, yes. God was right. I didn’t love people.

I was really good at organization and administration and starting new programs, but I didn’t have a lot of patience for people. I judged people. I criticized others who didn’t make the same choices I did. I didn’t try to empathize with someone who thought differently than me on certain issues. And I didn’t spend any time considering how someone who grew up in a different environment than me might have different views, different opinions, different fears.

So I finally told God, “You are right. I don’t love people.” So I went back to doing administrative work and other ministry. And I think all that was important work, and God used me in some wonderful ways and blessed me immensely through all those experiences. But there were certain things I couldn’t really do for Him because I didn’t love people.

A lot of time has passed since those days, and our family has been through some tough times and difficult situations. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot and figured out that I’m not so perfect myself. Maybe I don’t know all the answers. Heck, the older I get the more I realize I don’t know much of anything at all. And probably most life changing of all, I’ve faced cancer, been through treatment, and gotten to the other side of that. And I still deal every day with the uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis brings. My life is forever changed.

When I was going through cancer, I saw people who floored me with their love and generosity as they reached out to care for me in so many ways. Some of them did not even know me. And then other people floored me with their comments that made me feel small or made me feel like they blamed me for my cancer, like it was my fault I got cancer, comments second guessing my decisions about the treatment I received.

When you think you might be facing death, you start to look at life a little differently, and you start to see people through a different light. You realize how short your life is, and you realize it might be even shorter than you think. You start seeing the good in those around you and the things that hurt them, and when they reach out and love you you feel it. And through all of that cancer adventure, I think God was teaching me more about this “how to love people” thing.

So today, at age 53, I can clearly see and hear God teaching me how to love people. I’m not there yet, and I figure I will never fully get there, but I’m changing and I’m open to what He is teaching me. He’s teaching me a whole lot about making sure I get the plank out of my own eye before I start picking apart somebody else’s sins. He’s teaching me to think before I make some defensive comment to someone with whom I disagree. He’s teaching me to try to see things through their perspective and think about why they may feel differently than I do.

I was never a Trump supporter, but when the comments he made bragging about sexual assault came out, it brought back a lot of old memories for me of my own experiences. (You can read my previous blog post about my thoughts on this). I started thinking about the women who have been affected by sexual assault and how these comments coming from a potential presidential candidate might make them feel. And when you add these comments to the many other inflammatory and offensive things Trump has said and done, I knew this was a man who would never deserve my vote for President.

So to all my friends, especially my Christian friends, who have been loud in their support for Trump and completely overlooked everything that he said or did. The rest of us wonder if you think it’s okay what he said about women? About Mexicans? About a well-respected war hero? About a mentally challenged reporter? Do you think it’s nothing that he bragged about sexually assaulting women? Is all that okay with you? Some of my Christian friends said they “held their nose” and voted for him because they felt like they had to. I can understand that viewpoint to a certain extent, although I could not do that myself. But many of my Christian friends proudly and loudly supported Trump. And today, in the aftermath, many of these people are gloating and accusing the rest of us of being crybabies. One young man who attends my church said on his Facebook page yesterday that we needed to “grow up.” That Trump just “says the things we are all thinking anyway.” And that exactly, my friends, is why many of us mourn today. Because if Trump is saying what many of you really think, then I think we have a right to be pretty sad about that. Because that tells me some things about the hearts of Americans, of Christians, that I do not want to know and that I find disturbing.

So you’ll have to forgive me if it takes me a few days or weeks to let it sink in that half of America does not care that our new President has said and done these things.

I think it all boils down to the fact that we have gotten to the point where political hate overrides everything else in this country. The people on both sides hate the other side, and that hate supersedes everything else. People are willing to sacrifice their principals and dance with the devil, all for the sake of political power. And supporters of both parties have certainly shown their willingness to do that.

I will continue to listen to what God is teaching me about love, even if it hurts. And, once again, you’ll just have to forgive me if it takes me a few days to let all this sink in. Perhaps me and others who mourn could be shown a little grace, as God has extended to all of us.

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2 thoughts on “A faith evolution

  1. Terri,
    I love you.
    You asked do I think it’s ok what Trump has said? No I don’t.
    Do I think he is a dirt bag? Yes, more than likely.
    Do I think he is a smart and successful business man? It appears he is.
    Has he and has Hillary Clinton done things that are distasteful and unacceptable to most in our society? Yes they both have.
    Has Trump screwed up yet since becoming the President? Not that I have seen.
    Do we ALL deserve second chances after we sin and screw up? Absolutely
    Do I think God sends the unlikely in to the world to show us reality? Yes
    Jesus hung out with sinners, outcasts, prostitutes and the like. We are condemned if we start to rank our sins against the sins of others, referring to that plank and we are commanded to accept as hard as it is that all sin is created equal. People that are different from us, or who we perceive are “worse sinners” than us, that line of thinking is not the teachings you and I are suppose to adhere to.

    I plan to give him a chance at unifying the country and when, not if, because we all do at some point, screws up and sins, then God will be the ultimate judge and if he breaks laws then the laws of our land will judge and deal with him. But until that day, I think we all need to look in the mirror before we start spewing hateful words on social media. I have heard horrible comments from both “sides of the aisle”. Just because I did vote for him, I am being called stupid, racist, disgusting, been told to F off etc. I agree, it is mind blowing what people are saying to each other. I do not believe that all 50 million of the Trump voters think like your FB friends who have criticized you. I do not believe that all 50 million of Clinton voters think like some of those that I have heard crass things from. I really want to believe it is only a small percentage that are being hateful to both of us.

    We as Christian’s are called to love no matter what, pray not judge and that is what I plan to do until the next time I sin, then rewind and repeat. It’s difficult no doubt. Thank goodness we have forgiveness given to us freely, hourly when needed and daily for sure.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Love you always friend!
    Catharine

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    • Catharine, thank you for being my only friend who actually answered the question. Do you think it is okay what Trump has said? And you said NO. That is all I need to know. The rest is fluff.
      I do not judge the man in regarding his sin. That is between him and God. I do not believe he has asked for forgiveness from me and the public, at least not in any real meaningful way. But if he did I would forgive freely. But just because I forgive does not mean I am willing to give him my vote. I do not believe he deserved it. I could not vote for him. And that is my right. As you have the right to vote the way your conscience leads you. Forgiveness does not negate consequences.
      I am willing to give him a chance as president. I hope he does not continue with the hate rhetoric he has displayed in the campaign. I have no intention of putting out a bunch of anti-Trump propaganda on my part. I simply gave voice to my own thoughts and what many others are feeling over this election.
      I love you and you know I love you. I don’t care who you vote for. You are more important to me than a vote or political power. And that’s the bottom line.

      Like

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