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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This world is a mess…..but we have to start somewhere.

I’m really saddened by all the stuff going on in our world and country right now.

I don’t know what to do about this big mess other than try to do my small part to be better and do better.

I’m trying to do a better job of listening to others and hearing them and their viewpoint. I’m trying not to get defensive but really listen and try to see their side.

I’m trying to realize that people are more than just one opinion or one political viewpoint. People are complex individuals with a lot of things coming together to form the person they are. I’m trying to respect the fact that people are more than just one thing I may disagree with them on.

I’m trying to get better at expressing my viewpoint in a manner that respects the opinions of others. This means keeping the discussion civil, realizing the other person is entitled to their opinion and may have arrived to that opinion in a very complex manner that I can’t see on the surface.

I’m trying not to be scared and stay quiet because I’m afraid what I say will upset somebody else. We need to have discussions and hear each other in a calm civil way.┬áIt’s not good for me to just stay shut up in my house hearing only people who think like me. It’s not good for me to stay quiet because I’m afraid of upsetting someone.

If and when I do speak up and disagree with someone in a calm civil manner, I can expect they won’t like it. People today don’t seem to like to hear anything that isn’t right in line with their own thinking. I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, but I’m making an effort to listen and not let the defensiveness set in. As long as I speak in a respectful manner, I should still speak up. I shouldn’t let fear of others’ reactions silence me. As long as I keep it respectful, they can be responsible for their own reaction and I can accept whatever their reaction is.

I can still love people who don’t agree with me on everything. It’s ok.

I can expect that I won’t be able to do all of the above perfectly. I am human and flawed. When I make a mistake, I can forgive myself, make an apology if necessary, and move on. No need to dwell on it and beat myself up for days.

These are just some things I’m going to try to live by for a while. We’ve got to somehow learn to have respectful dialogue about the things that divide us. This seems to be a lost art in our country today. I’m going to start here in order to take a step and do my part.

We have to start somewhere.