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.

“Everything happens for a reason.” Really?…..

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about words and things people say and how they affect me and others.

I’ve read several articles recently by people who have had cancer on the topic of “what not to say to people with cancer.” This usually includes a list of cliche-like things people say when they don’t know what else to say. Things that some of these folks find bothers them. They usually have a long list.

No wonder people sometimes avoid others when they’re going through tough times because they don’t know what to say. You never know what’s going to bother somebody.

Fact is, when you’re facing something upsetting in your life, doesn’t have to be cancer, a lot of things people say can rub you the wrong way. Just about anything can be taken out of context. And nobody else knows what you’re really going through, so they can’t truly empathize.

There were times when I was going through my cancer treatment that people said things that bothered me. Mostly these comments were related to them thinking my medical care wasn’t good enough. Which didn’t help me when I was in the middle of making a lot of hard decisions.

And then there’s that thing people say a lot. “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t think anyone said that to me while I was in cancer treatment, but I remember someone saying it to me years ago after I had a miscarriage. And I didn’t find it helpful then.

I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I think we live in a fallen world, and shit happens. And shit does not always happen for a reason. As a Christian, I believe that God can work for my good in all things, including the shitty things. (Romans 8:28). That does not mean they happen for some reason or that He made it happen for a reason. Shit happens because this world is warped, but God can work good in the bad things. I know this as fact because I’ve seen it happen in my own life.

So I hate to add my own lecture to the “things not to say to people,” but here it is: Don’t say “everything happens for a reason.” Even if you believe that, it’s not helpful to others in the middle of something hard.

When I read those articles about “things not to say to people,” they come across so bitter. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be taking offense to everything people say. I am trying to make myself realize that most people really are trying to be helpful, even if they don’t say the right thing. So the key is to look at the heart. If the person’s heart is good and they still say something that bothers me, I can acknowledge that, let it bother me for a few minutes, but then move on quickly. Don’t dwell on it. The person did not mean it that way.

I need to work on the moving on quickly part.

I am not perfect. Others are not perfect. I need to work on letting things go. I really don’t have time to be stewing over petty things. Life is too short and precious.

Have a great weekend, friends!

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