So I used to be a Christian.
It’s such an odd statement for me to make. It makes it sound like I was a Christian long, long ago. Really, the unraveling began several years ago, but the loss of the title was rather recent. There was a struggle inside me to hold on for dear life, to summon the divine intervention I so desperately needed. At the end of the day God didn’t show up. So I did what I had to do.
I had to break up with Jesus.
When I express the aforementioned conclusion, some predictable responses quickly surface. The most common rebuttal goes something like “God did show up. You just didn’t have the eyes to see.” This cliche is insulting to say the least. However, I used to be a Christian, so I understand the mindset of giving God all the benefit of every doubt. He’s right, so any beef you have with him must be wrong, misguided, sinful, or lacking maturity. Your suffering? Hey… Jesus suffered, so that means you can’t complain.
The obvious problem with this line of thinking is that it invalidates the human experience. It teaches us to ignore the very real feelings we encounter. If God is silent, we should be patient and wait. When he’s still silent, we should be patient and wait. When he still says nothing, we should take it as an answer. When we lash out in anger (since silence as an answer is obviously bullshit), we should repent. Our anger is unjustified, because God is always just. We feel alone, but we’re the ones not “present” due to our lack of faith. We don’t feel God’s love, so there must be sin in our hearts. The list goes on and on. The story is always the same.
“It’s not you, God… it’s me.”
Imagine you overhear a conversation that goes like this…
“My husband never talks to me. I feel like he’s never even really there, you know? It’s like I do all the talking. I get mad at him but I know deep down it’s really all my fault. But he provides everything for me so I should just be thankful. I’m lucky, really. Some people don’t even have a husband. Sometimes I think about leaving him but then I remember I am nothing without him. He completes me. I took his name and I should honor him by serving him the rest of my life.”
Does this sound familiar? Most would describe such a relationship as extremely unhealthy. So why is it that so many depict their relationship with God in a similar light? Why are these qualities grotesque for humans but endearing for God? A few more cliches may attempt to satisfy this accusation. “God’s ways are higher than our ways” or “God is worthy”. Elevating God above any criticism we can muster due to his sheer… um… being-God-ness… is a popular route, however it completely ignores the central Christian theme of having “a personal relationship with God.”
Again, a “relationship with God” asks us to ignore everything we know about healthy human relationships. We are asked to leave our better judgment at the door. All that life experience? Psshht.
You may think I’m just bitter about some narrow-minded group of Christians who falsely represented the true nature of God’s unconditional, radical love. You may be thinking “God isn’t like that!” or “Brett, you know better!”
Well, you see… that’s the thing. I do know better. I know that if God exists, God is good. If divine love is real, it’s not static and lifeless. But honestly, I don’t know if God exists. I only know that we exist. Us. Here and now. While my own experience has led me to leave the title “Christian” behind me, it breaks my heart. Why?
Because Jesus was once very real to me. But then I had to leave him behind, all the while feeling it was my fault. I had failed him by losing my faith. I just wasn’t strong enough, good enough. For those who did not grow up Christian, rejecting Christianity is a matter of differing philosophies. For the rest of us, it’s a death in the family.
My journey has led me here. I make no apologies for that. If your journey has led you to a similar place, don’t despair. Trust the sermon of your own path, the voice that says “You are perfect, broken or not”. The voids we possess, deep down… do not fill them with dogma, with doctrine, with wailing and crying for God’s attention. Fill it with your passions, your aspirations. Do not let the barking dogs disturb your dreams for one more second. You are good enough. You’ve always been good enough. In finding this truth, you find something greater than anything you leave behind.
You find yourself. And damn, you look sexy.