I have made a couple of posts recently with references to my time as an Evangelical Conservative Christian. It has been on my heart for a very long time to share about my journey away from that definition of the Christian faith. Having been a very active person committed to leadership as an Evangelical, Born Again, Conservative, Christian from 16 on, it is how many of you know me. I am certain that my thoughts on various topics and my observations about them having now lived 36 more years on the earth, have come as a surprise to some of you. You might not want to hurt me so you stay in the loop of the Facebook Friends circle. Or you may genuinely appreciate the thought that goes into my posts and if nothing else, think them through. It is out of a deep respect for you that in my continual quest to become more authentic and real, I am going to attempt to express where I’m at in this journey of faith.
I came to Evangelical Christianity in 1977 at a time in my life when I was eager to find a way to make the choices I wanted to make in my life. I was very anxious to change the course of my life. In addition, I sincerely felt the Spirit of God drawing me into a spiritual way of life. Living in Northeast Nebraska, there is a really good chance that if you want a spiritual life, your search will take you toward Evangelical Christianity and it was especially true in the late 70’s. I went to an interdenominational youth group (that was led Southern Baptists) where a small booklet was shared that emphasized the following 4 points.
1)God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life
2)Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life.
3)Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.
4)We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
Upon explaining the 4th point, the reader gives the hearers an opportunity to pray the following prayer:
Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.
I prayed that prayer and fully embraced this experience as my own north star.
Shortly after this happened I was invited to participate in a Bible Study where I quickly learned the error of my parent’s ways in bringing me up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. I was taught that it was wrong because it did not include the four points described above, but instead relied on infant baptism for entrance into heaven after death. I was instructed to believe that the Bible was also the inerrant and literal word of God which we as Lutherans did not believe in the same way. As a young zealous and suddenly purpose-filled believer, I very quickly became right and everyone else in my life who didn’t believe this way became wrong. My life began to be lived with the continual emphasis on learning the ins and outs of this one right way. Part of the package for me was that it was also my mission to seek to convince others that it was in fact the right way. I was fully convinced it was the way I should go. This faith worked very well for me for a very long time.
As most of you know when Hannah was diagnosed with an eating disorder and almost died, literally within hours both times. Dean and I began to question every single thing we had ever been taught up to that point. Standing at death’s door and finding your neatly packaged faith under the intense scrutiny of your reality, changes you. It changed me and I have no choice but to live with those changes.
My parents taught me early on to observe things around me, to analyze those things and change my course if I needed to do so. This way of life was reinforced when I went into education, while I was teaching children and as I lived my life with my husband and two kids. Unfortunately, much of what I experienced in the Evangelical world did not involve this active thinking model. My experience was that my role in the faith was primarily to be a passive learner by listening and then doing what I was told to do. I was to learn that most of the thinking there would be done by others more spiritual than myself. I found myself butting heads with authority over and over and in this environment, as a thinking person, and definitely as a woman, that was often very difficult.
It would be impossible to explain the many observations, analysis processes and changes that have resulted in my life over the years but to this day I am thankful for every single one. Had I remained a passive learner, Hannah would have died at 16 and i don’t think Stephen would have made it through jr high and high school. In my search for their best interests, I was opposed most strongly by many of those in my faith community who determined they knew better based on some version of a biblical formula that I apparently did not understand correctly. In the midst of these experiences and while i was teaching in a Christian school, I began to simply shut down to others, especially those in the faith. While my internal flame seemed to burn brighter, and God was ever present in my struggle, people with all of the answers became very difficult to interact with. I don’t mind a spirited debate based on mutual respect but when someone is determined that I embrace their one right way and have no tolerance for my perspective, it’s just easier to not engage with them at all. Unfortunately, I’m equally certain there are those of you who will read this, with the same experience only with me as the one who thinks she has it all together. I am sorry if that it is your experience with me.
Oddly enough God saw fit to lead me out to Utah into the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In the Mormon culture I could hide away because there were no Evangelicals in my immediate circle. Having to dig that deep into the basis of my existence was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. My life focus was to love God with all of my heart, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. Those 7 years profoundly changed my life.
At present, I continue to be a very spiritual and I believe, God directed person but I know full well that I probably don’t know very much when it comes to all there is to know in this vast world and beyond. I do not believe the Bible to be without human influence or without error. I am still so fascinated with Jesus Christ and do my best to pattern my life after his. AND, I continue to do as my parents taught me, observe, analyze and make changes. I would add that I find great relief in writing my thoughts out for others to consider. I love to get into good, rich discussions where passionate hearts can bring out every side of an argument and in the end find common ground. I don’t see that as weakness, but strength in the human process. It is always my intent to provide some mental sandpaper for the culture we live in when I write. As any parent with a loved one battling and eating or body image disorder, the culture needs the sanding. Most of all, it is my life’s mission to know that I am simply honest and real,
I respect each person’s journey and though I may address a former way of thinking as an Evangelical, it is not meant to hurt anyone in particular, it is simply my own frame of reference.