Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why I Stopped Getting to Know God, Pt. III

When kids start to question and doubt Santa Clause, we don’t continuously tell them to “Just believe in Santa.” Most of the time, we understand that they’re ready to have a real conversation about who Santa Clause is and why we’ve been making shit up about him this whole time. We know that it actually might hurt a child to keep telling him that Santa is real when his ability to reason tells them otherwise. 
I think the things we tell each other about God can have a similar effect. After the church service I talked about in my last post, I was sent into what some would call a downward spiral. My friend Annie could definitely attest to this – she was visiting me in Tulsa one evening, and we went out to dinner at a pretty nice restaurant. I ordered a pasta dish that I wasn’t able to finish, so our waiter asked if I would like a to-go box. I knew I wouldn’t eat the leftovers but felt so guilty at the food I was wasting. I started bawling in front of the waiter and asked him if anyone in the back wanted the rest of my pasta. I’m pretty sure the staff (and Annie) thought I was clinically insane.
I just had this tremendous amount of guilt and shame at how privileged I was. I continued to go to church, mostly because it was the only way I felt like I could have a social life in a new town. And I tried, not for the first time in my life, to really seek God for the answers I had needed for a long time – answers not just about my own life, but about the world in general. Sometimes I felt like God heard me and responded. Other times, I felt like it was all in my head. This cycle continued for months. 
In January of 2013, five months after the church service (see Part II in previous post), I was watching a news program, which was reporting on some tragic event or circumstance in which innocent people were suffering. I remember making a Facebook post voicing my deep-seeded distress that God allows such horrible things to happen. The post got a lot of attention.  What I really wanted was for people to say, “I know how you feel.”  What I mostly got was, “We just have to trust in God.”
I was really disappointed that my friends and spiritual mentors weren’t more receptive and reflective of what I was feeling. Surely they had felt like this too at some point. 
It began to dawn on me that they were just as much at a loss for answers as I was. In fact, I realized that there probably wasn’t a single person on earth who had an answer to my questions. Telling me to trust in God was maybe a way of covering up the fact that they didn’t know what to tell me. Kind of like my professor who told us to trust the process. In those moments, I strongly believe that she didn’t know what the hell she was doing any more than I did.
Did you ever notice that religious people are not okay with not knowing? That’s why there are so many different subcultures of Christianity and so many different doctrines of belief.  Because it’s not enough to just say, “I’m not clear on that.” Everything’s up for interpretation, and every one thinks their own interpretation is right. But in all my months (years) of questions and non-answers, I have realized that it is okay to not have the answers.  It is okay to ask questions and to have doubts and to get angry and to roll your eyes when people tell you things just to pacify you.  It’s okay to not know.
I think God is too big to know, anyway. If God were easily known and understood, I think the world would be far more peaceful. I think that we are separated from God in such a way that it isn’t possible to fully comprehend Him – not that we never see evidence of His existence. I believe 100% that there is something bigger than me out there. I also believe 100% in love – real, true, unfailing love. But I can’t wrap my head around these things. I don’t think I’m supposed to be able to.
It’s been almost 4 years since the church service and the crying over the left-overs and the constant questioning. I don’t go to church anymore, and I don’t really read the Bible. I guess you could say I’ve stopped getting to know God, and I truly think that I’m a happier person for that. I still wonder why there is so much hurt in the world; I just don’t associate it with God now. I’m always interested in hearing what other people believe and have to say, but I’ve realized that I can believe whatever I want. What I think I know about God has very little significance for those around me – what matters is that I treat others with respect and compassion. I can do that with or without a Bible in my hand.

Thank you for reading,

Xoxo
Christine

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why I Stopped Getting to Know God, Pt. II

Everything about the way I viewed God and the way I approached my faith started to change one summer night during the “altar call” of a church service.  Now typically, when you think of someone’s life changing during an altar call, you think about the person getting saved or baptized or speaking in tongues – something that brings him or her “closer” to God, generally speaking.  I can’t explain why this service in particular had such a dramatic impact on my faith, because I had been to probably hundreds of ones just like it before.  Maybe my worldview had been shifting all along; I suspect it started at the very legalistic institution where I attended high school.  But this night, and particularly this service, stick out to me as the catalyst for it all.    
So I was sitting in the back of the sanctuary while attending a church service, which was normal for me at the time.  I was new to the church, so I only knew a couple of people (which made the experience pretty impersonal for me, allowing me to have a more objective view of the events).  During the service, missionaries from the youth group were giving “testimonies” about a recent mission trip.  I can’t remember where exactly they visited, but I know it had been a developing nation.  Part of their mission was to attend to the bedsides of people who were sick and/or dying, where they would pray for and witness to them (tell them about their need for Jesus) – again, all normal.
The missionary on stage talked about how the team visited a hut that was inhabited by an older woman who was dying from AIDS.  According to the speaker, the woman hadn’t wanted anything to do with the missionaries.  She refused their prayers, because she questioned the love and faithfulness of a God who would let her contract such a horrible disease with no means of cure or comfort.  The general consensus was that it was her loss that she refused to accept the Lord.  Like, poor lady for being so sick and having basically nothing, but it’s her fault if she goes to hell. 
And then the show went on.  I honestly don’t remember what happened or what was said after hearing about that lady.  I’m sure the kids showed pictures and shared more stories about how much fun they had on their trip and how fulfilling it was.  I know that the band played and the pastor came up and spoke (mostly because this is what always happens toward the end of any church service).    
When we were asked to bow our heads to pray, I just started sobbing.  Other people were crying too, but for different reasons than I was.  I was at a complete loss as to how an all-knowing and all-forgiving God could allow this woman to feel such pain and then allow her to go to hell because she did not accept what she heard about Him.  And I wondered, with fear and grief and guilt, how I would feel about the idea of God had I grown up in poverty and suffered a terrible illness the majority of my life.  I wondered how it could be that a God so big could have such strict, trivial rules for entering into His kingdom for eternity.
I’m going to pause for a moment, because this is the point where people always say, “We don’t have all the answers; we just have to trust in God.”  And I get where that notion comes from, I do.  I mean, the whole point of “having faith” is that you don’t exactly know everything, right?  “Faith is the evidence of things unseen,” right?
Well, here’s my problem with that message.  When people say, “Just trust in God,” what they’re really saying is, “Just trust in what you’ve been told.”  I have a professor who always says, “Trust the process.”  She says that when her students are overwhelmed.  I can tell you that it doesn’t help ease our anxiety at all.
The problem has never been that I don’t trust God; if I’m going to believe that there is one singular God who created this entire universe, then I’m going to believe that He’s perfectly capable of taking care of it in His own special way.  The real problem is that I don’t trust the messages that have been conveyed to me about who God is.  But have you ever noticed that the second anyone mentions that they believe anything differently than others, that’s when the backlash and the rejection starts?

TO BE CONTINUED

XOXO,

Christine 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why I Stopped Getting to Know God, Pt. I

It is inevitable that what we think of a person is often influenced by what other people have to think and say him/her.  For example, let’s say your best friend has an acquaintance named Sally whom she just loves.  “Sally is the best, you’ll adore her!  She’s so sweet and funny!”

But then you meet Sally, and she’s actually a real bitch. 

Well, you may be put off; but because your friend just swore Sally was so great, you’ll probably be inclined to give Sally another chance.  Maybe she was just having a bad day, or maybe I did something to offend her, you’ll think.  So now you’re making excuses for the behavior of someone whom you don’t even know, just because your BFF has a different perception of her than you do.

It doesn’t always go like that.  I’d probably just be like, “Screw Sally!  What kind of name is Sally anyway?”  Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the beliefs and assertions of other people – especially people close to us – have a huge impact on our own beliefs about the world around us (not to mention, they affect our beliefs about ourselves).

Our thoughts about God are no exception.  Since I was probably five or six years old, I have had hundreds of voices attempting to create and influence my views on God – everyone from my parents to church leaders to acquaintances whom I barely knew.  And many of those people succeeded at influencing how I believed and lived.

So much of what I knew about God came from what other people told me about Him.  But I came to a point in my life, about 3 years ago, when I had to ask myself, What do I know about God?  What experiences have I had with this being, and what are the implications they’ve had for my life and choices and future?

Three years ago, I felt forced to answer these questions when I had an experience that would catalyze an emotional and confusing journey wherein which I started to question everything I had previously believed.  I was in church when it happened, actually...

TO BE CONTINUED.


Xoxo,

Christine

Monday, October 12, 2015

Welcome

I’ve wanted to write a blog for some time now.  In fact, I have written many blog posts in the past, which may have been read by a sum total of about four people.  I wouldn’t say I ever hit my blogging peak.

In previous attempts at blog stardom (is that a thing?), I’d always tried to create themes for my blogs: angst-filled teenager too wise for her own good; failing college student with big dreams; and beauty blogger fresh out of esthetician school – just to name a few.  This time around, I’m nixing the notion that my blog needs to have a theme to be worthy of readership. 

The world doesn’t fit perfectly into one category, and neither do I.  I have real ideas, questions, and concerns about many, many things: for example, eyelash extensions.  (Are they worth it?  Do they hurt?  And honestly, is anyone even looking at my eyelashes anyway?)  It may seem shallow, but just because a topic isn’t rocket science doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed.

While I enjoy discussing somewhat superficial things like cosmetics and style, there are much heavier things that often weigh on my heart and mind.  One such example is systemic racial oppression.  Even though I’m just a “basic white girl,” I have many (in my humble opinion) valid things to say on the issue of race in the current time and culture.    

There are so many things I want to talk about with you guys on here.  I just want to give you a glimpse of the range of import and relevance of issues that I plan on addressing.

The truth is that in the past, I believed in my heart of hearts that I was limited to only talking about one specific set of topics.  I believed that I could be smart, offering real truth and wisdom to the world; pretty, giving advice on cosmetics and skincare; or that I could be funny, writing about superficial – albeit entertaining – ideas. 

In the past five or so years, I’ve learned that I am not limited to any one label or style of writing, and that I am capable of encompassing thoughts and opinions that are wise, practical, and entertaining at the same time.  I had an epiphany at some point that a woman can be interested in and well-versed in makeup, science, and social justice all at once.

So, yeah, we’re going to talk about eyelash extensions.  And we’re going to hit it hard, because it’s important to talk about what you put time, money, and energy into in order to make yourself feel better.  But we’re also going to talk about #whathappenedtoSandraBland.  We’ll talk about the different advantages and disadvantages of raising the minimum wage.  We’ll discuss many different but equally important observations that I have on a daily basis regarding issues such as world hunger, cultural re-appropriation, and the desperate need for better education in this country.

I will do my best to present well-educated statements and ideas about all of the aforementioned topics and more. I believe 100% in healthy discourse, so I invite my readers (all five of you!) to step in when you disagree or have questions.  I truly believe that we can only learn and grow when we are willing to admit that we don’t have it all figured out.  And I for one definitely do not have it all figured out. 

I do have some good ideas, though, and I am looking forward to word-vomiting them all over you!  I want to thank you in advance for putting up with me.  I hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I know I will!

Xoxo,

Christine