Over the past four years, the journey of my restoration of faith has involved learning about the relationship God wants to have with me. There are many reasons I don’t feel worthy to have this relationship which I feel is a common occurrence in many people who come to faith. This is why we as Christians have such a hard time understanding the concepts of grace and unmerited favor and instead retreat into theology, judgment, and condemnation. Christians can judge in many ways and can feel quite righteous in doing so. If we have a way to see ourselves as better than someone else, we think, ‘Now God will love us.’
It’s not that way at all though. God loves ALL of us no matter what we wear, what our past has involved, or what we bring to the relationship. He loves us despite our wounds of which I have many. He loves us despite how broken we are.
It’s taken me a long time to realize this. When I was younger, theology was more important. Following all of the rules was more important. Showing others I was a “great” Christian was more important. Inevitably though, when I failed at following the rules, I was condemned for not being a good enough Christian. I think that’s why I ended up leaving the church for as long as I did. I didn’t understand it was more about relationship than about theology. I didn’t understand the true meaning of community.
My understanding of all of it though has been turned upside down during the last four years. This is despite the fact that I’ve been through a few bouts of depression, a lot of insecurity and fear from my own background, and working through sadness and grief from my miscarriage four and a half years ago. Couple that with being there for other family members who were going through illnesses and unemployment, and I had my hands full.
I was committed, however, to working through the process. Of learning I didn’t have to be afraid of God and could talk to Him with complete honesty. Of learning I could cry about whatever was going on, and He didn’t care. I always had companions when I was in the pit, and it was nice to feel that comfort for the first time in my life. I’ve learned to have freedom with my faith, to worship God with an abandon that I had never been able to do before.
The challenge though was taking what I learned and working it into the threads of this community that God wants us all to have. Because, you see, once I had learned that God wants a relationship with us first and foremost, that part became easy for me. Interacting with and being a part of a community was the hard part. Community is messy, and I had faced judgment and condemnation before which had caused me to leave the church. In fact, a lot of my background involves being judged or condemned. If I was to be honest, that would be my biggest fear.
But recently, through reading a particular book, I realized that was a fear I hadn’t given to God. I knew I wouldn’t be judged by Him. but I was afraid of being judged by others. I also knew through reading this book that God wanted to turn my life upside down and bring His relationship with me to a deeper level. The book was popular a few years ago, but the reason I hadn’t read it was because people made comments about its theology which made me think it was something I didn’t need to be reading. I now know those were thoughts I shouldn’t have listened to. I’m not done with the book yet, but I’m planning on reviewing it when I am. God is using it and the people in my life to deepen my relationship with Him and to know without a doubt that my faith involves a relationship with Him first and not following a set of rules.
May your lives be changed by a relationship with Him today!