I hate being called religious. A spiritual Christian? Not so bad. Here’s a snipet of what religion has looked like in my interestingly adventurous life:
I joined a religious community for about 5 years.
I had just quit using drugs and partying the month I showed up to my new church. My first day there was a Friday and a section of the service was open-mic. Testimony time.
I was SO excited by God intervening in my life and saving me from death just weeks before. I jumped on the opportunity. I rushed to the front, took the microphone, and began to share about how God mercifully saved me. I wore a T-shirt, had big silver hoops in my ears, had a long blingy necklace on, and wore eye makeup that was much too dark for such a gathering.
I didn’t know I stood out.
Within the next 5 years, I was squeezed and pushed into the most uncomfortable mold. All I knew was that I wanted to make God happy! My new community of people was telling me- “Anna, that make up isn’t godly. You need to wear a head-covering. You shouldn’t wear jewelry. You laugh too much. That music you listen to? It’s secular. (Which was Skillet, Red, Lecrae, etc.) Your personality? Much too rebellious. Sister, you NEED to change! In fact, you need to call girls “sisters” and guys “brothers.” You’ve also gotta stop using the word “crap.”
You see, I always needed to change. Nothing was ever good enough.
Now if you are the perfectionist type, a people pleaser, and a passionate God lover, that makes for quite the combination. It’s easy to get lost.
I lost who I was. I traded in my identity. I gave up who Christ called me to be. I became a slave to people. I wanted to fit in, but as hard as I tried, I still always stood out!
…Maybe I was never called to be part of the crowd.
I came more “Americanized” than others to the Russian community. I came with a backpack of Utah sarcasm to people who misinterpreted it as mean and cocky. I arrived too loud.
5 years and 50,000 trials later, I realize that’s the only person I want to be: I want to be that outsider who runs up before more 100+ people to share about the miracles God’s done in my life, not having a care in the world of what they might think.
Since I’ve left that circle, cult, or maybe crowd, I’ve been on a journey back to the “me” God has called me to be. As such, I’m able to love freely, and when I share Christ, I share Him passionately. I’ve learned that my outside appearance will never please everyone. (Lately, it’s my tattoos that religious folks are triggered by.) Perhaps, it’s not the outside that really matters. I’ve undoubtedly had a fair share of mistakes, and I have yet to reach perfection!
On my own, I am sinful, but in Christ, I am righteous. As long as I have His grace, I’ll stay alive. Because it’s not about what I can do, but about what He has done. HE is all we need.
Religion squelches. Law kills. Spirit gives life.
2-Corinthians 3: 4-6: “ And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
[That’s the MSG Version- Because yes, I read a version different than KJ or NKJ. I also don’t mind NIV. P.S: Another thing I was told in the religious circle was that I have to read the “right” version of the Bible. Those folks must have missed that that the point is the message & not the vocab.]