A religious experience.

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.

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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.Image result for getting out of the boat and walking on water

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.]

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Oh, crap.

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Humor’s always good.

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Got this one here, since it’s realistic right?!

You know what feels good?

When God exposes another area of your heart where you’ve been judgmental before!

It’s a lot of fun.

…It freakin sucks. Usually it sucks because you’ve finally gotten yourself into a position of the very “type” of person you’ve been judging. You realize, “Wow, I’m just like them. I’m actually not ANY different. Even I’m capable of the same mistakes and problems.”  (I never thought I’d try drugs in my life, fight an eating disorder, or go through many other things.)

It sucks because you wanted to be perfect, flawless, righteous. (I tend to want that anyway…) Yet here you are, fallen short, and in need of grace.

It feels good because now your heart can be purer, although you emotionally feel much worse. It feels good because you can relate instead of look down. It feels good because now you can be at least a smidgen more Christ-like.

It’s beautiful because it’s redemptive.

At first, it’s “oh, crap.” But then it’s “oh, good.”

That Redeemer though… He’s in business for the real good.

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It’s all in your head

You are you. With all your +’s and -‘s. Lots of times you forget your +’s and can only see your -‘s. You have problems and you want solutions. At times, all you can do is hope. You believe that one day if you…

…Lose those last 13 lbs, or gain that much more in muscle, you’ll be perfectly satisfied with your body.

…Change or mask that one facial feature, you’ll feel pretty darn good about your face.

…Have children, you’ll be motivated enough to quit smoking/drinking/using drugs.

…Find the perfect partner, you’ll become confident in who you are.

…Find the perfect job, you’ll never complain about your boss again.

…Travel the world, you won’t have to deal with where you are in life now.

…Preach to any & everyone, you’ll be more “aware” of your salvation. “Holiness,” even.

…Finish school, you will feel more accomplished. You’ll finally be successful.

…Are promoted in any group or organization, you’ll receive respect.

This list can go on and on. You know which ones you would add.

(What would they be anyway?)

It’s the whole “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. It’s easy to believe that once a particular circumstance changes in your life, you’ll finally be satisfied. As if happiness lies outside yourself. As if. You can’t run away from your demons. When your outside environment changes, your inner environment is not guaranteed to change.  I don’t know how to put it prettier than that. I don’t always speak pretty, but I can at least speak the truth. 

In my little life I’ve experienced this syndrome plenty. I still find myself thinking in these terms. By doing so, I can expect to fail. Because no one and nothing can fill a void. No one can change our mentality for us, or our outlook on the situations in our lives. Having a boyfriend who likes my body, doesn’t actually change my opinion of it. Getting married one day won’t rid me of my struggles. Finishing school and getting an ideal job won’t lead me to see myself as successful. Getting older won’t make me necessarily more confident. When I was a kid I thought, “By the time I’ll be 17, I’ll be beautiful, confident, and perfect.” I couldn’t wait to be 17. You can imagine, I was a little disappointed.

Yet… I can be those things today! I can learn to see my beauty, practice confidence, and admire God’s perfection in me. I can have a healthy perspective on my struggles. I can strive to do my best with what I’ve been dealt in life. I can learn to like and accept my body. I can learn to love me.

 

If you’re seeking joy, confidence, security, peace, freedom, etc. I can only say 2 things:

  1. You’ll find it in Christ. But what does that even mean? ( Trust me, I hate unexplained Christian cliches too.) Meaning: You’ll find it in yourself, considering He lives within.
  2. You’ll find it inside your own head by changing your thoughts.

A renewed mind.

Same difference.

 

Get Your Hands Off

You don’t hold my power.

“Change! Your car is not new enough. Your clothes are not in. Your appearance is not up to par. You are not kind enough. You are not brave enough. You are too tall. You are too small. You are too flabby. You are too chunky. Change. You’re not enough. Period. I am done!”

That’s the world. That’s people. That’s our society if we don’t reverse it all. The Power-Handoff starts in elementary. You get picked on in Jr High, welcome to High School- you still don’t measure up. Your hair’s not tall enough, hail Utah. Tragically, this can start even before elementary, in the homes of the most Normal Decent Folks. These experiences shape you. Or, maybe they don’t.

The Elders of Old at times still conform, to  the trend of giving power away. “Your handkerchief isn’t clean enough, sir.” (Ok, I’m kidding on that one. I hope it’s clean.) Back to the thought now…

Some Sad Folks spend their entire lives giving power away to measure up to the standards of the Relentless Perfect Ones. The race is in vain. There’s nothing in the end, literally nothing left of themselves.

You get to choose, as do I. Will you do you? Or will you attempt to change after one muttered word? After a cruel comment? After a passive joke?

I don’t want to anymore. This game is old and I like new tricks.

Moving on.