::Today I am beginning a short series on my personal journey of faith. While I have not shied away from sharing my beliefs and confidence in a living and personal God here within my blog, I claim no mastering of my understanding of Him nor any absence of lingering questions or doubts concerning my faith. The years have served to prove my utter dependance on Him and not on wisdom of my own. Here is a peek into my journey with Jesus at this moment - much of it healing and transformative as I move past the dictatorial God of my past and into the loving arms of a Father who has promised never, no never to give up on me.::
From the inside looking out, we were the hippie, bohemian offshoot of an otherwise austere sect of fundamental faith.
We cut our hair, wore bathing suits while playing volleyball on the beach, and even rocked pastel lip color when the thrill beckoned. We were happy and high on Jesus without the aid of forbidden alcohol, the devil's music, or any and all dancing which was described to us when virginal teenagers as "sex with clothes on". We were allowed to sit with friends during church and pass Jolly Ranchers when the fifth hour of service on Sunday stretched us past our capacity. Our friends and lives consisted with the merry souls we met up with three, sometimes four to five times, a week in hotel basements or rented buildings in neighborhood strip malls. The best part was that they were just like us - faithful worshipers marching to Zion with all the zeal and passion required of overcomers.
But from the outside looking in, there were questions and concerns. Issues avoided by those of us blissful and content while ensconced in our bubble of holiness. No one in our group celebrated Christmas - a holiday celebrated in the season of pagan festivities and a clear defiance of Deuteronomy's directive to never cut down a tree and bring it into your home. But we sold Christmas. Dressed in matching white blouses and dark bottoms, we sang our little hearts out in performances at the malls, evangelizing the birth of the newborn King while silence echoed in most of our homes come Christmas Day. An example of hypocrisy that puzzled me even as a naive child eager to live for Jesus but one confused as to why this life looked so different from any other follower of His I knew.
We were people of the word, surely. Sola Scriptura would have been words well repeated had anyone had the courage to teach church history from outside the reading materials written by the founding father of our group. We knew the word by study and memorization but lived it according to the interpretation of our leaders. What was taught had to be lived and though grace was a vaguely understood concept, we were those who would work out our salvation - incidentally with much fear and trembling.
I was raised in this community of faith which was heavily based on spiritual performance and a strict adherence to legalism defined by those at the top. As the years passed, fissures began to bubble their way to the surface and those who dared to question the set order of things left our community while the remaining remnant was discouraged from continued contact with such defectors. Any issue, physical or mental, was always spiritual and many suffered for years wondering why they couldn't shake this cloak of discouragement or worldliness or why lasting victory seemed so evasive. "If at first you don't die to self, die, die again" seemed to be the healing mantra for all struggles and doubts.
It's been a decade and more since the non-denominational, no-name church that I was raised in closed the doors on almost all of its few dozen congregations. A handful of concerned individuals began to question the system and expose control and darkness that had been concealed and justified in the cruelest twisting of scripture. Others borrowed fortitude from their brothers and sisters and rose up in greater numbers to bear testimony to discernment God had granted them through the years of personal growth in their intimate relationship with a Savior who seemed so often at odds with what they had heard while sitting quietly through hundreds and hundreds of hours of preaching.
It's been a decade and more since the church of my youth evaporated almost overnight. But the reaches of its indoctrination have stretched far and wide and many of us raised in its holy huddle have struggled to wrestle the truth from the murky messiness of our experiences. And when the once supposed holy waters of an innocent pursuit of God have gone dark, it's hard to distinguish any baby in the polluted proverbial bath water - even when that baby is the only begotten son of God.
(next: how I found Jesus, again.)