In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

What Hurts the Most

Filed under: Faith — Rachel at 4:19 pm on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

sad-statue-of-liberty

The day after Election 2016 has been painful. It didn’t go the way I expected . . . or the way I had hoped. I went from weeping tears of joy yesterday afternoon watching women lined up at Susan B. Anthony’s grave to place their “I Voted” sticker on her tombstone believing we were less than 24 hours away from having the first female president to weeping tears of confusion and deep sadness when it became obvious that not only was Donald Trump going to win but he was winning by a landslide.

I was really disappointed that it wasn’t Hillary Clinton because shattering the highest and hardest glass ceiling of all would have been so awesome.

I was really disappointed, not because a Republican candidate was winning, but because of the kind of man that was winning. One that bragged about sexually assaulting women, etc. How did he survive that?

But what hurts the most is not that she didn’t win or that he did. What hurts the most is who supported him.

I am a Christian, and I am a woman. I am someone who has been through some of the things that Trump was accused of doing to women. I am someone who at one time was part of a marginalized community and was the recipient of hateful and bigoted personal attacks. I take the things he’s said and done personally.

As a Christian, I cannot stand in support of someone who has said and done the things he’s said and done. It offends me at the deepest level of my faith. It is the antithesis of everything I believe in. It is the antithesis of Christianity. We are supposed to minister to the least of these, not look away when they are being maligned and threatened.

What hurts the most is not that Christians voted for Donald Trump. Everyone has the right to vote for whoever they think will do the best job of leading our country. I don’t believe that person has to be a Christian. This is not a theocracy. It’s not about being the Pastor of the United States; it’s about being a good President. Sometimes, we have to vote for “the lesser of two evils.” We may not like either candidate so we have to vote for the one who we see more potential in than the other. That’s fine. I understand that. That has definitely been the case in this election. I wasn’t a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the beginning. I didn’t like either candidate very much. The more I read about Clinton, the more I came around to believe she would be a good candidate. I understand that some people saw things very differently. That’s okay. My best friend voted for Trump and that didn’t hurt our relationship at all. It’s not that Christians voted for Trump; it’s that they excused him.

It hurts me deeply that so many Christians compromised what they are supposed to believe in so deeply to verbally excuse his behavior. How? How can you excuse away all the things he has said? Maybe the most disgusting thing was said many years ago, but he said horrible things about people over and over and over during his campaign. There was zero evidence that he had become a better man than he was when he said he could grab women by the pussy or kiss them against their will or move on a married woman “like a bitch.” He continued to make comments that were an offense to many, many groups of Americans. They brushed off those comments as of no consequence. Vote for him if you must, but at least have the integrity to either say his comments were wrong and immoral and fly in the face of your Christianity or stay silent and don’t jump to his defense. The hypocrisy astounds me. It hurts me.

I have many friends who could not in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure what they ended up doing. Some of them may have not voted, some of them voted third party, and I’m sure some of them ended up voting for Trump even though they were disgusted by his words and behavior. I’m okay with those things. What I’m not okay with is you saying you’re a Christian and acting as if there is nothing wrong with the kind of person he has proved to be.

What hurts the most is to know how quick so many of my friends were to let their lifelong faith play second fiddle to their politics.

We can be better than this. I hope in the future we will be.

As for me, life goes on. I’m disappointed, but I’m not without hope. The sun rose this morning just like it does every day. My faith is my anchor. God is still in control. He appoints those in power for His own reasons. I will respect the office of the President and the man who is in it, just as I always have. I just hope to be able to respect my fellow Christians, too.

Don’t sell out your faith, Friends. The world is watching us and judging our Jesus by our words.

 

A Curious Place of Peace

Filed under: Faith — Rachel at 11:57 am on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

peace-art

It’s a curious place where I’ve ended up. I never would have imagined it a couple years ago. I thought I was too much a heathen to ever live in a place of faith again.

Yet, here I am.

Here, as it turns out, is a place of not just faith but of peace. I mentioned it in my last blog post, but I don’t know if the significance showed through my words. A few years ago, I was going nuts trying to figure out my faith. I needed it to make sense so bad that it was easier for me to me to give it up all together than to accept something I couldn’t explain. Let’s all take a minute and laugh at the foolishness of someone trying to explain faith. Yeah, yeah. I know. However, my poor brain needs things to make sense. I need the pieces to fit together. I need some sort of assurance that my faith has been examined and is honestly held to be true. I wanted to know in my heart that I actually believed what I said I believed. I didn’t need to prove it to anyone else; I just needed to truly believe it myself.

It’s a curious place where I’ve ended up in that my faith has been proven to me because the one thing that was out of my control . . . believing something that I can’t understand, explain, or be comfortable with . . . has been inexplicably given to me. I have peace. 

That’s what has settled the reality of God and my faith in my heart. I wasn’t pouring over theology books anymore. I wan’t studying the Bible. I wasn’t praying. I stepped back from everything, and, when I stopped struggling, God gave me the peace I so badly needed.

I don’t expect it to work the same way for someone else. I truly believe that we each have our own faith journey to take. We all have individual personalities, proclivities, struggles, and needs, and I believe He will work in each of us according to the way he designed us. I’m not sure how my testimony could possibly help or encourage you or anyone else other than to add my voice to those that say He’s made a difference in my life.

I probably still don’t fit anyone’s mold of the ideal Christian. I don’t claim to be an ideal Christian. I am just happy to be able to honestly say I am a person of faith who believes God wants me, loves me, and has a plan for my life. I believe He had a plan all along to give me hope and a future. I believe in my heart of hearts that He is real, and I believe it because He gave me the thing I couldn’t manufacture no matter how much I sought after it.

I finally understand what Paul meant when he wrote about a peace that passes all understanding.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

He’s Been Faithful

Filed under: Faith,Me — Rachel at 12:09 am on Saturday, March 12, 2016

~I’ve felt lately like God is calling me to write here again. I know I’ve made a few attempts that didn’t succeed at reviving this blog, but this time it’s more than just wanting to blog again. This time, I feel like God is telling me to write, so, for better or worse, I’m going to write. ~

 

For those of you who’ve followed this blog for a long time, you’ve probably wondered what in the world has happened to me. When I first started blogging, something like eleven years ago, I was a young mom of two babies, a housewife, and married to my first husband. I was deeply entrenched in Fundamentalism. Some of you read for that very reason; we had a common bond in our particular brand of Christianity.

Over a decade later, I feel like a completely different person than the girl who started this blog. In a way, I am. I’ve been on quite a journey, and I feel like God is pressing me to share some of that journey with you.

During the near silence on my blog, I’ve struggled with a lot of things. The biggest struggle has been my faith. I nearly lost it all together. I touched on that here , here and here before I mostly stopped blogging. During that silence, I continued to go to church because I felt like I needed to take my kids. That was about the extent of my faith life. I didn’t pray. I didn’t read Scripture. I didn’t believe it mattered. At certain points, I wasn’t sure I even believed in God anymore.

And, to be honest, it was a relief.

It was a relief to let go of the desperation I felt when I wrote the above-linked posts. I was making myself crazy with my intense need to understand. I wanted answers to my questions, and I had none. So, I gave up. There was always a deep-seated desire to have faith again. When I filled out my Match profile, I even said that I was looking for a man with a strong faith. Faith was important to me on a very deep level, but, on the surface, it had ceased to matter.

Here’s the part that gets me. Here’s the part that won’t let me go. Here’s the reason I’m writing this tonight.

I was unfaithful to Him, but He was faithful to me.

I didn’t pray. I didn’t consult God on what I did. I stopped caring. I didn’t read my Bible. I didn’t even know where it was for a while. I didn’t do anything that a Christian should do, other than continue to go to church for my kids. I expected bad things to start happening to me to “lead me to repentance.” I looked for them, but they never came. Let me tell you what happened instead.

  • I got into nursing school, and I finished my first year at the top of my class.
  • I met Matthew, fell madly in love, and married the man of my dreams.
  • I got to quit nursing school, which I didn’t like, and pursue my dream of writing.
  • I finished my first novel.
  • I got published five different times.
  • My serial got picked up by two different papers.

My life was going better than ever, after I lost my faith. I wasn’t doing anything I knew I was supposed to do as a Christian, and life was fantastic. I wanted to have faith, but I didn’t. Matt and I would have long conversations about how I wanted my faith back, but I just couldn’t pretend to believe something I didn’t. It upset me if I thought about it too much, so I just didn’t.

And then, right around the beginning of this year, God came and got me. I don’t know how else to say it. I wasn’t looking for him. I wasn’t praying. I wasn’t trying to “get right with God.” There was nothing on my part, and suddenly He was there. Without any intention to do anything differently, I found myself in a place where I just wanted to be with God. Our church was doing a 30 day devotional together that our pastor wrote. The church gave the books to everyone for free. I took one home, and started going through it. My mother-in-law gave me and Matt a “Jesus Calling” devotional for Christmas. I started doing those two devotionals every morning and reading my Bible. The same Bible that caused me to abandon my faith out of pure frustration was feeding my soul. Every day, I got a little closer.

Honestly, I thought it would take me a long time to feel like I was “back” to where I was before, but after a couple weeks I felt like I had never left Him. The only difference was I didn’t care anymore about the things that tore me apart a few years ago. They somehow didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t get any answers to any of my questions, but God was more real to me than he had ever been. When I read my Bible, the Holy Spirit gives me something I need. My faith has increased in ways I never imagined would ever be possible for me and my skeptical, questioning mind.

I don’t know why He waited patiently on me for years only to pick me up out of the blue and tell me I’m His. That’s how it felt. It felt like I was his teenage daughter going through a phase, and he just let me dye my hair pink and listen to edgy music and grow out of it. When I was finally able to see past my angst, He was still there. Not angry. Not waiting to punish me. Just there. Loving me. Finally, I had what I needed more than anything . . . peace. 

I have no motivation with this blog post other than to be obedient to what I feel like God has been pushing me to do. I just want to testify. I’ve been through some really low and lonely times, and He never left me. Not even when I thought He was gone. Not even when I thought maybe He never existed in the first place. Even then, he was taking care of me. He sent me Matthew. He gave me the life I wanted to have. Every day that passes, I get a little closer to my dream of being a writer. He is a good, good Father.

 

He has been faithful to me, even when I was unfaithful to Him.

I’m so grateful.

 

Changing Seasons

Filed under: Faith,Family,School — Rachel at 11:02 am on Thursday, September 4, 2014

When Matt and I got married, we had the passage from Ecclesiastes 3 read, that says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Time and again, throughout my life, I’ve found that this is so true. Much of life doesn’t make sense until I re-frame it and think, “It was just a season. It wasn’t meant to be forever.”

I feel incredibly blessed to be entering a new season. Like a returning autumn, I’ve seen a very similar, yet completely different, season before. I am once again going to be a stay at home mom. I couldn’t be any happier about it.

While it has surprised a few people, most people who know me very well at all know that I didn’t like nursing. I never once thought to myself, “I think I would like being a nurse.” It was never my dream. Never something I loved the idea of. For me, nursing was a practical choice that seemed like my best option at the time. I was in a rapidly failing marriage, looking for a way to support myself and my children in a short amount of time, when I first entertained the thought of going to nursing school. After Chris and I split up, it became my default plan, and I just started taking steps toward it. I was very uncertain about it. I knew I had no real desire to be a nurse, it just seemed like it would make sense. I actually applied to two schools…Roane State for Nursing, and Penn State for Psychology. I could not decide which direction to take. I much preferred the idea of Penn State, because I wanted to be a counselor. That was what I originally started going to school for eight years ago. I was just so worried that it wasn’t a responsible decision for my family. I was hoping to get accepted into one program and not the other, so my decision would be made for me. I got accepted to both. I really wrestled hard with the decision. In the end, I chose nursing because it was the most promising for supporting a family, which is what I expected to have to do for the rest of my life. I had no idea that less than one month into my first semester of nursing school, I would meet my future husband.

I worked very hard in nursing school. It consumed my life. It was hard and stressful, but I did very well. I was in the top of my class. I actually got the highest grade out of all the students on all three campuses for one of our first exams. I was also told that I got the highest grade on one of our Finals. I say that just to show that I was doing well. The classes were interesting to me, and I was doing fine. I hated clinicals, though. I didn’t like the actual nursing. I dreaded every clinical day, and, once they were over, I felt palpable relief that I didn’t have to do it again for another week. When I successfully finished the first year of school, I felt like I had been set free for the summer. I was walking on clouds. I was very proud of my accomplishments, but there wasn’t a lot of joy in it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, but that I didn’t want to do it. I felt kind of trapped.

Matt knew how much I disliked nursing, and we had discussed different scenarios that would give me more time at home with the kids and less time working away from them, once I graduated. We were even talking about how I could pursue a completely different career outside of nursing once I finished. He told me he would support me if I wanted to quit, but I told him I couldn’t just quit. I felt like I had to at least finish school and see what happened. I don’t like feeling like a quitter. I didn’t want to finish, but I felt like I had to. I also felt like I owed it to Matt, since he married me with the expectation that I was going to be a nurse someday. I didn’t want to do a “bait and switch” on him. So, even though I was feeling increasingly stressed and depressed as the new semester was approaching, I was resigned to it.

However, I met a hang up shortly before the semester started. My financial aid wasn’t being awarded, and then they requested Matt’s tax information. I wasn’t getting the Pell Grant because I got married. Suddenly, instead of having my tuition paid for, I was going to have to come up with all of it out of the blue. It cast a different light on my situation. I had a couple really hard days where Matt and I talked nearly incessantly about what I should do. If we were going to have to pay for tuition, we felt like it should be toward a career that I would actually be happy doing. So, after a lot of discussion and back and forth and advice from people who know me and I trust, we decided that I would quit nursing school. One particular thing that my friend Karen told me has stuck with me and really helped me a lot. She texted me and said, “It’s just as courageous to admit you shouldn’t do something as it is to finish it.”  That was really my biggest hangup. I didn’t want to face people’s judgment. I didn’t want to feel like I had let anyone down or disappointed anyone. Plus, I had worked my butt off for two years to get as far as I was, and it was hard to just let it all go. I had even went to orientation, and the first day of classes was like three days away. I was so nervous about sending the email to the nursing department saying I was not going to continue in the program, that I actually asked Matt to hit “send”. I was a nervous wreck.

As soon as I sent it, though, I felt a tangible relief. In the days that followed, I felt like a two ton weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I knew in my heart that nursing wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but making the decision to quit was almost harder than finishing would have been. Once the decision was made, I felt like a new woman.

The future plan is kind of unclear right now, but I for sure don’t want to commit to any other educational path until I know that I really, really want to do it. Matthew has been so good to me, and he is willing to be the sole breadwinner and let me stay at home with the kids. Before my divorce, staying at home with the kids was always my plan. After the divorce, though, I just thought it would never be an option for me again. I feel like I missed out on so much with my kids over the last three years, but I know it was a season. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made, because they all led to me being where I am today. I just have to remember that not every decision we make or every path we take is meant to be forever. Sometimes, God uses things just to get us where he wants us. Matthew and I have had so many conversations that remind us that the timing of our relationship has been so obviously divinely orchestrated. Just a day or two difference in the timing, and we never would have met. I’m thankful for how things have worked out.

I’m thankful for all the seasons I’ve been through. The really dark times have made the good times seem brighter. The times where I’ve worked almost constantly and missed time with my kids have made me appreciate the time I have with them now so much more. I can’t take it for granted. The lonely times have made me more grateful for having found someone who suits me so perfectly. I know there is a time for every purpose God has designed for us, and I am content to know that I’ve done the best I knew how to do. I worked hard for as long as I was working toward a goal, and I feel a great deal of peace that I am back at home now. Sure, there are things that have to be worked out now and change accordingly, but I am confidant that I made the right decision for me and my family. I am a mom of six…that alone is a big job. Already, opportunities have been presented to Matt that will be much easier for him to pursue if he so chooses because I am not going to be stretched so thin by school. I just feel good about our decision. I think it’s the right one for our family…and for me.

When I told one of my friends that I had quit school, they said, “What a waste!” I started to feel bad, but then I reminded myself that it was a season. And that particular season of my life…as seasons do…has passed.

So, I Write

Filed under: Faith,Me,Writing — Rachel at 10:40 pm on Sunday, June 22, 2014

I am a writer. I always have been, and I always will be. Writing is the only creative outlet I have. I am not crafty at all, and I’m not particularly musically inclined. However, I have always been very comfortable with a pen in my hand. I process my emotions and experiences by writing about them. For the last nine and a half years or so, I’ve done that, to some extent, through this blog.

I have written here about some of the most difficult things I’ve ever went through. I’ve written about loss and heartache. I’ve chronicled my journey out of a very small existence into a much bigger world. I’ve made people mad because of things I’ve written. Not intentionally, but, when you challenge the belief system and worldview that people have given you, they don’t always appreciate that. I’ve tried to be transparent about areas I’ve struggled in, because I believe that having the courage to name your demons takes away their power. I also believe that feeling alone in  your struggles weakens your ability to overcome them. My hope in writing about hard topics like depression, self-harm, etc. was that someone else would read my story and feel less alone. I know that, at least on a small scale, it worked. I’ve had people email me privately several times and tell me that I have helped them in some way. That was all the encouragement I needed to keep being honest.

I felt compelled to write about things that were hard to write. I felt a deep sense of urgency to say things I felt like other people were afraid to say. I worried about what people would think about me. I worried about being misunderstood. To be quite honest, I was right to worry. I’ve recently had someone come after me publicly because of what I have written over the years on this blog. They tried to convince people that I am a bad person…somehow dangerous to my children/stepchildren. It hurt. A lot. I cried, and I regretted ever saying anything out loud. I didn’t understand why this person felt like I was fair game in their own personal war. I had never done anything to them. I had barely ever even spoken to them. However, they attempted to publicly humiliate me, using my own words as a weapon against me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider taking this whole blog down. After a few days, though, the fight rose up inside of me, and I decided I wouldn’t let someone who didn’t even know me shame me into silence. I wrote about painful things because I felt like God wanted me to. I felt like I was following his leading when I wrote those things, and I wasn’t going to let someone who only wanted to use me as a pawn steal that from me.

Life is hard. It’s messy, and it’s complicated. We do our best, but we make mistakes. We do stupid things. Sometimes we learn from them; sometimes we just suffer from them. Sometimes, we are able to share what we’ve learned with someone else, and that redeems some of the pain. Writing about my life and my pain has been therapeutic for me, but it’s also been the impetus for my own personal growth. I don’t want to go through things in vain. I want some meaning to come out of it. So, I write.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my former pastors, Larry and Carolyn. We spent a while catching up, and then I told Carolyn that I needed her help in finding some direction. Anyone who has read my blog for very long knows that I’ve been struggling hard with my faith. I was making myself crazy before I started nursing school, but then school distracted me. Nursing was taking all of my mental energy, and so it forced me into a hiatus from grappling with my theology. That was a very good thing, I think. I needed to rest from it. Now, I’m ready to take up the burden again, and I’m going to take up the metaphorical pen as well. Because I am a writer, and this is how I grow. While talking with Carolyn yesterday, I felt very impressed with the idea that I am supposed to continue publicly wrestling here. Yes, people may take me to task. They may say mean things about me, and they may throw their rocks. I have to write, though.

I have to write, because it’s where my direction lies. I feel like this is how I am going to find, maybe not answers, but meaning. So, I write.

The Freedom to be Cruel

Filed under: Faith,In The News,Love,Venting — Rachel at 1:48 pm on Thursday, December 19, 2013

People are coming out in droves to support Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson. They see A&E’s actions to put him on an indefinite hiatus as discriminatory. Facebook was lit up this morning with angry Christians crying persecution. In case you have been busy for the last day or so, let me recap.

Robertson

Robertson did an interview with GQ magazine where he made some statements about black people and gay people. You can read the article here.  Here are the quotes about both parts:

Phil on “the blacks”…

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

And Phil on “the homosexuals”…

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

So the article came out, people read it, a lot of people were offended, some gay rights organizations urged A&E to take swift action, and, subsequently, A&E released the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

As a result of A&E’s decision, a lot of conservative Christians are very angry. Most people are saying that Robertson’s freedom of speech is being suppressed, and that Christians are persecuted for their beliefs. I’m not so much concerned with that. If you want to cry that his freedom of speech is being impeded, that’s your choice. It’s nonsensical, though. I have the freedom to say whatever I want, but I have the common sense to know that I shouldn’t always say it. I don’t want to deal with the consequences of it. Phil said what he wanted to say and most of us have heard it. He had that freedom. Now, he’s paying the consequences of saying something so blatantly inflammatory. His employers decided that they didn’t want those statements representing their company, and he has effectively lost his job. That is life.

Okay, so that’s what happened. Here’s my take on it.

I don’t care an awful lot about what Phil Robertson says. I am not a Duck Dynasty fan. I have seen a few episodes, and I’m just not into it. In my opinion, he doesn’t present as someone who should be known for an intelligent analysis of the human condition. I’m not going to say much about his comments about black people, because I think the ignorance there is so blatant that pretty much everyone can see it. I do have a couple things to say about what he said about gay people, though.

First off, I’m offended that so many people who call themselves Christian don’t have a problem with what he said. Even if you think homosexuality is a sin, do you really want his presentation of that belief to speak for you? It was rather crass, in my opinion, but beyond that it is very hurtful. Let me tell you why.

The more we learn scientifically about homosexuality, the more we know that it is not a choice. Besides the sheer ignorance behind the idea that being gay is just a decision about what type of sexual activity you engage in, Robertson’s comments are just mean. Robertson’s comments boil the entirety of a gay man’s existence down to a sex act. He is saying to each of them, “You are anal sex.” Homosexuality is not a sex act. Being gay means you are attracted to someone of the same sex. You don’t ever have to have sex with someone to be gay. You just are or you’re not. According to a lot of Christians, this (uncontrollable) attraction is sinful. If you believe that, have at it. However, to proclaim Christ in one breath and then be intentionally disparaging of an entire people group in the next is a bit hypocritical.

Because the heart of the matter, as I see it, is not what he said, but the effect of what he said. It is incredibly dehumanizing to have your entire relationship be boiled down to a sex act. To not be seen as a person, but as a sex act. For the kind of person you are to not matter because of the type of sex you have. It’s hurtful. It makes you want to hide from the people who make you feel that way. It makes you cry. It makes you feel like you are worthless. Hearing the statement from one redneck man in Louisiana stings. Hearing it defended by hundreds of Christians…often people you love and care about…on Facebook, Twitter, etc. cuts to the core. It is not drawing people to Christ. It is causing the already wounded to run away from the Healer.

Christianity is supposed to be about loving God and loving people. Robertson’s comments do not make gay people feel loved, even if he follows them up with the assertion that he loves everyone. That’s not love, because “Love is kind.” Love doesn’t poke fingers into the sore spots and laugh when you wince.

We all have the freedom to be cruel. I just wish we would consider the consequences of our cruelty.

A God Better Than Me

Filed under: Bible,Faith,Me — Rachel at 11:22 am on Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One of the things I struggle with the most lately in regard to God and religion is a sense of justice. I am a compassionate person. I feel like this is one of my best qualities. I am very empathetic. Maybe too much so at times. This is how I end up with pregnant teenagers or addicted young adults living in my basement. This is how I end up giving large (for me) sums of money to homeless guys. This is how I find myself washing the walls in the home of an elderly man I had never met before. I think to myself, what if it was me? What if it was my child? They need help. Generally, I try to help people if it is in my power to do so.

I struggle a lot with the idea that everything is within God’s power to do so. He could heal every cancer, fill every hungry belly, and defeat every evil power. He could. Why doesn’t he?

This “why” torments me. Why does he allow such suffering. I know the party line, Christian answer. Sin, free will, etc. etc. None of that can explain away the part about God being the author of all. If he is omniscient and all powerful, he knew what his creation would become. He had the power to alter that. He wrote the whole story! Why? I also know the part about the desire to glorify himself. I just don’t understand it. He made up all the rules. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it is. And I dont’ understand how a compassionate God could allow it to be this way.

As a small child, grappling with the ideas of an eternal hell and a God that created it and sends people there, I had a lot of questions that were too big for me. I remember asking, “How could God send someone to Hell who had never heard about Him? How could he be punished for not choosing to follow a Christ he never knew existed?” The myopic answer was, “Well, dear. He told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. It’s our job to tell those people about him. That’s why it’s so important.” I’d like to go back in time and say, “Bullshit!” I want to say, “That’s not fair.” Maybe they would have tried a little harder with me. Maybe I could have jumpstarted my questioning earlier in life. Because that is a really effed up system. It’s not that bad if you are on this side of the equation. We just have to pray about our part in “God’s will” for evangelization. If we don’t feel personally “called” to go tell the poor schmuck in the darkest reaches of Africa that Jesus exists and will send him straight to Hell after they starve to death at the end of a miserable life fraught with violence and poverty, well, we can just pray for those who are called and send some money when we feel so led. Maybe a couple of times in our life we can raise money to take ourselves on a two week mission trip. We just need to be earnest and passionate about doing what we can in our own little worlds to share the gospel. This side of the equation is no big deal. Plug  yourself into the other side, though. How would you like to be that mother in Darfur? You’re only seventeen years old. You have two children. They’re both slowly dying of malnutrition. You can no longer nurse the baby because you are starving to death yourself. Oh, and, you don’t know it, but you are HIV positive after that time you were raped walking to get water last year. Death seems almost like a relief to you. Except for, oh,  yeah. You’ve never heard the name of Jesus before, and no one has of yet felt “called” to put their own life at risk to trek over here and tell you that you have to confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God. So, you slowly and painfully exit a life of misery to lift up your eyes in hell?

What kind of God is that? What kind of God comes up with such a broken system? This is what I have been taught to believe. I reject it, though! I do! How can a loving God punish people eternally for not knowing him? I would not do that. I would not hold people accountable for something they had no awareness of. I wouldn’t do that because I have compassion for them. I hear a story about them and my heart breaks and I love them. If I can feel that way…me…a mere mortal who has proven to be selfish and foolish and even mean…how can the God who claims to actually be love do that? I need a God that is better than I am.

Do you hear what I am saying? I am going crazy over this. I need a God who is good and kind and compassionate, infinitely  more so than myself. I need to know that God. I don’t like this God who punishes the innocent because of some inborn sin nature. Not when he was the very one who created the whole scenario.

I don’t know how my theology needs to change for me to be able to love God again. Believe that Hell doesn’t exist? Believe in some sort of universalism that says we all get Heaven in the end? He created us with the capacity to know and value justice and righteousness and compassion and love. I have to believe that He is all those things, and that what I feel is a reflection of that. I have to believe that I was just taught something that is not true. Because it can’t be true.

It can’t be true because I need a God who is better than me.

 

More On The Bible

Filed under: Bible,Faith — Rachel at 7:21 pm on Saturday, August 17, 2013

First off, thank you all so much for commenting on my last post. I’ve really been thinking a lot about some of the comments you guys left, and I would like to maybe have a conversation here about them. I appreciate the different insights people from different parts of my life have to offer as I struggle with this topic. It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who is wrestling with the topic. It is also good to hear that people who have wrestled in the past have found peace. That is, I believe, the heart of what I am searching for…peace.

One comment that I loved was left by my friend, Gretchen, on the link to my post on Facebook. She said that God is too big to fit inside any box…even the Bible. I cannot sufficiently express how much this comment resonated with me. I have been thinking about it ever since. The idea that the Bible doesn’t represent God in all His fullness…or even come close. I was taught to believe that we could learn about God in the Bible. That it held all the answers to life’s questions, in some form or another. As I mature, though, I find that I have all kinds of questions about God that the Bible doesn’t shed any light upon at all. Instead, the Bible’s contradictory representations of God leave me vastly confused. I understand that He is a great and infinite God, and therefore is multifaceted. However, some things seem like they should be mutually exclusive. Like, love and hate. How can you love the whole world, yet condemn the majority of us to an eternity in Hell? The Bible doesn’t answer these questions for me. It is the source of my confusion. I find great comfort in the idea that the Bible is not the final word on who God is and how he relates to us. It’s a relief to think that Religion may have used the Bible to try to box God up but I don’t have to keep Him there.

Mark, a friend of Amy’s, left a comment that I’ve been chewing on. He said, “What if the Bible had a single, primary purpose: to teach us about Jesus. To teach us about how He created everything, how He has a penchant for working with and through families, to teach us about how He was born, lived, died, and most importantly how He rose again? To teach us about how He has gone to prepare a place for us to live with Him?” For the most part, as I have kicked this thought around, I like it. I feel like the one thing I can embrace for sure about the Bible is the teachings of Jesus. When I read them, they feel very true to me. When I think about Jesus as an actual man who walked this earth, I don’t have to doubt that he did. History proves that he was real. I have enough faith to believe the parts that can’t be proven…his deity and his resurrection. The part that is problematic for me is believing that the purpose of the whole of the Bible is to teach us about Jesus. I still have the issues of knowing about the canonization process, the disputes over what was Scripture and what was not, and wondering if man’s best efforts were anywhere near right or complete. Also, what about the parts of the Bible that don’t actually talk about Jesus? What am I to do with them? For the most part, I agree with Mark’s idea of how to view the Bible, but I feel like we are approaching the subject from different starting points. I believe that he is starting from the idea that we have a Bible that is accurate, reliable, and complete. I am unable to set out from the same premise, so this idea doesn’t assuage my inner conflict about how to view the Bible. Mark, if you happen to read this, I would love to hear your thoughts, and know  if I even interpreted your comment as you meant it.

Another comment that meant a lot to me was from my dear friend, Joy. She is my oldest friend. We have been friends since we were babies together. I even named my daughter after her. So, when she started off her comment by saying, “First of all, I love you!” I immediately felt loved. I am so thankful for the people that can hear my heart through what I write. Joy wrote in her comment, ” I just want to point out that the Bible is a book of faith. I truly believe man wrote what God wanted them to (II Pet. 1:21), not just what they thought was a good thing to write. Psalm 138:2 is also very interesting where God says His word is honored above His name! But these things have to be believed…through faith! Think of all the O.T. stories – Elijah on Mt. Carmel, the Red Sea crossing, the fiery furnace. If you tried to research and analyze them, you would NEVER believe them! They are impossible…except with God. Just a few thoughts. I’m sure you’ve already thought of them. The Bible IS God’s Word! But it can never help you if you don’t have the faith to believe it.I love you. Please know that most of all!” Joy, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment for me. I agree with you that you have to have faith. After all, without faith it is impossible to please God. (That part rings true to me.) You may find it interesting to know that I don’t have trouble believing that stories in the Bible actually happened. I don’t have any qualms believing that God can send fire from Heaven or part seas. My issue comes with trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with them, and what they lead me to believe about God. I believe that God can cause a city to crumble after people walk around it seven times and blow their trumpets. He’s God. Of course he can do that. My problem comes when I think about what that means. It means that little babies and old men and the sick and lame of that city were crushed in the rubble of their broken homes. I don’t understand that part of the stories. Why would God do that? Or the story of the dude that rushed to keep the Ark of the Covenant from tumbling to the ground. God struck him down despite the intent in his heart? Or the story of Achen? That one killed me as a little kid. I didn’t have a problem with Achen being killed for his disobedience. It made sense to my little child’s heart. He did wrong; he got punished. The part that grieved me was when the teacher got to the part about where they were to stone his family with him. I have this irritating habit of putting myself into the story and imagining if I had been Achen’s daughter, dragged from safety to be killed by the stones hurled by God’s command. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem fair.

So I ask myself, why do I teach my children these stories as an attempt to teach them about God? If they make me feel this bad, why do I tell my children, “This is your God?”

I think it’s pretty obvious that all I have is a bunch of questions. I don’t have any answers. I know I can’t ever understand God fully, but, Lord have mercy on me, I need some peace!

Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. If I answer your comment with a question/challenge, please know that I am just struggling to see if I can come away with something to hold on to. Please reply and help me understand why you believe what you believe. Not just what you believe, but why you believe it. I need some people to wade in with me and talk about it.

On The Bible

Filed under: Faith,Me — Rachel at 10:22 pm on Friday, August 9, 2013

I am lost. I am lost, and I find myself in a very peculiar place. In the past, anytime I found that I had strayed too far from God, I knew the answer to my problem. It was the Bible. Go and read the Bible, and you’ll find your way back. That’s a fantastic answer until it doesn’t work anymore.

I am a person who has a lot of questions. I’m not afraid to ask them, either. Sometimes, there are no answers. Sometimes the questioning costs me more than I bargain for. Both of those things seem true in this situation.

I had a lot of questions about the Bible. How did we get the Bible as we have it today? How do we know that what we have is what God intended for us to have? Who gets to decide what is Scripture? How do we read and interpret it consistently? I asked these questions and many more. Then I did some research. I read a lot of books. I started researching the Bible a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember the names of all the books I read. The one that had the biggest effect on me was called “The Canon of Scripture” by F.F. Bruce. It was a good book. I reviewed it here on my blog after I read it.

What my research gave to me was a better understanding of how we came to have the Bible we have today. What it did not give me was peace or satisfactory answers. Questions became doubts. I know a lot of people are afraid of asking questions for this very reason. They don’t want to have doubts about their faith. They like having answers without having to ask questions. This doesn’t work for me. I would rather have doubts and questions than best guesses disguised as truth.

I guess what I ended up with was a lot of doubts concerning the authority of Scripture. For some Christians, this wouldn’t be as troubling to them as it is to me. However, the churches that I was brought up in practically worship the Bible. They sing songs about it. They memorize it in bulk. They propose that it is almost miraculous in its lack of contradictions (which, I hate to tell you, is a preposterous assertion). Preachers tell stories about kissing the pages. Children are taught to adore it. They believe in the Bible. They believe it is the last word on any argument. It is quite literally the foundation of their faith. It was the foundation of mine.

Things have changed for me, though. I don’t view the Bible in the same way I was brought up to view it. I can’t. The things that I have learned have forever changed the way I read the Bible. For instance, if I know that a certain book barely made it into the canon and there was much argument against its inclusion, my mind gives that book less weight than, say, the Gospels. If I read passages that seem misogynistic or supportive of some atrocity such as slavery, I ask myself, “Do I really believe this passage reflects the character of God as I know it?” If it doesn’t, I refuse to accept it.

I know some of you are probably horrified to read what I am saying. I understand. Really, I do. There’s just no going back for me. I can’t unlearn what I have learned.

So, on an intellectual level, I have a hard time finding solace in the Scripture like I used to. I hesitate to find guidance from certain passages like I used to. For a long time, I just stopped reading the Bible. I couldn’t get out of my head long enough to feel anything in my heart. I felt betrayed, to be quite honest. Like I had been sold a bill of goods. Therefore, I felt pretty lost. I still do.

I find myself now overcome with the desire to find God again. I just don’t know what that’s going to look like. I was despondent over the idea that I don’t know how to be a Christian without thinking that every word of the Bible is authoritative. I just can’t keep doing mental gymnastics to try to fit passages that seem to fly in the face of the God revealed elsewhere in the Bible and to my own heart into my worldview. For instance, for a year or two, I was trying to understand Calvinism. I was even embracing it. It made me angry with God to start with. Friends that I discussed it with just flat out refused to accept that it could even be a possibility. The main point of contention was the idea that the God they knew and loved could create a person with the intent to send them to Hell (Romans 9). For me, though, I believed that the Bible should be taken literally for the most part, and, as such, I had to accept the parts I didn’t like with the ones I did. If a passage seemed to misrepresent the God I knew, I assumed I didn’t understand it well enough or I had misunderstood God’s nature. The end result was that I had basically lost my love for God. I still believed in Him. I just didn’t love Him like I used to. He seemed cruel to me. Now, thankfully, I don’t feel the need to interpret the Bible so literally or stringently.

I’ve talked about this subject with several people who I believe know and love God. Men and women of various religious persuasions. I think the idea that I’ve come away with is that I should read the Bible aided by the Holy Spirit. I believe that, as I read, His Spirit will testify with my spirit and show me the truth. The parts that resonate I will hold on to. The parts that make me love Him and desire Him I will cling to for all I’m worth. I won’t worship a book anymore. I want to learn how to worship Him. I want to learn how to let Him speak directly to me. I will respect and love the Bible. I will view it as Christianity’s sacred texts—the best efforts of good men who loved God but wrote from inside their own experiences. I will search the Scripture and ask God to guide me to the truth. . Because I have been very lost, and I need Him to guide me back home.

Back on the Crazy Couch

Filed under: Faith,Me,Music,Videos — Rachel at 10:42 pm on Monday, August 5, 2013

I am determined to write tonight, but it’s so hard to focus on one thing to write about. There is an overabundance of ideas swirling around in my head. I need to just snatch one out and decide to start with it.

Ok. Here goes…

I went to see my therapist last week for the first time in well over a year. I really appreciated all the time I spent sitting in Dr. P’s office. She was just the right counselor for me. She helped me work through a lot of issues over the span of a couple of years. I hated not being able to go to counseling anymore after I got divorced and lost my insurance, but I was really so much better off than when I started. I was just grateful that I was able to talk to her during my divorce. Going to see her last week was a huge deal. I recently got health insurance again. (It was required to be in the nursing program.) It actually went into effect on the day I saw Dr. P, but it isn’t the best insurance and doesn’t cover mental health. So, I had to suck it up and pay out of pocket to talk with her. I really needed help getting some clarity, though.

I don’t know what I wanted Dr. P to tell me when I was there, but I know I was hoping for something concrete. I had been struggling so much with everything that I had been dealing with recently. My relationships were dreadfully confusing. Both my relationship with Amy and a new relationship with a guy I had been dating had me running around in mental circles. I sat down on Dr. P’s couch and started recapping the last year and a half as quickly as I could. I filled her in on the year Amy and I were a couple, our breakup, my dating experiences with the three different guys I had went out with, and the way my world reacted to all of those things. I told her I needed help figuring things out. I was very confused.

She told me one thing right off the bat: I make things into a bigger deal than they actually are. Guilty. I know it’s true.

We talked back and forth for a while about why I felt the way I did about certain issues. I told her my problems with church and God. I told her about things that had happened to me while I was with Amy, and the hurt that came with those things. I tried very hard to make it clear to her what I was dealing with.

Then she told me what she thought I needed to do. She told me the one thing I didn’t want to hear. She told me that I need to find my faith again, I need to pray, and I need to accept that God loves me. I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted her to give me some simple steps that I could take to make my life better.

Some of you with deeper faiths than mine are probably thinking, “What’s so hard about praying?” I don’t know how well I could explain it to you, but it’s something I struggle with. I think I spend too much time in my head. I analyze things to death. I over-think them. I have been accused twice in the last week of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. That is probably true to some extent. I just feel like I have been misled so much in my life, and I don’t trust anyone or anything. I am a skeptic. If I were Catholic, my patron saint would probably be Doubting Thomas.

I don’t have a pretty bow to put on this post yet. I am pretty much in the same spot I was when she gave me the advice. I feel like what she told me I needed to do was good advice. I need to reconnect with God and feel his presence in my life. I’m still struggling to work that out. As some sort of confirmation to me that she had pointed me toward the right path, when I got into my car to leave, I turned on the radio and the song that was playing was “Pray” by Sanctus Real. It reminded me of when Amy and I were first friends and every song that came on just happened to say exactly what I needed to hear. Amy and I called it “The Divine D.J.”.

Maybe I should just call this an introductory post. I have much more to say on the topic, and so much to discover. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but you’re welcome to come along for the ride.