I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and has called me to spend eternal life with Him after this life ends. I’m really glad I am a Christian and my children are growing up in a Christian household. I believe without a doubt that I am going to a better place. This world can be so hard to live in. You don’t have to be struggling with a terminal illness to have daily demons that attack you and bring you down. Christianity has in many ways saved me from those demons. I trust in God. I trust that He will save my children from the pitfalls of this world and provide a “Peace that surpasses understanding” to them as He has with me.
I feel like the sad reality of the world today is that I’m probably going to offend Christians and non-Christians alike with this blog post. We’re dividing ourselves into tribes like never before, constantly drawing lines in the sand. “You support government social programs…you’re not a Christian”, or the opposite, “You don’t support government run healthcare…. you’re an ignorant hillbilly”. I feel like as Christians we need to be mindful of balancing our convictions with spreading the Gospel. I’m a Lutheran. Lutherans tend to fall more in line with acceptance and can at times give the appearance of letting our convictions take a back seat. I believe convictions are important to any religion. If you don’t have certain rules or guidance that you follow, why even subscribe to a religion, why not just meditate or think positive thoughts. I think it is our duty as Christians to spread the good news of the Gospel, but I also believe that I will never be successful doing that through discriminating behaviors. We all need to recognize that we are not comfortable around those that are different than us, be it their looks, culture, or lifestyle. I’ve seen and experienced some pretty unforgiving treatment because of someone’s interpretation of “Biblical behavior” and it’s not only not fair, but also based in fear and prejudice. When our first impressions as Christians are those of immediate judgement and arrogance, we should expect to be met with hostility. I saw a quote that I really liked and unfortunately have lost it, so cannot give the appropriate credit or probably even correctly quote it, but it was something to the effect of “Don’t tell a person why they should be a Christian, behave in a way that makes them question why they are not a Christian”. I know it’s a basic life lesson and everyone already knows this, but actions speak louder than words. I believe Christianity is the one and only way to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and it is my job to tell others; but no one will listen to a jerk, plain and simple. Every religion has great people, every religion has not-so-great people. If you are going to be a jerk and pass judgement on others while doing it in the name of your religion, you’ve just lost so many people. Power lies with your actions. Show God’s love and mercy first, then do your preaching and support your convictions with the Bible.
I have had a few struggles with my faith over the years. First and foremost, I was born into spiritual privilege. My parents were very involved in the church and it was always a comfort zone for me. I’ve always wondered whether I would be a Christian had I been raised by a different family or been born in a different country. What about people who have just never been exposed to Christianity? How is it fair that they will not have eternal life? I have always felt guilty for wondering these things, like my faith wasn’t strong enough. I now have children who will probably start asking these same questions. I want them to question why they believe what they believe. I’ve come to realize, doubt is not a sin, it’s the catalyst that spurs a stronger faith. The guilt you may feel because of doubt, however, is not coming from God. Guilt comes from a dark place and that’s not God’s plan, that’s evil trying to disguise itself as religion. Back to my original question, I believe my life was the path God chose for me. Why I seem to have kind of “gotten off easy” and was born into my current faith with an easier, somewhat passive path, I don’t know, but it was absolutely God’s plan and in many ways a gift from God that I should be thanking Him for every day.
The other sticky point I’ve had throughout the years that I still struggle with is when I observe non-Christians behaving in noble, altruistic ways and then I observe Christians doing absolutely terrible things. This is difficult for me and I pray that the exposure my children get to these contradictory behaviors will be minimal at least until they are older. As Christians, the world is looking at our actions and treatment of people under a microscope. We have a great responsibility to serve as ambassadors of Christianity and demonstrate kindness and generosity to everyone, every day. We must remember that and again I pray that with God’s help we are able to do this.
Another struggle I’ve had is pretty minor, but it is a real thing and I think it’s an issue that comes up for a lot of Christians. Being a more reserved person, I don’t enjoy or feel completely comfortable with a lot of typical Christian activities. I don’t like singing. I’m actually so musically handicapped that I struggle to clap to a beat. I’ve never enjoyed Bible camp. This also caused me some guilt in high school and college when I would observe my friends really in their element at camp and I just dreaded it. I didn’t like feeling like I was being shuttled around from one activity to another and the sad thing is that again, I think the guilt and my over-thinking the situation actually prevented me from experiencing some of the great strides in faith that my friends made. Finally, I’m absolutely not someone who is convinced in an argument where I feel like I’m being sold something by the loudest voice in the room. This seems to work for some people, so it’s used as a technique by many preachers, in a variety of religions and social settings. Last summer I was listening to an author speaking at a church who, in addition to trying to sell his book, was trying to make a point with numbers. At one point, I can’t remember what he was talking about, but he shouted something to the effect, “You’ll never guess the number (pause for dramatic effect) ….1000! Repeat that after me, 1000”. So, everyone repeated the number after him. The minute you ask a congregation to repeat what you just said, my ears are shut. I just don’t relate to that, it’s not in my nature. Aside from that, I remember it not being that mathematically incredible. I definitely wasn’t knocked off my seat. The whole thing was just frustrating. I think it’s important to show excitement for being a Christian, but I’m realizing it’s okay to just sit back and let things come naturally sometimes. I don’t have to shout “Amen!” or wave my hands in the air to feel connected to God. I’ve definitely felt God’s presence and love the upbeat excitement I get from listening to a good Christian song on the radio. I’m also not denying that sometimes you need to force things and leave your comfort zone to get to new places. I’m just more at peace with some of the nuances of my behaviors and motivations and have come to more of an acceptance with who I am, who my kids are, and what kinds of things our personalities need spiritually.
I have thought about death. It is not pleasant. I have a really great life here on Earth, way better than I would have ever imagined. I can’t believe God has blessed me with a great husband, loving children, and a job I enjoy (I’ll admit that gratitude is hard to come by when I go into work at 1:00 a.m.). I just want to latch on to this life and never let go. Once I was diagnosed with cancer, I really started to think about death. It became real, not just going to someone’s funeral. I won’t lie, it is really sad to think about myself or anyone I love dying, but I’m not afraid. That’s a pretty heavy statement, I’m not afraid of death. That’s not being strong, that’s being a Christian.