If being “religious” means that you act like a snob, are a goody two- shoes, and believe in pie-in-the-sky, then I’m not “religious.”
If being an “evangelical” means that you are narrow-minded, bigoted, pushy and manipulative, then I’m not an “evangelical.”
If being a “Christian” means that you go to church, pray before meals, say all the right and proper things, and are basically a moral person, then please… don’t even call me a “Christian.”
Really, it doesn’t even matter what people call me. All I can say is that I am a child of God and a follower of Christ, and that it is the greatest joy and gift in life.
But it’s a gift that’s been majorly distorted, from the political abuse of Crusades to hypocritical televangelists to legalistic church culture. The casualties? All the pain, anger, and cynicism in the hearts of so many who, as a result, don’t even want to talk about Christianity.
I understand that… I really do, because I didn’t grow up following Christ, or even believing in God, for many of these reasons. But then I gave it a fair shot — I examined many religions and philosophies myself, rather than judging them based upon what I had heard, or assumed. And I discovered a picture and vision in the Bible that made sense of our world, that cut to my heart more deeply and truthfully than anything I had encountered.
Musician Rich Mullins once wrote:
“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart – it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice – it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.”
A lot of people who go to church think that the Bible is basically a set of moral rules or wise teachings that will improve your life or society. Others think Christianity is a noble lie or pipe dream conjured by humans to cope with suffering and death.
But what if Christianity was about something completely different… about a God who created us for the most complete, fulfilling relationship possible, and passionately pursued us through all the deceit and mess of our world? What if our experience of beauty, our longing for intimacy, our need for forgiveness — were signs of something greater? St. Augustine once wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”
That is what I stumbled upon some fifteen years ago, and my world turned upside down. I began to learn what it meant to find joy in suffering, riches in poverty, and strength in the dependence that comes from times of weakness. I began to accept and laugh at myself, knowing that God had created me uniquely, with all of my quirks. I began to enjoy life more, feeling an incredible sense of freedom I can’t quite explain.
Jesus once said, “Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him.” When I chose to follow Christ, it wasn’t a code of ethics or rituals that I adopted. I didn’t join a social group or political party. It wasn’t a psychological coping mechanism. I was transformed at the very core of my being, and I will never be the same.
This is the deepest part of who I am, and I hope to share it with you someday.