Monday, March 6, 2017

Will the Real God Please Stand Up?

I am Ginger, and I’m a recovering evangelical.  I spent many years in a church that portrayed God/Jesus as “bad cop/good cop” because God was this stern overseer with a whip who would beat me/condemn me if I sinned, and then I had to run to Jesus for forgiveness.  Then, the cycle would continue.  God was very much the fire and brimstone type.  I am reminded of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that I read in the esteemed Janis Blocker’s American literature class in 1979-80.  I was always made to feel as though I were never “good enough.”  That was my take away from that church.  

I still hold scars that may never heal, as does my son.

A few months ago I was at a gathering where most of the people were from “that church.”  Someone asked if I still went there.  I replied that I did not, and I proceeded to tell them about my mother having been in hospice and how I go every Sunday to cook for my parents and do for them.
What followed was dead silence.  It was probably a full minute before anyone said anything and changed the subject.  No one asked how my parents were---nothing.

Condemnation and judgment, the feelings transmitted to me, picked the scabs off my old wounds. 
If you are still with me, you may be asking where I am going with this.  This weekend I traveled to The Shack with Mack and had my beliefs about God confirmed.  I should clarify:  my beliefs I have transitioned to.   I wept at both the confirmations and convictions.  My point here is not to divulge the plot, but rather to process my take-aways from the book.  If you want to read the book, you may want to skip the rest of this.

1.      1.   “It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love
      to open the way.”

God gives man free will. We are not puppets for Him to manipulate to His will.  We often
get angry with Him when bad things happen to us or those we love.  But, it pains Him
 as much as it does us.  He will “work all things for good for those who love Him and
are called for His purpose.”

2.     2.  Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment,
and they provide performance as the basis for identity and value.”

God has no expectations of us to behave a certain way; after all, He knows us best.
He loves us unconditionally.  So often, churches put a premium on our performance
being tied to our value in God’s eyes.  I have always felt that I was never “good enough”
A lot of that stems from familial ties as well as my former church.   I have to retrain my thinking.

3.    3.   “Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge.”

Let that sink in.  This is where the floodgates opened up for me.  How any times have
I judged these “careless” drivers in this town? (I *do* suffer from road rage at the idiocy. I know I have to work on that.). How many times have I judged a homeless person to be lazy, dirty, etc...?    I have been a hypocrite.
4.      4.   “Every time you forgive, the universe changes, every time you reach out and touch a
heart or a life, the world changes.

This last quote confirms what I have been trying to do for the last 4 or 5 years.  So,
after all the tears, I sort of feel redeemed here.  Like maybe I’m ok after all, especially
in this current hate-filled climate of our country.

God created us for relationships ---with Him and others---and Love---always Love.
I am a work in progress, better than I was yesterday, but not perfect.  I have work to do, and I know in which areas.  That is another thing this book illuminated for me.  I will need the help of the Holy Spirit for one, just like Mack did in the book.

Man created religious dogmas, rules, and creeds.  Man and his institutions judge us when we “fail.”

The early Church was not this way.  It was plain folks meeting in each other’s homes,
breaking bread together, as in The Shack.  I had that once upon a time with a group of people.  That is where I learned to cook for so many.  But, I digress.

So, for those who would question if I am in Church or when I might return, this is my

         My parents and P. are my current concerns/missions.  I do not need a prescribed day/time/dogma to worship.  I worship through *doing* for those who need it.  I attempt to be the hands and feet of Jesus, whether it is baking salted caramel cupcakes from scratch to see the glee on youngsters’ faces, or whether it is to bring a hot meal to a shut-in, or whether it is to cook my parents one home-cooked meal a week and chauffeur them to Walmart at 7am on Sunday morning.  My local community is enough of a mission field for me, for now.  And, I talk to God daily, all day.  And, you know what?  He listens, and He answers.  Sometimes, *He* seeks *me* out for assignments.  Talk about a stunner!   He has revealed things to me about others in my daily life so I can pray for them……There is no other way I could have known these things about them if it were not for Him!  This is what He cares about, not what church or pew I am in or not in on Sunday morning.  It’s what I do daily.

Yes, I have a lot of work to do on myself, but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

So, if you are still with me, read The Shack.  If you are seeking a closer walk with God, it will impact your life.