In this month’s episode, “Religion vs Relationship” I shared my story of how I grew up in church. I shared how I was told that our confirmation classes were intended to confirm both that we were saved and our intentions to be members of the church. Part of that process was being able to write all the books of the Bible…in order and spelled correctly.
I ended up writing the Old Testament books on my left thigh and the New Testament books on my right thigh. I wore a skirt to class the night of the big test and I sat in the back. I was willing to cheat the system to get through the process to be confirmed as saved. I cheated on my salvation test.
As I grew in my faith and had solid women surround me and speak truth into my life, I came to a true understanding of what salvation really is. It isn’t doing all the right steps or saying all the right things. It isn’t really about me and what I know or can do at all. It is about surrender…surrender to the God of the universe that created me to be in a relationship with Him. My sin keeps me from that relationship and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to fix that. I can’t be a good enough person, I can’t pray enough or read my Bible enough. All I can do is accept what Christ did for me. He lived a sinless life and paid the price for my sin when He died on the cross. I surrender my life to Him and allow Him to guide me in all I do.
This went really well for me for a while. I was growing closer to Him and learning more and more what He wanted from me, what He had planed for my life, how He wanted to use the gifts and talents He gave me to glorify Him and build the kingdom. But then things got hard. And I’m not talking about spiritual warfare hard or me wanting to hold onto sin hard. It got hard to feel like I was glorifying Him. I spent the good part of 3 years trying to pinpoint why it felt so hard to do what God was asking me to do.
I recently had some events happen that lead me and my family to reevaluate what we were doing and how we were growing. It started with little feelings and grew to the point where my husband and I felt like God was screaming at us with a bright flashing red flag saying, “Hello? Are you listening to me?” This rocked our world and lead me not only to step away from my job on staff at our church, but ultimately needing to leave that church all together. This wasn’t a decision we came to quickly or lightly. It was heartbreaking.
As we were reflecting on what had gone down, we realized we were once again cheating the system. Things had gotten so hard because we allowed performance to guide our decisions over listening to what God wanted from us. We knew the things that God was asking of us, but when faced with “we don’t do it that way” or “why would you think that is how to do it” enough times, we started to compromise. We would know what God was asking, but we would water it down to fit the mold of what we knew the church wanted.
Where’s the faith in that? It was a HUGE depressing slap in the face to realize that I was a person who claimed Acts 20:24 as my life verse and I was compromising. It took me a couple months to process with God where I had gotten so far off track and what He lead me to was I was once again cheating my salvation.
I was saved and called for a purpose and by compromising, I was living a religious lifestyle. There’s no amount of Christian clichés or rose tinted glasses that could cover up the fact that almost doing what God told me to was NOT doing what He told me to. I held onto a few scriptures so tightly that I pushed others aside. Bottom line, God revealed to me that yes church is your family, but one church isn’t THE church, you can’t love the way God calls you to if you create an “us vs them” environment and you sure as heck can’t claim to be listening to God and the Holy Spirit if you are willing to water down what they say in order to please people.
I had to search my heart with some hard core humility. I had to ask for forgiveness for putting human desires over God’s and I had to accept the fact that by doing so, I was going to be labeled as a traitor by people I had known for 20 years. And you know what? I’m better for it. These past few months have been hard, but rewarding. I am watching my husband and kids be excited about their faith again. I’m excited about my faith again.
It breaks my heart to think about how I may have treated people or the things I missed out on because I was more worried about people than God. I never want to feel this way again. I encourage you to search the things in your life that you are cheating your salvation to have. If you aren’t giving God something 100%, you’re cheating. Ministry, church, family, jobs…it is all temporary. Do you think when we all get home up there, it is going to matter where we worked, what ministry we did or what church we attended? Nope! Our faith will matter. Hope will matter. Love will matter. Jesus is eternal and eternal isn’t worth cheating.