A while ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, Coming Out. I was emerging from my faith-closet, if you will, using attitudes of church friends towards gays as one reason for doing so. There was no theology and some argued no argument, but it was important to me because I felt like I was living a lie. And I don’t live lies; I don’t play games. I had deliberated over writing it for three months, arguing against why it shouldn’t be written until every reason sounded like a cliche. I also wanted to warn friends back home that I had changed significantly since leaving, and I wanted time to allow the fuss-dust to settle before I arrived home [Australia!].
And now I have arrived : )
I’ve had more of a chance to think about what happened. Again, I can’t use theology and if you argue theology with me, I guarantee you will win. But I wanted to write a follow-up post anyway and some friends even kindly asked me to explain my change of heart.
Allow me: I guess the main thing that happened in me was that I became less emotional. I became tired of ‘reading into’ everything. Most of my life, the traffic light turned red because I needed to learn to be patient, or I lost a $5 note because God was teaching me to be more dependent on Him, or whatever. Meaning. Significance. Everywhere. It all became too much in the move over to London, probably because I had too much time to over-spiritualise everything, pre-employment. But it confused me because I couldn’t understand how the exaggeration of my faith could have been a bad thing; all I knew was that it was.
This directly made me less emotional. The traffic light and fiver could be explained by rational, value-less cognition. The timer was up and my fiver caught the breeze. If I wanted to learn anything, I could learn to place my money in a breeze-free environment. That was all. There was nothing to learn from the traffic light. And that had a profound impact on the way I perceived everything. I mean EVERYTHING changed. Suddenly, ‘blessings’ were just normal occurrences, rather than events from which to extract the meaning of life or the lessons I was better off to learn. Maybe it was my fault for placing all my eggs of meaning in one basket. I thought that was the way the Christian life was supposed to live but it was emotionally exhausting so I must have done it wrong. I didn’t mean to.
Yeah, I think that’s the point of this blog post: I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t leave my perfect job in a church in Brisbane thinking, ‘*something uncharacteristically vulgar*, suckers!’. I thought it was God’s inspiration that led me to London, because heaven knows I had no desire to go visit, never mind live, never mind fall in love with London. But it did happen. And it’s an indelible change I can’t un-do.
My two years in London was me trying to re-find my place in the world. This is going to make you all cringe but it’s the only way I can think of it so please bare with this statement: I was really good at being a Christian. I mean, it came naturally. You’ve never met a more loved person in your lives. Of course I was going to believe in an Alighty loving God loving me. Well, duh. My parents love me in a way that is seriously out of control. I’m a spoilt brat of love! God loves me too? Too easy.
And then Christians focus is heavily on loving people too. Brilliant. I love loving people! It’s honestly my favourite thing to do. I love loving people, especially when there’s a cost involved… You know, like when they… hmm… let’s say, they ‘haven’t reached their potential’ yet. I love loving quite dysfunctional or confused people. And that’s not even the ‘scathed their potential’ people – of whom I honestly feel quite helpless in the love department: I can’t help but love them. You should meet my friends – I marvel constantly.
So, it was easy. I was good at being loved by God and loving other people. I even studied theology after school because I wanted to go into youth ministry after which my parents encouraged me to study psychology. I assumed I’d return to theology after my degree.
I don’t think that describes how good-at-being-a-Christian I was. But seriously, I thought in bible verses and I sung all the corny pop love songs to God. Now, I sound like a weirdo, but I think you would’ve seen my heart it in. Maybe. Anyway, being a good Christian was all I wanted to be good at. I’d rather have people remember me as ‘the Christian’ than by my name. Everything I strived for and hoped to be was in God. He made me make sense.
At some point, I stopped wanting and needing to love God as my first priority and unintentionally wanted and needed to love people most instead. First commandment broken. Damn you, unintentionality! And then I realised that some interpretations of the bible meant that I couldn’t love and accept people as what was natural to me: that if I ‘tolerated’ people and their ‘sin’, I wasn’t really ‘loving’ them. I also worked with Muslim students who believed as passionately as I had once, and who had similar experiences of their God as I did my God. But wait, why didn’t Allah just tell them to believe in Jesus? Why didn’t Jesus appear to them or Mohammed to me? I was taught to discount their experience or blame the devil, but these students were amazing, so peaceful, so confident they would have made any church proud! How could I place so much certainty on people who conveniently believed what I believed and yet discounted everyone else when the manifested results seemed the same?
So… back to the cringey comment. I wasn’t good at anything else. Without the structure of God to know who I wanted to be like, I didn’t know who I was. Slowly, I had to deconstruct my world and remove God from it. Every thought and belief had to be tested: is this a Christian-thing or is this a world-thing? because so many verses still held their truth. But there were universal laws, in-discriminatory to believer or non-believer, and I had to learn which ones. Somehow, I forgot I loved people, or, I was so busy shifting through thoughts I didn’t have time and effort to love them. I became a bitch. I was rude and harsh, unnecessarily direct and unhelpfully honest. I extracted value from words and meaning which was both incredibly free-ing but also arresting. I couldn’t see any good in some people but didn’t try either. Looking back, I think I was overwhelmed and trying to survive, but it didn’t feel good. I was happier being a Christian; I was happier when I prayed and when I worshipped and when I loved God and his people.
Well, that’s awkward.
And terribly inconvenient. And annoying. And confusing.
That period was a few months ago. It lasted too long but made me realise some significant things. There are incredible ‘benefits’ of being a Christian for me.
1) I lived in this Love Bubble where I was constantly aware of how loved I was for exactly who I was.
2) I lived aware of goodness, finding goodness where it seemed not, and expecting more.
3) I had goals: I knew who I was and I knew where I was going.
(That took me three painful months to learn. I’m so annoyed I could cut it down to three sentences.)
As it stands, I don’t want to go back to church. I want to be friends with all the friends I had when I was [in] it, but I understand that my change may be a deal-breaker. I get it. It’s a big change for me too. I will be sad to see our friendship over and I will always treasure the memories we made but I understand. Only few friendships last lifetimes. Gosh, now I’m being all emotional on you. Sorry. Point: love me or don’t, but know that I love you. And I’m sorry. And I love you.