Religion: I Never Want to Go Back

I am going to get vulnerable for a minute. I want this blog to be a safe place for you guys. And how can you feel safe if I can’t be real.

I always felt out of place at youth conferences and youth group. I did not have some insane testimony where God rescued me from a lifetime of drug abuse. I was not radically saved from a life of sex and partying. I was not completely transformed from one day to the next. I was not an atheist who hated God. I was moral, well-behaved, popular, with a loving family who loved Jesus. But at 18 I found myself in this never ending mind battle that was consuming my life. During the day, surrounded by others, I was one person. At night I laid in bed and wept because I didn’t know who I was…

You see I had it all together, at least that is what people thought. I served in church every Sunday and Wednesday. I was at praise team practice on Tuesday nights and kids team meetings on Monday nights. On the weekend I was in a worship band that played at D-Nows and other youth events. I raised my hands in worship, I cried at the altar, I did not party, I had never smoked a cigarette or tried drugs. From the outside I was a Christian, I had it together. I had a great boyfriend, my family supported me, I was a collegiate soccer player, I was moral, people looked up to me and came to me with questions. The problem came at night time, in the silence. When I would lay in bed empty inside with no explanation of why.

I will slowly fill in blanks of my testimony as time passes, but to avoid a 42 page long blog I will jump ahead.

At 21 I hit a wall. I broke up with my fiance, I moved out of my parents house, I quit school, I wanted something more. The problem was it made no sense, I didn’t need anything more. It was like I was watching myself drown while I was standing on a boat. I thought maybe I need life experiences. I started looking for words of affirmation from anyone and everyone. I thought maybe I need to experience the party scene, I felt like I was missing out on life. Maybe I need to date other people, try a different friend group. I knew there was more but I did not know where to find it.

The summer of 2010 I found myself in a small town in Alabama at a Christian conference. I put my Christian face on. I raised my hands during worship, I said amen while different people spoke words of life, I took notes and highlighted in my bible. As it came time for the main speaker I moved towards the back to lean on the wall, because DUH my back was hurting from taking so many awesome notes and looking like an amazing christian who had it together!

As he begin to speak my desire to look good taking notes faded. Tears begin to roll down my face and onto the pages of my bible, which are still wrinkled today from those tears (picture attached). And the words he spoke I will never forget, in that moment Jesus marked my life…

“God is not satisfied with your Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. He wants to ruin you for anything else but Him. You were not made to be at church every time the doors open. You were made to burn with such a passion for the love of Jesus that others fall in love with His presence by hearing you speak. You were not made to serve until you are burned out on the gospel. You were made for your knees to be raw in your secret place because you want more of Him. You were not made for a list of do’s and don’t’s and can and can’t’s. You were made to have a deep intimate relationship with the one who willingly climbed onto a cross because He wanted communion with you. Once you have tasted the love of Jesus “church” won’t do it for you, Religion won’t do it for you. He is the only one that will satisfy the brokenness…” *I wish I could type the whole sermon, because ya girl would!

( I want to add a note right here. He is not saying we do not need church or other people, because we do. The word tells us we need fellowship, In John 1:3 it says, ” That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us [that you may share in what we have seen and heard]; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”. He is saying we can go to church every time the doors are open, we can serve every day of the week and give everything we have BUT without a deep PERSONAL relationship with Jesus it means nothing, and will leave you empty EVERY TIME!)

That night, I found Jesus, not a religion, not an empty promise, not a list of things I can and can’t do. I found a love so deep that I never want to go back to the emptiness of the world. Do I have it all together now? No. I need His grace now more than ever before and that will never change. But I have the realization that Jesus came to rid us of a religion and introduce us to an overwhelming, undefined, adventurous, intimate relationship with Him. In the bible we see the Pharisees. They had this distorted image of God as some high and mighty right and wrong keeper that would one day nail you if your crap (for lack of better words) isn’t together. The Pharisees were so busy refining, finessing and trying to figure out the formulas of “religion” that they missed the reality of their beliefs. The reality that one day a messiah would come and wipe away the religious barrier that kept them from the face of God.

I love this quote by Ann Voskamp. “So, God throws open the door of this world—and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable image possible. Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you. What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us? What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile that we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to literal death.” -Ann Voskamp

Did you get chills reading that? Me too. He became vulnerable, so we may find intimacy, not a list of rules. He became tender, so we may touch him. Fragile, so we could break him. Bearing his heart openly, so we may break it. Why? How? This sums it up – He literally loves us all….to death. In that moment with a tear stained bible on my lap I realized my emptiness was not because of church or Jesus but because of my LACK of Jesus. I had the title, I had the appearance, but lacked the intimacy.

I have experienced the deep tangible love of Jesus..and I never want to go back.

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