journey through christianity

Oooh, tricky topic. I’ll try to tread lightly as I make way through the experience I had from meeting Jesus to, well, now. When I met and fell in love with Christ I was 17. In the years to follow I would fall deeply in love with him, relapse into opiate abuse, come to fall more deeply in love with Him and stop again, then fall down again as I discovered drinking at age 21. For a whole year that I got to be a normal person before becoming a mom and went to clubs and drank like a fishy. It sounds bad, and it was, but in downtown Orlando that’s what normal 21 year olds did… Then back into a comfortable and solid revelation that I am within Him and the Spirit is within me. The journey was long and complicated. During times of pain and struggle with my own demons I felt that I had “lost” the connection with the Spirit inside of me. Some Christians claim that if you and me start doing bad stuff, we are something called backslidden. I don’t know where that word came from or who coined it, but it has no merit. I don’t believe in it. Christ promised that He would never leave or forsake us. Even when we do bad stuff. Especially when we do bad stuff. Notice in one of my earlier sentences I first said that I came to fall more deeply in love with Him and then stopped using pain numbing opiates. If He leaves and then comes back based on my bad behavior, then wouldn’t it have been the other way around? For me, yes. So that’s why I don’t believe in the human-made word backslidden. I learned through experience that I had to know pain and suffering to order to share in Christ’s pain and suffering. I have suffered through dark times, as most do. What I live through AS A CHRISTIAN…

Loss… loss so great that I am able to see immaturity in others and recognize it, no longer as a character flaw, but as a person who has yet to know a certain level of suffering. Just as I am sure there are those who know suffering deeper than mine. I have lost friends to death… so many friends… a person I thought I would marry one day… a baby… and almost my husband. I lost the one person who loved me the most two years ago (except you mom and dad). I have yet to forgive her. I lost myself in every way possible. I thought I would die in an empty townhome in Philly one afternoon. I wished I did at the time. When I was lost in numbing my pain- NOT getting high as I did not get high, but literally only taking substances to numb the pain and feel peace- my family hated me. I still cry to this day at the way my Dad looked at me when I was at my worst, and the things he said, which were true. My family hated my desire to destroy myself, my family hated me when I was a selfish, thieving, opiate addicted a$$-hole. They never left me and never stopped helping to keep me alive, but they hated me. I hate that I made them feel that way. So it really ticked me off when Christians whose worst experience in life is not getting what they want, cry as if they’ve been beaten and left on the side of the road for dead. Even now sometimes it hurts my feelings when others relate to my experiences as they have relatively minor set backs. And as I “mature” I am learning that we all get to share in the Lord’s death. We all experience brokenness before Him. For some it takes a few small bumps in the road to reach that point. For me it took a mallet over the head. I can’t get mad at that. Thanks God for helping me to see the wisdom in your ways… it took me a long time to mature to the point that I recognize everyone has their own journey with the Lord.

So I notice trends in me, my kids, and my husband as we have grown in Christ. The first stage of maturity, which can last a person’s entire life if they choose so, is legalism. After getting past the stigma of being a Christian, which was the hardest part for me… I had seen Christians and I didn’t want to be one… I finally decided after a lot of questions and doubt and trying to prove people wrong and failing, that there is a God, He did put a plan into place in order to be one with me, and I accepted Him. There was nothing to lose, except my reputation. Which was less than stellar at the time. And I felt a LOT of joy. I had intense feelings of closeness to Christ. I wanted to know more about God and what pleased Him. I wanted to do the things that please Him. Just like I want to show my husband kindness and love because I married him. It wasn’t out of obligation. I just really loved Him a lot. But, and this is a big “but,” I believed that in order to be a Christian and stay a Christian, that I needed to do certain things. Like, I needed to evangelize (go out and “save” souls for Christ) or that I needed to give a certain amount of money if I really loved Him. Or that I needed to martyr my life. I did those things because I love Him, but at the time I thought I needed to do them. Christ already did the hard work of reaching out to us and offering us a piece of Himself in all things. Even if I never do another one of those things again… say I am in a hospital bed dying of scary-osis, and all of my time, money, and focus is on my family and myself, He doesn’t leave because I stop giving of myself. He is already locked in. There is nothing I can do to top what He did. Like the good book says… when Christ the human died, he said, “It is finished.” It’s done guys. We can’t top what He did or add to it. As if we could ever come close. A teacher we recently heard speak said that trying to “give back to the Lord for the rest of your life is like someone buying you a really expensive Ferrari and repaying him with a nickel.” It’s a cute gesture, but not necessary. We please Him out of love. Not to repay Him. Not “for Him” because He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. He is the Alpha (made the world) and the Omega (will end the world) and everything in between. He doesn’t need us to do anything. If we want to physically love Him, there are ways we can give. When we love someone, like a kid or a husband, we give all of ourselves for that person. It’s more like that. Making my husband dinner doesn’t validate my marriage license. It is simply a gesture of love. When I got married I wanted to tell people. It wasn’t in the contract that I had to go out and tell everyone. I told people about him because I was excited to be married to him. Same thing with God. He gave the 12 (apostles) a commandment to tell the world about Him. The 12 were the only ones with a direct commandment to do so. The rest of us do it out of love. I don’t know what the great commission is, except that people freak out when I talk about sharing love instead of following a strict set of instructions and start beating me over the head with those words, The Great and Almighty Commission (echo, echo, echo…). Which brings me to this…

The next stage of maturity is when I stopped thinking everyone else had to do what I was doing. In a righteous and kinda’ pompous voice here… I was on the streets saving souls. I was feeding the homeless almost everyday on skid row and then coming back to the (women’s) Home at night and leading Bible studies. Yeah, I was that spiritual. And if I could do all of that for the Lord… I needed to make sure others knew so that they could see my good deeds and they could do good deeds. Yup. And I didn’t need to tell everyone what I was doing in a straight forward way, there were ways to let everyone know how spiritual I was in how I spoke to others. People know when they are being spoken to with authority by a religious person who has no authority over you. I spoke as if I were a great person for the Lord. All that does is make people think I am a douche. No one wants to do good deeds because I am the holiest one and I tell everyone else just how holy I am, but in the most modest way, of course. It’s a phase. It’s nothing to get angry at. We find God, we get really excited, we start to learn things about Him, memorize the Bible and all the other church-y things and it’s completely normal to think we’ve gained the right to be authoritive.  even though I was still a baby. So as the years went by, when I began to see the Divine Spirit in me grow, I didn’t want to tell anyone about what I did for fear that I would lose the intimacy between me and Him and the church. I only wanted to fall at His feet when I saw more of the Lord in the homeless man on the bench than I ever saw in anyone else. This growth took a long time. I’m stubborn and hesitant so when it was time for this change to happen, I fought it a little with Scripture to fit my reasoning. Was I supposed to be an evangelist or not? Scripture could say whatever I wanted it to say depending on which verses I used and how I arranged them. I viewed the answers through the lens I had always viewed Christian rules. Gradually others came into my life who helped me along and showed me that what I did mattered so much less than who He is. Again, it didn’t happen alone. I needed others to help guide me in this growth. I met people who were doing things I didn’t know were being done. And they weren’t telling people. And honestly, I agree with a very wise man who once said, “The best thing someone can say about you is… “I didn’t know he was a Christian, but I am not surprised.” As we all know, Christians give Christians a bad rap. So I stopped being a “Christian” and living by rules and trying to copy what Jesus did, as a narcissist. Instead I slowly… very slowly… began living on Love, in Love, and by the life of Love inside of me. People call it Christianity. I don’t name it.

What I hope to experience next is confidence. Not pride. Little children do what feels good. Adults have self-control. I want to take my passions and my pain for injustice and I want to work towards the good of human kind. Not like before so that I could be a busy little bee for the Lord. I am starting at home, where it matters most.

First I am raising my kids and they take up all of my time. I am homeschooling them so that they aren’t taught behaviors and facts that are different from what we value. Some moms do that and send their kids to school and I applaud them. I know moms of amazing children who have attended institutional school since preschool. They are wonderful young men and women. I am in awe of this mama, thinking of my friend Kim in particular. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you view it, I need to homeschool in order to raise my kids this way. And as silly as it sounds, I know in my heart that I have been called to do this job. Taking them to school so I can work or clean or do other things is not for me right now. I am to raise my boys full-time. So I don’t feel guilt for not saving the world. I did for a while. I even asked my husband if we could turn our basement into a refuge for homeless women who want out, but have nowhere to go. Thank you Lord for his wisdom in saying absolutely fricken’ not. I need to focus on homeschooling, not helping women full-time right now. If you homeschool you know that doing both (running a home for the homeless in your basement) and training your children up in the Lord, at the same time, is impossible. My kids are still little. They are my first responsibility and they need me. If I were to go out and save the world for Jesus, yet leave my kids in the hands of another while I did it… in my mind the two acts are contrary and would cancel each other out. No guilt here. Jesus did the work. I don’t need to save anyone, as if I could… All I need to do is focus on my boys and remember that everything has a time and a place.

We all go through seasons. We all mature in our faith, whether Christian or other. I do not condemn other religions. I don’t pull the splinters out of the eyes of the abortion people, the homosexuals, or the people with purple hands… as I have a log in my own eye I am still working on. That’s the point of all of this. The more I mature, the more maturing I see I have left to do. The more I mature, the less other’s business becomes my own. The less I need to let people know my business, like what I am doing “for” the Lord over here and over there. I am doing it for me, not Him. As I mature I can be honest enough to see that truth.

Hopefully I was able to convey my immaturity and journey through this. My intent is never to point out another’s shortcomings, but rather share my revelation in Christ. I hope you see Him through this. Thanks for reading guys. Have a good weekend… I am off to a weekend date with husband that starts in just a few hours:)

Love,

Jackie

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