That was the status on my facebook yesterday. It’s weird to think that 12 years ago I was swearing blind that God didn’t exist. 11 years and 2 days ago I believed that I wasn’t allowed to be a Christian.
It is true that I still doubt my faith and beliefs at times. I spent a long time being really angry at God for giving people control of their own actions in this world. It means people get hurt. It also means we get to make choices.
I’ve been asked many, many times by a close friend of mine ‘Yeah, but do you think you would have become a Christian if you hadn’t gone through all of that before?’ (that being more trauma and struggles as a teenager than I like to admit). I can’t really answer because my past is my past. But for sure, in 2011 more than any other year, I really questioned whether a bunch of control freaks had manipulated and taken advantage of my vulnerability at 17. I took several months away from all organised religion after a year of being made to feel like crap about things that I no longer felt crap about. Adam Hills comment in a stand-up sketch about women’s magazines ringing in my ears. Advertisers want you to feel crap about yourself so you’ll buy their products – it’s a basic sales pitch the Christian church have been using for years. I was starting to notice how often preachers were telling me how crap I felt about myself, stuff that had happened and how I needed healing for it. Again and again and again. The time away taught me that God was still there, just being misrepresented and the Holy Spirit having her identity stolen at times.
Clarity was gained.
(Not to mention it showed me who was faking friendship with me for Jesus points).
And it is most definitely true that the reasons I believe in God make me sound like I need psychiatric help. Whether it’s angels sitting on my bed, hearing voices telling me to get baptised or that someone’s relative has died or falling flat seeing visions of women I’ve not yet met while hearing voices speaking foreign languages to me. I guess it’s the weird stuff that no one can control or engineer that gives me faith. If faith is a step on a staircase, then that stuff is the electricity that powers the light so I can see where the steps are.
If I learned anything it’s that God can handle me just as I am. He is not afraid of my anger or questions. He is patient, but He’s also not afraid to admonish me when I’m not living the best way for myself or the other people He loves.
I don’t always listen or obey.
Being a Christian – a follower of Jesus – is hard, I’m not going to lie. But to suddenly ‘unconvert’ would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular and liked by the majority of western society who think people like me are strange, offensive or maybe even delusional. And to become religious would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular with all the church leaders and not have to say ‘no’ or feel offended at some of their rhetoric and politics.
I hope it’s all going to be worth it – it seems to have been so far, so that’s a good sign. And now, I have that constant reminder inked indelibly on my skin of ‘themba’ – faith, hope, trust, love. Memories of covenants marked by rainbows and weird moments I’ll narrate about with good humour for many years to come.
Let’s see what happens in the next 11 years…