7:30 Saturday morning and here I am, with a steaming mug of strong coffee and the Book of John.
I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s still hard to sit here, quiet with the stories spelled out on the thin pages of this ancient book.
It’s hard because I used to believe different things than I do now; scary things, unhealthy things. I used to believe that God was a fiery, angry Eye-In-The-Sky, that I needed to perform for God’s affection and acceptance, that doing more for God made God love me more.
I used to believe that who I am is inherently wrong and evil and an abomination in the eyes of God. I used to believe that I was beyond repair; that I had lost my salvation at 16 years old by being honest.
I believed a whole host of things about the Bible. It was a rule book and if I didn’t do everything it asked of me in the way it prescribed, God would turn me away at the end of time, saying, “I never knew you.” And if I did any of the things it warned me not to, I would surely be damned to the pit of hell, separated from God and all of life for eternity. The Bible always had the final say and there was grace, but only for certain sins. Mine was beyond grace, they said. Becoming something other than myself was the only means of salvation.
I’m not sure what kind of God they were speaking of because my God brings more wholeness, more authenticity; not less.
Looking back now, I’m not surprised I developed an anxiety disorder. It’s no wonder that I have panic attacks with symptoms which mimic heart attacks or that I end up on an emergency trip to the doctor’s office, convinced my airway is closing when it’s really noting more than an inflamed throat from an allergy-induced post-nasal drip. It’s no surprise that I’m terrified of dying for fear of what kind of eternity will be waiting for me on the other side.
Looking back now, thinking through all those things I was told growing up queer in conservative, Midwestern Evangelicalism–it’s no wonder.
I don’t believe those things anymore, but they still have a hold on me. The fear is still there and very real, even crippling at times. I feel very progressive and evolved, deconstructing and discarding that old religion to grasp onto a new, grace-filled faith–but that old fear just won’t loosen it’s grip on my mind and heart.
So now this is a daily spiritual practice: spending time with Jesus. It’s bringing me into a whole new level of faith, a whole new relationship with God, asking God to help me call out the old, fear-based beliefs and replace them with new, Jesus-centered ones. I’m slowly learning that I don’t need to be afraid because love is all around and grace abounds for us all. Even me. Even you.
If you had asked me ten years ago why I do “Quiet Time”, why I read my Bible and pray, why I make Jesus a priority, I would have told you I did it because it’s what God asks of us. It’s what the Church demands of us. It’s just something we are supposed to do, I would have said.
Today, I do these things because there is no other way forward. There is no new day without Jesus, without listening to who he says I am. Because if I’m not listening to the God-breathed truths about who I am, I’m listening to the world’s lies. And that only leads to Death and the old way of life. It only leads away from the freedom we are promised in Jesus.
So here I am, reading my favorite stories about God-with-skin-pulled-on, reminding myself what he says about me and listening for those whispers of truth: You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough.
Yeah, I decided a long time ago I wasn’t believing those lies I was told in church anymore. Sure, the church may be the house of God, but it’s still made up of imperfect people. So instead, I’ll be over here, putting all my trust in the Word of God, the One in whom there is Life, the Light of the World.
After all, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, and I see no other way forward.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. –John 1:17