Shiny, Fake Christianity

Recently, I stopped attending the church that I’ve focused so much of my life on for well over a decade. It made no sense. I help in a bunch of little, fulfilling ways, and I didn’t really want to go at first. Well, after God told me to go, I asked my husband and my mother-in-law for their opinions. Of course, it made no sense to them, either. So, I shook it away, like a stray thought.

Fast forward a few years. Yes, years. I held on for far longer than I should have because it simply made no sense to me. But over the past two years, I have bumped up against a ton of walls. Everything seemed to tell me that I was in the wrong place. I felt so tired. Everything just seemed to go wrong. Yet, now I felt stuck. You see, I had asked the opinions of other people, and they were certain that I was wrong. I said to myself, ” If I go now, I’m going in opposition to their advice.” I couldn’t handle that kind of choice.

Now, I am going to explain a little more about my story. It’s not just a church, but a family effort. My entire family is involved in the church from changing toilet paper to counting the offering to preparing the coffee for after the services. There’s nothing that our hands doesn’t touch. In fact, if I left, I realized that it would seem like an indictment on the pastor and his wife. I’d look crazy. Especially if my husband didn’t come, too.

Last Sunday, I quit going. I still don’t understand exactly what God is doing, calling me to walk in a different direction than my own husband. I voted opposite to him in this election, and that was tough enough for me. Leaving the house without him on Sunday and driving in another direction is just crazy. My kids are not all going with me. Only one son sits beside me on Sunday. I feel so weird. And yet, on this my second Sunday at the new place, I felt uniquely ready to walk into my new future. I can’t describe it. I knew that this was the right move, even though it still makes no sense.

I no longer wonder how Noah felt as he built that boat. Abraham as he walked away from his dad. Ruth as she waved goodbye to her parents. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly the same thing. But for me, it really is. It’s something that I have never dreamed of doing in my entire life. I don’t want to do anything away from my family. Family unity is everything to me. Me, who didn’t have my mom and dad to raise me in a united, happy household growing up. Me, who lived with everyone else’s mother but my own. Me, who dreamed of finally giving my own kids that dream home. Me, daring to risk it coming apart? No, you must be talking about someone else. And yet, that’s me.

I read all seven books of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Every time I came to the scene where Aslan asked Lucy why she didn’t follow him even if no one else did, I shuddered. Could I leave my family behind and follow? I didn’t think so. But that was okay. God would never make me choose between him and my family. He knew how much I’d suffered without one of my own. He would never make me risk this amazing life that He had given to me. Particularly since I’ve never taken it for granted. I have appreciated it so much. No one is happier to be married and to be a mom than I am. No one. Seriously. So, whew, I wasn’t ever going to have to face that.

And then this happens. Why? I still don’t know. I mean, for a while, during that final week when I made the decision to finally make the move, I got bitter. I tried to find a reason, to put blame, to find fault. But honestly, no. It’s not about anything but obedience to the call. But why the call? I have no idea. Still, I’m willing. I’m tired of struggling against His tender, gentle, sweet, and unrelenting pressure. I had to give in. So here I am, attending a new church where I might just end up having a terrible experience. Who knows? So far, it’s great. So far, it’s been a joyful relief to be where I believe his call has been leading. But why? That’s going to take some time to figure out.

The call isn’t new to me. Twenty-something years ago, God called me to home educate my kids, and now that all three are graduated out of my care, I see amazing fruit. It’s not all academic. Some of it is just a type of relationship at a different level than most moms share with their kids. We talk more. We go deeper. We understand one another well. Not always or in every way. We’re still human, of course. But we are a different group, and homeschooling was a huge part of that.

A few years ago, God called me to leave behind a school where I would have been happy to work until I died. It was a great place full of people who truly loved kids, loved God, and wanted to make a difference in young lives. I loved it there. Did I say it clearly enough? I was thrilled with my school. When I left, it hurt. Not only because I had to give up such a dream job, but also because no one believed that it was a move that I should be making.

From there, I attended a school where my experience was nightmarish. I only seemed to be able to focus my attention on a few terrible teachers who seemed to despise kids. I worked with incomplete information, incomplete support, and incomplete clarity on why I was there. I actually left mid-year. It was terrible. I wanted to quit teaching after that. And all I could do was bitterly cry out to God.

“What the heck!!!!!!!!! You called me to leave!!!!!! You told me to get out of that great school and to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT!!!!! To this nightmare academy!!!! Now, they’d probably never take me back!!!!! It makes no sense!!!!! In fact, I make no sense!!!! And it was all you!!!!

Or was it? Did I hear wrong? Was it me? Too many bad burritos? What happened? Was I just wrong?

My family was ALL convinced that I was wrong for leaving my old school. My church leadership also disagreed. No one wanted to hear that I was trying to follow God. I was obviously mistaken, particularly after the miserable experience that I went through afterward. Wasn’t that proof enough?

Enter my current school. My principal hired me because she insisted that God was telling her that I should work there. My confidence level in my own standing with God was so low at this point that I believed that she might be nuts. I mean, if I was so far off base that I thought leaving my old school was the will of God, who would want to depend on me for anything? I was so flawed. I got this all wrong, didn’t I? Nothing about my time at the nightmare school had felt right. And now, I was moving into a position that made even less sense. Me, a white teacher in a black school. Yeah, I’m latino, but I’m a really “white” latina. I read a lot, I watch Dr. Who (science fiction from England) and I am into a bunch of other obscure “white folks” stuff.

This school was pretty much all black. Did this make any sense? I put one foot in front of the other. I figured if at the clean, neat, “A” rated school that I had just attended, I had been chewed up and spit out by my experiences, I’d probably fail here, too. These were kids from what they themselves described as “the Hood,” and they looked at me with eyes that said clearly, “This woman isn’t going to be here for long.” But, I just went to work, day after day, and suddenly, I saw God’s purpose.

Every payday, I heard a voice telling me that if I had been able to make it work at the nightmare school, I would be making twice as much. The message was insidious. I wasn’t good enough for a higher paying school. I was just this level of quality. But I looked around every other day at work, and I saw us doing miracles. Our kids were exceptional. Our staff was incredible. Nothing was normal, but it was amazing! We were superheroes. One student went from a second grade level to middle school in less than a school year. Suddenly, it became easy to shake off that voice and to tell it, out loud, to shut up. I was so excited to wake up every morning. I loved my job. I’m there now, and I still do.

I’m trusting that no matter how this new church experience works out in the short run, that it will eventually be as beautiful, as miraculous, and as amazing as my life is in every other area right now. I’m trusting that God is going to keep guiding me through the tough, impossible moments of my life and into the glorious, joyful, hope-filled years that he seems to pour into my bosom in abundance.

Will you join me? Will you go when and where he says? Will you run if he calls, and not wait? Trust Him! God has got your times in his hands. He’s going to do miracles in your story. I know he will. Because he keeps doing it in my life.

Update: For four weeks, I stayed at the other church. Then, I felt led to return to my previous church. I’m there now. It’s another instance of putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that where he leads is going to be good, even if it seems to be making no sense right now.

As to the question: God is a God of order. He doesn’t do weird stuff. He doesn’t call someone to such a convoluted path. He doesn’t wreak havoc in people’s lives. Read Ezekiel chapter 4.

We have such neat, clean, good-looking people speaking from the platforms of our churches, and they are running around telling us that God has never allowed anyone to share the word of God unless their hair was coiffed just right, their shoes shined, and they looked like they had it all together. That’s a lie. It’s time to take back our truth. Let’s begin to read the Word for real and find some actual truth. It’s time to understand that his ways are higher, and often messier, than our ways. And it’s also time to stop judging one another’s fruit. The Bible says to test the spirits. But if you wouldn’t know the Holy Ghost from a helicopter, it’s time to get into the Word until you do. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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