I’ve done it again.
I’ve ended up liking a man more than he likes me, and I’ve walked away wondering what’s wrong with me because of it.
In the midst of this discomfort, I started to have these reminiscences of when I was a teenager and deeply involved in the evangelical Christian movement. I’d had a genuine encounter with Jesus, my conversion experience. I’d felt the presence of God in a way I had never felt before, and I believed. The initial experience was profound.
But in the day-to-day working it out, I ran into problems. I remember my evangelical mentors trying to help me, this poor girl living in foster care and coming from an extremely abusive, traumatic background, find a sense of God’s love. “Even though you are a sinner and don’t deserve it, God loves you,” they’d say. This was supposed to make me feel better. I remember trying to override a sense of flatness I felt about those kinds of statements. “Your soul is black as night, but God has washed you clean. But for the grace of God, you’d be destined for hell. Be grateful for the love of God … ”
I tried. I really tried. I said the words. But like a bride on her wedding night, I was disappointed to learn that my groom is marrying me only because he’s a good guy taking pity on me—me, in all my wretchedness. He’s going to marry me, but not because he finds me beautiful and desirable and the most amazing woman he’s ever met. I just got lucky that he bestowed his grace on me. Wow. This isn’t quite what I was hoping for …
As the years went by, I gradually became disillusioned with this particular flavor of Christianity. I got to a point where my inner dissonance with what I was feeling in contrast to what I was hearing in church and Bible study groups grew too great to ignore, and I resigned from that faith. It felt like a resignation. I just couldn’t keep it up anymore, and I surrendered to following my inner guidance.
Even as I write this, I have my evangelical conscience saying, “Well, that’s just the devil, tempting you away from Jesus.” I can hear my old friends and mentors weeping for my backslidden soul now, and it pains me. Inner reality has nothing to do with God or God’s voice, they would say, if it doesn’t jive with God’s word.
What I will say is that I have learned that God’s word is all around me. It is in the people I meet, in the events of my life, in the air I breathe. It’s in the mirror. Every true experience I have, is God. And even in the midst of confusing, painful circumstances, I find God there with me. That finding of God everywhere is my higher authority.
Again, my evangelical friends would be greatly saddened to hear me say that. They would see me as deceived and lost unless I come back to the Bible as my ultimate authority and Jesus Christ as the one and only way to God. I find this to be highly ironic, given that this newer way of life for me has given me my greatest joys and peace—certainly more than I had before.
I’ve done it again.