To the people who call me Religious...

Walking on rocks by the ocean

‘Religious’. A word that’s always made me cringe… A word that most assume defines me… A word that I would like to address…

Reality? I am a horrible religious person. The way most people think of the word religion is following a certain set of rules or practices - quite often made up by an ‘institution’ of sorts, another word I hate.

 Religion, to me, lends to the idea of strict expectations on prayers, worship times, confessions, etc. 

For me? I am a Christian. I choose to be a Christian not because prayer and worship make me feel good or I feel it’s what I’m supposed to do - but because Jesus Christ is real to me.

Let me explain further…

I was raised in the church - I was exposed to it all - even the really crazy stuff (it was a Pentecostal church). Church is simply what we did. It took over a lot of my life... not necessarily in a bad way. It’s just how I was raised. My friends were there and frankly, my context came from the church. Context of relationships, Faith and life.

 I definitely ‘did’ the Christian thing for most of my life. Not because I felt I had to, but because it’s just what I knew. God was real to me, but a lot of my Christian-ness was because I was ‘doing the things’. I read the bible because I was encouraged to. I went to church multiple times a week because that’s where my community was. I served from a ripe young age - first in the nursery, then in the bookstore... the church had a massive part in how I was raised.

 Nothing was wrong with this, except that my worldview was through this limited filter. The same way yours would have been through the context of your upbringing. My understanding of the world was narrow and limited, but all the same, God was real to me.

 It wasn’t until later, when despite ‘doing all the things’ my life crumbled around me. I had built it in the way I knew to and thought I had desired: date one man, marry said man, buy a house, get a dog, have babies, do the life.

Thankfully, my world self destructed after the dog piece and didn’t go further. What this did was cause everything I thought I knew to shift. The foundation I had built my life on cracked, the small worldview I had was forced to expand to keep me in it. The result of this was my very core beliefs being exposed as my eyes started seeing the world, and people in the world, including myself, in a different light. My judgement vision (produced only by naivety and ignorance) combusted and I suddenly was just a normal person in a really big world seeing billions of other normal people living out of their context. One of the ones I used to judge frankly - again…simply because of lack of understanding {I think it’s a different blog post altogether}.

I think many of us go through life defining moments that ultimately cause us to look at what we really think and believe. For me, the core belief that surfaced was simply this: Jesus.

What do I mean?

I mean that, while my life was in a state that most so-called ‘religious people’ would have snuffed at, Jesus became more real to me, and drew more near to me than He ever had before. He did so in a way that brought comfort when I felt grief, healing when I felt broken and peace when I felt confusion and anxiety. It was as if suddenly the purpose of me ‘doing of the things’ became clear. These acts of praying, reading and worshipping suddenly became my lifelines. I had always known that my faith was about a relationship with Christ, BUT I hadn’t yet experienced the intimacy that should accompany such a relationship. Until this point.

Backwards isn’t it? I discovered intimacy with Jesus when my life was the opposite of how I expected He would want. In what I thought He’d see as a failure, He was able to successfully speak to me the way He’d always wanted. My broken heart provided Him the perfect soil to soak up His perfect love - just as I was, in my mess.

Pardon me while I preach...

What I’ve learned over the last while is how much God’s Kingdom is an ‘upside-down Kingdom’. Everything I assume you might have thought of God is most likely the opposite. Things like:

LIE: He expects you to be perfect --> TRUTH: He actually gave His life so that you wouldn’t have to be perfect in order to be in relationship with Him.

LIE: You have to live by a bunch of rules --> Truth: All God wants is for you to let Him love you (right where you’re at) so that you can pour out His love others in this world

LIE: I’ll have to start going to church and ‘doing the things’ --> Truth: You have to do nothing of the sort. Your relationship with Christ is best developed on your own, in the quiet, without any structure at all. Church is there to provide you with the support of a community of like-minded people, BUT it does not have any bearing on your personal relationship with Jesus.

Now you might be asking ‘How?’. How did reach this level in my relationship with Jesus? How did it all suddenly make sense?

I contribute my openness to my brokenness. In this particular season, I was shattered. Sitting in a pile of rubble that was my life. I’d like to say that I prayed a lot, but I think I simply sobbed and groaned through most of it. In those moments, however, I felt God speaking to my Spirit. You could say I ‘heard’ His voice, but in actuality, it was just this sense inside me. A thought that would settle right in the centre of my heart.

The most pinnacle moment for me was {one of those times} when I was in a pile on my bathroom floor - sobbing. I suddenly felt incredible comfort come over me and the words, ‘I know your pain’ whispered into my soul. It came without judgement, and was soaked in grief and compassion. This was my moment where Jesus became so real to me. He wasn’t mad at me or disappointed in my messy life. All He wanted was for me to open up enough to let Him love me back to life. 

Isn’t that someone we all desire deep in ourselves? We want to be loved back to life. We want someone to take us just as we are, in our messy, and pour into us without any restraint or expectation. Here’s where so many of us miss this. That’s who Jesus is. That’s who God is. That’s what this Christianity thing is all about. It’s us, realizing that we are just human - in our mess - but opening ourselves up to being loved by God, our Heavenly Father, who sent his Son, Jesus, to be a sacrifice so that any barriers between us could be removed. So ultimately, it’s us accepting that thing that we all have such a desire for in the first place. 

Interesting isn’t it? It’s not about ‘doing the things’ it’s about receiving what’s already offered - what we already desire.

I’d be happy to dig into this further with anyone who has questions... but for now, that’s all I wanted to say. I am not religious, I’m just in love - and in awe that I am loved as much as this.

The below is of my favourite episodes we ever filmed with See Hear Love with Bruxy Cavey, Pastor of The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario. He lays it out in plain language when he says, ‘Jesus is the only religious leader who came to tear down religion…’

Mic Drop

Anyway, that’s all for me. Let me know your thoughts or your questions below.