I’ve been a Christian since I was 19. I wasn’t always the greatest Christian, but I’m getting better by the grace of God and His grace alone. I mean, yes, the Holy Spirit is an aide in this process, but when I pray, I pray to God to help with being obedient. And then sometimes I still do what I want. But like I said, I’m getting better one moment at a time…
There have been three times in my life that my perception on Christianity has been shattered. The first time I was around 20 or 21 when I left the traditionally black church I grew up in and started going to a nondenominational church. It was more than a culture shock, it was a faith shock! The church I grew up in had all kinds of rules and traditions that later on in life I realized either had nothing to do with how Jesus did things or stemmed from slavery. I mean the sermons were doctrinally sound, but everything else made church a drag and I didn’t like going. Not only that, I watched how people who made a big deal about being in church on Sundays lived their lives during the week. Now, I’m not perfect, but one thing that has always irritated me is a person telling me what I should be doing while they are doing the exact opposite. I grew up in a church that always talked about what you shouldn’t be doing if you’re a Christian. Crazy enough, when I started going to this nondenominational church, everything I was told I shouldn’t do, I saw these Christians doing. Pastors had tattoos and were preaching with an ESV Bible and had their sermon notes on iPads and MacBooks. Pastors aren’t supposed to be able to afford those things. I made friends with people who drank beer and ate pizza before getting into deep discussions about Jesus. The foyer has a kiosk where you could get coffee, water, soda, snacks, and the sanctuary had stadium seating with cup holders. People who didn’t even know me would greet me and genuinely ask if I needed prayer for anything. Granted, this was new to me and a bit off putting, but I quickly got used to it. For the first time in my life, I was able to use the word authentic in the same sentence as Christian faith. I saw an authentic faith lived out by people who weren’t afraid to share their story and were even less afraid to share the love of Christ. This church introduced me to grace and helped me get over legalism. This church made me excited about Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. I felt like I was in a community where I could be myself and thrive. And I did!
My second shattered perception came when I started dating my husband. Let’s just say I was a little mad at God on this one in the beginning because what I told Him I wanted in my husband and who he brought me were polar opposites. I wanted a God-fearing man who would lead the family in Bible studies and prayers and would attend church every Sunday. What I got instead was a man who said, “I’m an Atheist.” Big red flags, must push him away. Now, seeing as how he’s my husband, I failed at getting rid of him. Once people realized I was a Christian dating a non-Christian people started putting their biblical two cents in. They said God wouldn’t have something like this for me or they just couldn’t understand or live their life like that. Well, to start, people are really good at putting God in a box, myself included. We’re also good at assuming everything we go through is solely about us. But a few things have happened since my relationship with my husband began. I got a personal taste of how Christians behave that put a bad taste in my husband’s mouth and left him with some deep seeded issues to work through. Issues he’s had for more than half his life. I got a reality check from him of how I came across as a Christian and his words broke my heart because where I thought I was doing a bang up job of representing Jesus to the world, I was failing miserably. Only, he was willing to call me out where other people kept encouraging me. And lastly, the man who once said, “I’m an Atheist,” is no longer in that realm of thinking. No, he’s still not a Christian, but he’s asking questions, he’s open to having conversations, and he’s not hesitant about hanging around other Christians. There is a night and day difference in his thought process about a lot of things. And that has nothing to do with me. After almost ruining the relationship a number of times, I just put everything in God’s hands, like I should have done from the very start. My husband has never made a big deal about me blessing our food before we eat and when I kneel beside our daughter’s bed to say bedtime prayers, he’s right there next to me. I don’t know what God has in store for my marriage, but I like where it’s going because we have both grown. I’m way more aware of how I come across as a Christian. And my husband is realizing not all Christians are terrible. And an even bigger lesson is the opinion of man will never and can never trump the will of God.
My third shattered perception has come from a Christian I’ve never met, but I’ve read his books. His name is Bob Goff. He’s all about whimsy and love. And I like that. He just talks about how we’re to love like Jesus loved. He strips it down to the bare minimum of what Christians are supposed to do and that’s love like Jesus. And I like that he doesn’t sugar coat it either. Let’s face it: people are difficult, mean, rude, crazy, and some make you just want to punch them in the face. But Jesus wouldn’t do that. Jesus would embrace them. Jesus would share a meal with them. Jesus would be with them. I don’t do things like that. If you annoy me, I’m keeping you at a distance. If you’re different from me, I’m keeping you at a distance. Basically, the more I read Bob Goff’s books, the more I get the message, “Hey Krystal, you’re doing this Jesus thing all wrong. You’re called to love the person where they are and for who they are. Let God take care of the rest.” I want to be a more whimsical Christian. Well, just a more whimsical person in general. I want to be more loving like Jesus. I want to be less structured with my faith and let things flow naturally. If I don’t go to church, then I missed that Sunday. It doesn’t make me any more or less of a Christian and Jesus doesn’t love me any more or less. Actually, He can’t love me less. He literally died for my sins, so if that isn’t the ultimate declaration of love, I don’t know what is. What I do know is, once again, a pivotal change is taking place in my life and I look forward to where it’s going to take me because it’s going to force me to be more dependent on Jesus and way less dependent on myself.
My faith will never look like the next person’s faith. Because I am not the next person. I am unique in who God created me to be. I’m caring less about how people think I should live my life and becoming more concerned with what God has for me. I’m less concerned about making sure my two-year-old looks like a million dollars before heading anywhere and more concerned with her knowing just how loved she is and how much more loved she will be as each day passes. I’m becoming less concerned with my apartment being in shambles and more concerned with figuring out ways to invite people over and just let them be part of my family’s lives and my family be a part of theirs. None of this will be done overnight. I have to get through this second pregnancy before I can really tackle the things I want. But in the meantime, I can plan and prepare through lots of prayer. I’ve got this. I’ve got all of this because my life is in the hands of God and He’s never failed me or steered me wrong yet.