The title of this post was a recent search term for this blog. Can I say Wow? Obviously, the searcher landed here because of Stephany’s amazing post on being a messy Christian, but I thought this was a perfect prompt for today because it’s certainly something I’ve struggled with on and off for the better part of my life as a Christ-follower.
I think it’s almost become a bit of a cliche to say “I’m a messy Christian.” I’m not sure I’ve ever actually met someone who didn’t think that, but what strikes me as ironic is the fact that we always think we are the only ones. We think we are the only ones who have doubts or anger-issues or lustful thoughts or that nasty habit of trying to anticipate and control every freaking thing in our life. When I first became a Christian and was finally spending some quality time around other Christians in college, it was amazing how often I didn’t hear people say “I’m a messy Christian.” What I saw — and heard — were a lot of people praising Jesus, committing to a life of purity, to calling every freaking thing a blessing. Lots of hands-raised, eyes-closed, soul-singing worship that I just couldn’t wrap my head around.
The older I’ve gotten and the more time I’ve spent around Christians, the more I’ve realized that although we might not be talking about our dirty little secrets, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
A few months ago, my pastor got really sick. Like really sick. Hospital ridden kind of sick and the doctors had no clue what was wrong with him. Then, finally, on Easter Sunday, our pastor was back. It was a bit of a miracle and we were so grateful to have him back. One of the things that really struck me though was that during his sermon, he started talking about his doubts in God. Not that he didn’t believe in God, but he started to wonder where He was. Why was this happening? When would it end? And I remember thinking how awesome it was that here is our pastor, the man who we trust to guide us in our walks with Christ, telling us that even he has doubts and concerns about God’s plan and that doesn’t make us a bad Christian. It makes us normal!
How refreshing to have these concerns and questions be a normal, integral part of our existence.
I think my college experience as a Christian was sort of a sanitized version of what life with Christ would really be like. I think that a lot of what Campus Crusade for Christ and the Navigators wanted to do was to make sure they kept us safe from the “evils” of the world, almost like they were our college parents trying to keep us out of trouble. But the problem is that when you try to stop someone from doing something, you can intentionally or unintentionally brand that act as something evil or unworthy or whatever. And so when you end up doing XYZ or believing XYZ, somehow you might think that you’re broken. Whether you’ve had pre-marital sex or you think homosexuality is just fine or whether you’re just not sure that God is actually listening, all of these various “non-Christian” behaviors can make you feel pretty lousy. Like it’s not even worth trying.
Every so often, over the past 10 years or so since I became a Christian, I’ve thought that I just don’t belong in this club. It’s too much work, I’d think. The Christian culture isn’t my style. The standards are way too high. I mean, have you read the Bible? And even those who supposedly are amongst the highest of the leaders, pastors and authors and teachers who are famous for telling us about God and the Bible, don’t seem to be doing the best job at being a Christian, or if they are doing a good job at being a Christian, then being a Christian just isn’t for me.
But along the way I’ve picked up a few additional thoughts on being a messy Christian, and it starts with what I talked about at the beginning of the post. First, that being a messy Christian is okay. That being human is messy and being a Christian doesn’t take away your humanity. It enriches our experience, but it doesn’t make us mindless robots who can’t think — and doubt, and worry, and wonder — for themselves. The second thing is that there is no one way to do this. Each of Jesus’s disciples were unique in their own way, and they had their own struggles in their beliefs. And they actually knew the guy! So it’s not impossible or inconceivable for us to be the same.
Lastly: being a Christian is about following Christ, not about following other people. Other people may have an opinion on what you should do and how you should act and what you should believe, but at the end of the day, this is your relationship with God. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of God loving messy but wonderfully human people. There’s no reason to think He would love me too. Messiness and all.