I can’t put this book down even though every time I read another page I feel myself becoming increasingly offended. Again, God is doing that thing where he does open heart surgery on me and removes the Gospel of Brittanie and replaces it with the Gospel of Love, Christ himself. It’s offensive, annoying, and doesn’t make any sense.
As a child I was always the kid who needed everything to be fair and right and just. If I put a popsicle in the freezer one day and came back the next and it was gone, World War 3 would break out in my mind. “Nooooo! This is not right! That popsicle was mine. Someone stole my popsicle. They stole it!” I would lie on my bed, tears soaking my sheets, muffling my screams with my pillow, and wail at the injustice of my stolen popsicle. I wanted someone to pay. I wanted someone to be punished. “How dare you steal from me”? This kind of thing could keep me upset for days… seriously. And honestly not much has changed. Nowadays, when I go to visit a young girl in a village here in Kenya and the neighbors tell me she has been sold off to marriage, I don’t publically melt down in a puddle of rage and heartache like I used to about popsicles, but oh in my mind! In my mind the same script plays. And when I get home to my bed and lie on my face before my God, I wail. “It’s not right. They sold her. That’s illegal! That’s slavery! She wasn’t their possession to sell. This is unjust. Someone must pay for this!!”
I now realize, it never really was about the popsicle. It was always about the injustice. Injustice literally makes me sick. Being sickened by injustice is not a bad thing, but being obsessed with things being “right” is fatal, especially when you are the thing you want to be “right”. I have been trying really hard to stay “right” for several years now, but proclaiming that it was all grace. And it turns out, that too makes me sick.
I have been on a spiritual journey my entire life. Even as a young kid, I was always hungry for God, desperately needing for Him to be real, for Him to be present. I remember periods of my adolescence when I had waves of deep spiritual experiences which caused me to want more and more of God even when I was acting a ratchet mess. Back then of course the only image of God I had in my head was an authoritative man in the sky with rules you must follow if you want Him to think you’re good and therefore love you. So I remember during these times where I would go through these waves of deep spiritual experience it was always with a striving to be good. The problem was, I didn’t like myself and thought that I wasn’t good, so I had to try extra hard to be good to cover up the truth that I was indeed bad. I thought I was bad for many reasons. I thought I was bad for being born. I thought I was bad for “breaking up my family”. I thought I was bad because a caretaker back then would always start my day off with me being naked, and her spanking me with a belt to say “good morning” and as punishment for wetting the bed. I thought I was bad for wetting the bed every night, which I later learned, is totally normal for children who are being sexually abused. I thought I was bad for being so social and having so many close friends, I was also bad because no matter how many “pray the gay away” conferences my best friend at the time would sneak me away to I was still attracted to girls and being gay was bad.
In 2010, while in South Africa, I had the most impactful spiritual experience of my life. I met Jesus. Not the fake one I thought I had to chase after and be good for. The real, real Jesus who came down with me into all of my mess and all of “badness”, and looked at me and said “You’re perfect. I love you”. His words melted all else away and I felt free and good and beautiful. But something happened after all of that…
I turned the Jesus that came into all my mess and called me perfect, into a Jesus who requires perfection. It’s humiliating to admit, but I totally became one of those people. You know, one of those people we all secretly hate. Let me be honest, I still am, and I am writing this as part of a journey of trying to come out of that.
I have had trouble really connecting to God for several months now and it’s really been breaking my heart. All of my close friends who pray have been praying the same prayer for me for these past several months- a prayer for “intimacy with God”. Well, be careful what you pray for. For the past few weeks God has began to answer that prayer and I realize that as I have matured and as my work has grown, the “snap your fingers then Jesus shows up and makes bad people good like He did me” theology just isn’t true. It wasn’t God I was feeling far from after all, it was my effed up theology that I didn’t even know I had.
So now I am reading this book that is really offending me in all the right ways and causing me to really dig deep in my search for the truth. I realize that every Bible passage I read and every sermon I listen to and every word I think I hear Holy Spirit saying to me is colored with my own add-ons and baggage and mess that I bring to the table. When I was in my know-it-all Christian phase I would never even allow myself to believe that I came to the table with mess and baggage and add-ons because I’m just so super spiritual and “free”. But, one thing my work has taught me is that I, like Jesus, can’t be afraid of mess and baggage. Having it doesn’t make me any less free. The pressure of convincing myself it’s not there when it’s smelling up the whole room is crushing. And, I need to believe that Jesus is still the God who comes to me in my mess like He did in South Africa and says, “You’re perfect, and I love you”. When I’m struggling with feelings of rejection and loneliness I need those words from Him. When I am having graphic nightmares of a father figure coming into my room at night and crawling in bed with me, pants unzipped, and I feel like it’s all my fault, I need to hear those words from Him. And not only for myself, I need those words for my girls. When one them royally screws up and steals money from my room or tries to stick a butcher knife through her sister’s heart when I am not home, I need to be that voice of the God who loves the messy, not that reminds her of the lie she already believes, “you’re bad”. When one of my daughters goes somewhere shady with a shady boy and comes back the next day raped and heart broken believing it was all her fault, I need to be that voice for her. Here, in my world, I need the Jesus of the messy. I need Him to be the one that shows up in the darkness. I used to think that Him showing up looked like me having a crazy vision in the middle of a brothel of God coming in and lifting all the girls out, or when I am listening to another child tell me her rape story from last week, hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit say, “I was there. And my heart breaks for this child even more than yours does”. All of those things are great, like super amazing and awesome and I loved when that used to happen all the time. But, that’s just not what’s been happening for me in this season. I am learning that God “showing up” also sometimes look like me, or my girls sitting in our mess and striving to get out because we are so “bad” and desperately want to be good. Then Jesus comes, and weather He performs some great miracle to set us free from what we think makes us so messy and unapproachable and bad or not, Him looking at us and saying, “You’re perfect, and I love you”.
I thought I had all the answers, but I don’t. I am sorry to friends and family members who I pushed away or hurt when I was unintentionally preaching the “Let Jesus make you good because you are bad and need fixing” theology to everyone. I don’t believe that anymore, or at least I am trying not to. As I said in the beginning, I have been on a spiritual journey my whole life, and I pray that I never again make the arrogant mistake of thinking I have arrived at the end, but always stay humble and be willing to let Him walk into a whole new pile of my mess I didn’t even know I had again and again everyday.