Late last week, I came to the realization that the further I get from church obligation, the closer I feel to God. I made this realization after stating in a conversation with a co-worker that I am at a point right now where I have never cared less for church while at the same time feeling closer to God than I ever have. As I heard that statement come from lips, I realized how odd it sounded. In fact, about four to five years ago, I would have been completely shocked by anyone making that statement to me and would have immediately assumed that person had been hurt while attending a church and was harboring unforgiveness, resentment, and hurt in their heart. But, wait a minute, does that mean I am now harboring hurt, resentment, and unforgiveness in my heart?
I have asked myself, and God, that many times over the last few months. To be perfectly honest, up until about six months ago I would have been forced to answer with a resounding “Yes.” I was mad. I felt betrayed. I felt lied to. And I felt used. It wasn’t by any one person or church in particular. It was by church in general. I’m not generally one to brag on myself, but given my musical ability, I have often felt like the cartoon pig that is seen by the wolf as a pork chop once a pastor or church leader discovered my God-given talent!! Also, I am blessed to be married to a woman with great intelligence, understanding, and discernment, and in many of the places we have been, that is just not taken too well . . . especially from a woman. It’s not easy for a husband to feel that after he leaves church on a weekly basis he is constantly in a position of either comforting or defending his wife, or, in a worse case scenario, which I was guilty of many times, defending the church and church leadership causing a rift between the two of us. So, yes, there has been hurt, anger, and resentment that we have had to deal with, but healing has come.
As I’ve shared previously, God was leading us through a journey where all we had ever been taught was being ripped from us, and only through looking back now, we can see His hand in it all. I have always thought in the back of my mind, that one day I would be on staff as a music minister somewhere. It wasn’t because I sought recognition or wanted people to marvel at my musical gifts, I just truly love music . . . playing it, arranging it, singing it, as well as leading others. I also enjoy helping people. Putting the two together for me could only mean one thing . . . I would one day be on staff as a worship pastor to combine both gifts God had blessed me with. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was teenager first sitting at a piano leading the youth group in Amazing Grace. I was sure that one day, this dream would come true. Now, it’s a dream that not only do I no longer have a passion for, it’s one that I no longer chase and don’t know if I ever will again. It’s just where I am right now.
In the past six months, I have discovered countless others through blogs, podcasts, and social media who share my story. Numerous people, from all walks of life and former church service, who have left the obligations behind. Why? Because the obligations, commitments, and rules have left us all empty. We work so hard to do good, be good, act good, control our thoughts, condemning ourselves for missing the mark, swearing we will do better next time, trying so hard to please God that we missed the very thing that brought us to God in the first place . . . His Son. Because of His Son, I AM ACCEPTED!! That’s it!! There’s no more!! Nothing I have to do to please Him other than rest in Him and accept Jesus’s finished work on the cross.
So, that’s where I am. I’m in the “odd” place of realizing everything I once thought was so important and was doing so much to work for doesn’t even matter because it did nothing and can do nothing to make my Father love me more. And that brings peace.
Isaiah 30:15 from The Message reads like this:
God, the Master, The Holy of Israel,
has this solemn counsel:
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me
and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on me—
The very thing
you’ve been unwilling to do.
That says it all. All those years, the very thing I was unwilling to do was stop my silly efforts to save myself. Once I did, I’m finding new strength everyday as I have complete dependence on Him.
So, yes, I’m in an “odd” place compared to what I used to believe, but the longer I’m here the more peace I find and the less odd it feels. In fact, it feels like I’m finally home.