As I shared in You Are Not Alone, since my recovery from being a churchboy began, I have encountered countless others that are walking a similar path. I’ve since learned this path has been given the term “deconstructing.” I heard it said just a couple of days ago that deconstructing your faith has now become the fashionable or “in” thing to do. Although I can look back over the past four to six years and say I have definitely been deconstructing my faith, in my four decades of life I have never been one to do something just because it’s considered fashionable, popular, cool, or the latest trend. (That’s not because I refuse to follow the crowd, part of being a churchboy is being so opposite and opposed to popular culture that you aren’t accepted as part of that crowd!!)
On several occasions in the gospels, Jesus tells us that if one seeks to save or keep his life he will lose it but if he loses his life he shall save it. Although I did not realize it at the time this journey began, losing my life is exactly what has been going on with me. It’s been a journey of questioning what I’ve known since a child and seeking answers for why as Christians we act certain ways and do (or more specifically don’t do) certain things, at least in public where others will see! The ironic and upside down part of all this is I thought that by living the churchboy life, I had chosen to lose my life. After all, I played by all the rules, said all the right things, and played the part as well as any human could. In fact, in losing my life being a churchboy, I had lost so much life if it weren’t for the fact that I was conscious and breathing, I don’t even know if you could say I was living! Life was a constant pressure cooker of looking the right way, saying the right thing, not giving the appearance of evil, not judging that person, not saying what you think, and definitely not letting anyone know you were human! After all, we must be perfect because our Father in heaven is perfect (Perfect Imperfection). The sad part about this is I thought that was the best life anyone could ever live.
It all changed when I learned God loved me. Oh yeah, the churchboy knew that Jesus had died for me and I was going to heaven when I died because I had my “fire insurance” and had asked Him to forgive my sins, and He lived in my heart, but there was no way he actually loved me. I mean, sure, He would love me if I became what He wanted me to be, but there was no way He loved me as I was. I had more scriptures to memorize. I had a ministry to build. I had souls to save. There was work for the kingdom that must be done and I was the one who must do it! What a load of garbage! I have lost that life, if that’s what you can really call it.
Losing that life means life now looks a lot different for me than before. Life is now about losing those rules and lists of do’s and don’ts that religion forces upon you and tells you must stay within in order to be accepted. Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try to become acceptable because I know I’m already accepted. Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try and change to be loved because I’m already loved. (For more on this, see He Still Loves Me.)
Matthew 16:25 says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” By living the churchboy life and trying to do it on my own, I was trying to hang on to my life and didn’t even realize it. So, when I realized how much He truly loved me, there was nothing I could do to ever change that, and He loved me as I am and not for who He wanted me to be, I gave up my life.
How has this saved my life? Life is now about living in His love and sharing that love with others. At home, at work, in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, dealing with the server at the restaurant who has clearly had a rough day, every situation is an opportunity to share that love. It doesn’t require a sermon. No scripture verses or references have to be mentioned. In fact, you don’t even have to mention God or Jesus at all. It can be as simple as a smile, as kind as looking someone in the eye and asking how they are doing, as pleasant as a gentle answer. Love looks a lot like generosity and kindness. Love gives without seeking anything in return. Love is for the benefit of others. Saving your life in this manner produces peace, joy, and freedom that can only be described when you experience it yourself.
To tell you that I have truly mastered this and express love in every interaction and live constantly in that peace, joy, and freedom would be just another futile attempt of the churchboy in saving my life and making myself appear as something I am not, but I will strive daily to continue losing my life and finding it in His love.