Two years ago tomorrow, I sat down at this very same computer and poured my thoughts into the keyboard as I openly admitted that I am not the person I once was. My journey away from my former self began without realization, without intention, and certainly without knowing what was to come. Although those closest to me had knowledge of what life was throwing our way, other than the occasional discussion with mom or dad, the only one I truly shared my thoughts with was my loving wife who has remained beside me and supported me as we walk through it all together. Her encouragement when I presented the idea of creating a blog was really all I needed to begin, even though it would be another six months before it would see the light of day. Her instant affirmation of the proposed name at first mention, without absolutely any hesitation whatsoever, was the first sign that maybe I might be onto something. Thus, on March 26, 2016, Why write a blog and what’s up with the title? was written and my churchboy life had publicly been declared dead.
Maybe this is the first time you’ve taken time to read anything I’ve written, maybe you’ve read a few things here or there, or maybe you’ve read them all, but I find myself now, twenty-four months later, asking the question, “What exactly is a churchboy?” The best way to answer this question for me is to talk bout what I’ve left behind and what I’ve not left behind.
Let’s begin with those things that are now no longer a part of my life that I once considered mandatory and required. The first and most obvious part of my former life that is now missing is required church attendance. As I’ve shared multiple times before, this is something that was non-negotiable in my life from a boy and carried over into the lives of my kids. If there was a church service, we were there. This changed for me a few years ago as I stood in the service week after week wondering why I am even here. I cannot grasp how we became so convinced that our eternal salvation and relationship with God is dependent on gathering at a building for an hour and a half every week with people that have no involvement in each other’s lives other than a hand-shake, smile, and maybe a hug every seven days. I’m not against church attendance, but I believe that what we now have and experience on Sunday mornings is a far cry from what was intended and has become nothing more than an event we attend staring at the back of someone’s head with a concert and a lecture. I know all the scriptures that are used to support this idea and concerning the fact that we do not forsake assembling together, and let me negate that by saying I’ve had more meaningful fellowship as we share dinner with another couple, or a video call with someone out of state talking about the goodness of our Father, or a trip out of town to visit with friends we have never met but feel drawn to by nothing other than their love for the Father. I’ve read and believe that wherever two or three are gathered, He is there . . . me plus another person equals two!! Church attendance is such a requirement for most that call themselves a Christian that if I would simply relent, and repent, of my beliefs on this one topic, most would have no issue at all with where I am now!
As much as my wife was instrumental in the beginning of this blog two years ago, she deserves just as much as credit for the idea of defining what a churchboy is. Roughly six months ago, we were having a discussion with some close friends concerning our lives now and she said as simply as can be said, “Don’t you get it? If anyone could have done it, it would be him,” as she emphatically pointed at me. I say that not to lift myself up, but just to reiterate how much of a pristine, clean-cut, golden-boy life I tried to live, at least externally. Anything having to do with church attendance and appearing to be a Christian is what I did. I’ve shared most of this in previous posts, but here’s a short-list:
- Church Attendance – Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night
- Take your Bible to school – I actually walked around high school with a zippered Bible case attached hanging from my back-pack containing one of the half dozen Bibles from my bookshelf. (To this day, I cannot recall any time other than Bible club that I actually used it while at school.)
- Dress Shirt & Tie for Church Attendance – If you were going to meet a dignitary you would dress your best, shouldn’t you do the same to come meet God?
- Tithing – Get your envelope filled out so you can receive your giving statement at the year’s end for your taxes to capture the deductions. (Impure motive??)
- No alcohol, whatsoever – At one time, we wouldn’t even patronize restaurants that contained a bar in them.
- No “four letter” words – This demanded an immediate apology if it slipped out in front of a church member.
- No listening to “secular” music – No rock and roll or country music music allowed. If you listen to the radio, it better be the local Christian station.
- Christian T-shirts – If you’re ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of you. So it’s required that you find Jesus branded shirts that are parodies or rip-offs of common brand logos to let people know you’re a Christian.
- No R-rated movies – This idea was not just limited to the actual rating. If a movie was rated PG and contained nudity, sexuality, or the aforementioned “four letter” words, it was certainly not safe for consumption. (By the way, violence was considered okay if necessary for the story line!)
Everything listed above, and probably more that I cannot even remember, are a reflection of who I was the first thirty-six years of my life. The only issue with this, and this is where the whole churchboy image is personified, is while I was making sure all of this was accomplished in public and was the only thing everyone saw of me, I was not that person inside. Lust and pornographic images were a part of my life. Angry eruptions towards my family complete with yelling and cursing were frequent. I was a perfect churchboy, but I was a miserable human both internally and behind closed doors. Knowledge of who I truly was, combined with the guilt of knowing one day God would strike me down in judgment in His game of whack-a sinner, is a burden too great for anyone to bear.
In 2012, without my knowledge, I began a path of killing the churchboy and discovering what a loving Father God truly is. Since I’ve documented various aspects of this journey the past two years, I will not take the time to do so here. I instead want to focus on what remains in my life as a recovering churchboy. I still consider myself a Christian even though my life no longer reflects facets you may consider requirements of a typical Christian. My faith in God is greater than ever before. I still spend time daily reading the Bible, not because it’s required but simply because I recognize how this affects my thoughts and actions. I know now what Paul meant when He wrote, “Pray without ceasing,” as I believe God is present in very moment of the day: having dinner with the family, assisting a coworker, checking out at the grocery store, interacting with the server at a restaurant. Some of the most uplifting times we now experience are sharing our lives with others at dinner as we share a bottle of wine. My wife told me recently, “You’re a nicer, better person without the pressure of church involved.” The Christian life is one that should be not be filled with such pressure or any strain. Christ said that he came to give us life and that we should have it abundantly. He told us to come to Him and find rest. Fulfilling a list of requirements and do’s and do-not’s is not rest! I am now free because I know I am loved and accepted without condition. Because I know I am loved without condition, I can love without condition. I don’t have to worry about whether someone may be doing something that may be considered right or wrong, I simply have to love them.
The Apostle Paul was a churchboy as well. He sums it up in Philippians 3:4-6:
We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
I will close with his true feelings about it found in verses 7-9 of the same chapter, taken from The Message:
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
With that, I am a churchboy no more. This does not mean I will never attend a church again, but simply means if I do it will be out of choice and not requirement.