I think I “accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior” at least four times as a child — just to make sure it stuck. I sat in a tiny red plastic chair and “accepted Christ” to make the lady who was witnessing to children feel better. Church was doodling on welcome cards in “big church” with my name attached to my latest crush’s; then it moved on to relevant neon Bibles and neon highlighters and WWJD bracelets, and lots of big feelings during “worship events” and Christian CD’s. It meant being a “good girl” and following the rules.
Even attending a Christian college, where we heard words like shalom and learned theology, I still operated practically out of a sense that if I knew the right answers and acted the right way, that I’d be saved, and safe, and right.
Early years of marriage to a seminary-student-turned-pastor meant we were learning more and more about historic Christianity, and Christian doctrine and how to communicate it. We even had a few “Aha!” moments around our hand-me-down coffee table as we studied the book of Galatians with friends. It was a movement into an adult faith that was my own, different from my emotion-driven middle-school variety; and like me at the time, it was intellectual and rigorous and theologically correct.
And so I just drifted in and out of closeness with God over the next several years. Showing up to church week-in and week-out, feeling the power of weekly liturgy, baptizing my children, leading small groups…but I felt like I wasn’t close to Jesus. Of course part of this was probably due to several moves across an ocean and continent, and having babies and therefore, never sleeping, ever. So the idea of waking up when it was dark out to read my Bible because that’s what the holy people did was pretty much never going to happen. I wanted the closeness I used to have but felt I couldn’t muster a return to my emotionally driven faith. All I had to go back to was either my experience of faith or my intellectual understanding of what faith was.
For the past several months, my husband and I have been going through a program called Sonship (designed to help you take the truths you know and apply it to your life through a mentored relationship over approximately 9 months). Jack Miller developed the program and he says in a lecture, “If you look to your experience rather than to the promise of the gospel, it will continue to be that way [powerless]. Faith does not look at appearances but it hooks itself into the promise of God.” I love that: “hooks itself into the promise of God.” And do you know what the Bible says about you? It says that you’re beautiful, beloved, that you bring God great delight because you’re his kid. It says that when he looks at you he sees the perfection of Jesus. He doesn’t see your sin or your shame or your inability to pray or read your Bible. He smiles on you, he “rejoices over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
I’m tired of pretending that this Christianity thing is true and yet not seeing lives changed (mine included). I’m tired of assenting to Christian doctrine but functionally trying to prove my worth through what I weigh, or how many “likes” I get, or if I’m working or not, or how pretty my house is. I’m just tired. By throwing my lot fully on Jesus, I’m saying, “I can’t do it. I need help. I’m angry and a perfectionist and nothing is going to change through the latest book or program.”
And in both a radical and yet totally workaday way, I’m choosing faith all over again. Instead of a list of rules or of being the perfect Pinterest mom or a good housekeeper, I’m choosing to put my trust in Jesus. That means, that I struggle and falter and say shit a lot. It means that I resist the urge to get down on my kids’ level and really hear them when I have things to do. It means that my faith is messy and sometimes ugly and full of doubt and fear and shame, or even just ignored. But it also means that I’ve decided to really, really throw my lot in with Jesus. Not in a way that means I just show up to church and have an emotional experience during worship. Not in a way that I feel guilted into serving homeless people and then feel good about my sacrifice. Not in just being the good girl. But in a way where grace blows the doors off of my goodness and shows me such a startling combination — both that my heart is deceitful and self-serving and also that I’m adored as a daughter of the high king. I’m choosing to believe this day after day after day.
Choosing faith isn’t more work or effort or legalism, it’s choosing air to breathe; it’s choosing delight and movement and story and wonder; it’s choosing to see my ordinary as beautiful; and it’s choosing the now over the past’s regret and shame or thinking the future will just make me better. It’s choosing to rely on Someone much bigger and kinder and more gracious than myself to tell me who I am and what matters. And it happens not in blinding light but in little moments — choosing to open my Bible and read (even just one verse), choosing to direct my attention in prayer, choosing to see even the hard things as gifts, too. It’s giving up and knowing who to run to, saying, “Where else shall we go, for you have the very words of life?” (John 6:60).
This is the tenth post for the Write 31 days challenge, where I’ll be writing every day through the month of October. I’m excited to see what comes of this daily practice. I’d love for you to comment, pin the above image, share posts and subscribe to receive posts to the right in the sidebar as we work through these things together. Posts in the series are all linked to from the first post.