I think the readership of this blog is about five people, four of my friends and my mom (hi mops). So I even hesitate to spend any of my time here writing these things, but I will because I know that someday
- I may suffer a debilitating car crash where I lose my memory entirely but finally get a great nose job or
- my sons may grow up and read this.
So I press on knowing, either way, my readership will grow and it will matter that I was honest.
My last post, I shared about the past handful of months, about being obsessive work out girl, getting injured, being in the hospital and told I might die, then being bed ridden and lost and tired of it all. Then I did what a Christian girl is supposed to do: I tied it all up in a pretty bow that basically said that now that I’ve gone through all of that, I finally know God loves me and everything is better and it’s all going to be unicorns and rainbows now, cause I’m fixed.
That was a lie.
And here’s why I think I told it.
As a girl who has grown up in the Christian community, and a woman who has been wounded by the Christian community, I feel this propensity to wrap God up, and the things the things he allows to happen, into a pretty package with a big happy bow on it. I feel the need to end every story of pain with “everything’s all better now, guys! God made it all better for me and he let me know why he did this!”
I grew up on the mission field in Africa and then as a pastor’s kid in America. The pastor’s kid in america thing messed with me. Not because of anything my dad ever said or taught, not because of how my parents raised me, but because of the other people – the random people in the faith community who paraded around like “Christians with a capitol C” with flowing white capes coming to save the world from the gays and the people who get abortions and have premarital sex.
Bible stories weren’t about God, they were about me. They told me how I could learn from Jonah that “you better not run from God because Jonah was swallowed by a BIG FISH for running from God!” or how “God hated sin and sex and gay people so much that he had to save the one family that didn’t sin and then flood the WHOLE EARTH so everyone died..” The messages “don’t run”, “don’t hide”, and “don’t sin or be caught sinning” were sometimes spoken that clearly.
Here’s the problem: I hide, I run, I sin and get caught sinning. ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
mkay? that’s the reality. That’s the truth. I have doubted God, hated God, wondered where he is, wondered why things have happened to me and not to others, run fast and far from him, hid from him and others, and been caught in the act of being intensely broken, sinful, and messed up.
I did a great job of hiding it in my younger years, but I still had to live with me, with the little voice inside that reminded me “that’s not actually the truth, ash… you know you aren’t perfect. you’re really messed up…”
In my college and early adult years, I started to find freedom. I found some Christians who didn’t have capes. Instead, they had this concept called the Gospel: you are more sinful than you ever thought or imagined, but (because of Jesus living the perfect life you should have lived and dying the death you deserved) God’s love and grace for you are greater than anything you ever dared hope. You ARE messed up and you ARE still loved and accepted. Be honest, be free, be welcome here.
I started trying it out. I started being honest about little ole me, and my bag full of sins. I made some new friends, found the man who was to be my husband, funnily enough also a pastor’s kid, and we started living life trying to wrap our minds around this Gospel thing that felt too good to be true – God wasn’t mad at us!
I tried to reconcile the two types of Christianity I had been modeled.
I after college I was a part of a community who lived together for months, learning the Bible and hearing faith speakers from all over the world. One night at dinner, there was something in the soup I was allergic to. I knew it, but I made myself eat it anyways to not look ungrateful. The entire rest of the night was spent in my bunk, ahem, “peeing out of my butt” and regretting my choice. The leaders of the community came into me late that night, sat by my bed, held my hand sympathetically and then proceeded to tell me, “this is happening to you because you have unconfessed sin. if you would just tell us what your sin is, God would forgive you and you would be well.” I cried. I told them my unconfessed sin was eating that SHITTY SOUP and they left me and wrote me off. I most definitely wasn’t going to get the bible teacher’s pet award.
Later when Jeremy and I got married, we were a part of a bible study. These people seemed more grounded when it came to God’s love, and so I tried them out. One evening, when just the women were meeting together, I began to share some of my past history and my struggle with sin. They all stayed pretty quiet, but seemed to accept me, even offering some kind of condolences. I was approached by them a week later. They had talked. I was too big of a sinner to be in their group. Jeremy and I were out of the bible study and would have to find somewhere else to be honest.
A couple of years ago I was asked to contribute to a faith based publication. It was a great opportunity for me as a photographer and a writer – using gifts that I love to work beautifully in tandem together. The first piece I wrote were and the photographs I made to go with it were so well received, and were “going to print!” for the next issue. This was a big deal for me, like, huge. About a week after that agreement, my husband got in a car accident. The guy who hit him ran a red light because he was on his phone. It totaled our van, and left us in a horrible place with insurance because there were no witnesses and the guy lied about it. I wrote about it on social media that night and called the guy who hit him a “jackass.” The next morning I woke up and had an email from the editor. My “curse word” had been seen, I was committing a sin publicly. I was told I could not be a representative of the publication while being someone who openly sinned. If I wanted to contribute, I needed to take the post down, and then apologize openly on social media for sinning and causing others to stumble. I wrote an honest response back to the effect of something like, “you think THAT’S bad?? That’s nothing compared to what I was thinking! I’m more sinful than you even can imagine. But I am also loved by God because of Jesus’ living a perfect life in my place.” After a few more altercating emails from the editor with lists of bible verses being used as weapons to push me back on my stance, I was done. I was no longer welcome to be part of the project. I would have to take my sinning self and go elsewhere.
My blog post last week wasn’t entirely a lie. The “I know God loves me” part was true. I do. I know it like I know the sun rose this morning. But I can’t tie his love up in a pretty bow for you or for me. Shit happens and brokenness happens. Lot’s of it. and it happens all our life long. The pain and the struggle can’t be ignored by me because they aren’t ignored by God. He had to send his son to live in my place, and then he had to murder him to pay for all the brokenness on my behalf. I can’t ignore it because He didnt’ ignore it. He has allowed it as a part of His grand story, and his story is filled with struggle and conflict and pain and broken people in capes and broken people who aren’t. But as Andy Gullahorn sings in his song Grand Canyon, “the story isn’t over yet.”
For today, I know that God loves me because of Jesus, and nothing else. Through unconfessed sin, the stomach flu, or having a mouth like a sailor, he loves me. Through looking for my identity in working out or being laid out on my back for a month, he loves me. Through offending people and not fitting in, he loves me. I now am a part of a community here that believes that and talks about it on the daily. It’s changed my life, and has allowed me to experience God’s love amidst my brokenness.
But the whole song and dance on that blog post, implying that this injury event was THE event that solidified that into me like cement so that I will stand steady in the faith forever… Well, that’s just some bullshit right there.
So, friends and mom (or my boys in the future), forgive me for lying. It wasn’t the first time, it sure as hell won’t be the last.
I can be a real jackass sometimes. But I’m a jackass loved by God.
and if you made it this far, thanks.
this is clearly the tip of a very large iceberg in my life, and I am thinking about exploring it a bit more on this space. If you know me, love me, feel me, or have a thought, leave me a comment.