I have faced so many seasons in my faith. Ones of incredible growth and seasons that show examples of a fallen world saved by grace. We all go through seasons in life, but I have realized ,more than ever, I want my seasons to continually make my faith stronger in the turbulence and in the days of joy.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. A town where you were always found at church on Sunday and the old ladies were gossiping about how "Linda" had a bottle of wine in her shopping cart on Friday evening. I always enjoyed going to church growing up and I knew I wanted it to be something I prioritized for the rest of my life.
Even in the moments I have pulled away and rejected God, I have always known pursuing HIM is where true joy is found. BUT when you are surmounted under the pressures of legalistic views and rules of a religion, the consequences of living to meet the expectations of a religion can be detrimental to your salvation.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a type A person. (Enneagram 3 anyone?!) I LOVE lists and even more so love checking off those boxes and feeling like I have really accomplished something. So, when you combine legalistic religious guidelines and a Type A personality … problems can arise and arise quickly.
Do Better. Do MORE. BE everything, to everyone, EVERY day! - These are the unrealistic expectations us Enneagram 3 people place in our lives.
A little over a year ago, I was faced with losing a pregnancy and it rocked my world more than I had imagined. During this trial, I found myself leaning on God. Constantly praying, waking up at 5am to read my bible, listening to sermons on my commute. I was checking all of my boxes wasn’t I?
I was doing ALL the things my religion had told me to do, yet felt like I was coming up short. Why didn't I have peace in my circumstance? Why was I still physically suffering? Why was there tension in my marriage? Why did I feel SO alone? What else can I put on my “to-do list” to be good enough for God?
I slowly started to feel overwhelmed in my faith. Feelings of inadequacy or thinking if I miss a day or slip up that puts me lower on God’s "list". I would cry on my way to work and think “GOD how can I possibly keep trying to be perfect for you?!”
You may be reading this and thinking how sad it is that someone would view God in such a way. It is sad, but it is true and I know I cannot be the only one facing these difficulties.
The problem is, when we view God in such legalistic ways that can never be obtained, the enemy has a way of slipping in and making us think, “I will never be good enough.” “God just doesn’t want me to have fun or be happy.” “No one understands me.” “Does being a Christian mean accepting a life of mediocrity?”… the list goes on. The enemy paints a picture on the other side that is more exciting and will bring “happiness.”
Unfortunately for me, I was trying to be so perfect for my religion and had no true picture of Jesus. I fell down a spiraling rabbit hole of toxic thoughts. These thoughts did not only affect me and my life, but all of those around me. My husband, family, and friends could see me turning from a woman pursuing a life of faith into a woman that became self-centered and living by the ideologies of the world we live in. One where happiness is only temporary.
This season of my life is not one I am proud of, but I share it to say that by the mercy of God I found true hope. I found my salvation. This has not been through reading my bible more or attending church. I FOUND his grace. I found it by hitting a breaking point and having no where else to turn. I opened my heart slowly to Jesus. Not my religion, but my savior. For the first time in my life I had a better picture of who JESUS is. I have always believed in GOD, but never understood Christ.
This did not happen overnight. This happened because I was surrounded by people of faith that spoke words of truth into me. It had NOTHING to do with my own strength and ability.
I didn’t understand the full picture - that because of Christ, we are forgiven for our past sins, current sins and future sins. I didn’t understand that I will NEVER be enough, BUT he is. I didn’t understand that he DIED for US, so that I do not have to live the life I truly deserve. I didn’t understand that GOD is one of true love.
When I understood all of this, I gave up my religion and found a savior..
The problem with religion and legalism is that our faith becomes way more about ME, than it does about Jesus.
I have learned that my faith is not about pursuing a self-betterment, but giving up my life for a deep relationship with my savior.
I still struggle. I struggle with doubts creeping in. I struggle with wondering if I can ever be enough. I struggle with feeling like I don’t deserve this life full of so much grace and mercy. I struggle with shame and guilt. I have days I get off track. I do things I am not proud of. I need grace every.single.day!
BUT, when I focus on praising God and trying to make every day more about him- I can feel my life not only CHANGING one day at a time, but becoming entirely NEW.
I cannot be perfect. I will never be enough. But I serve a God that is.