“What a Religious Freak…”
Okay, I need you to do me a favor. Answer this question, honestly. (You don’t have to tell me the answer, but just give it a try). Whether you’ve never met me before or you’ve known me since birth how do you perceive my faith? Would you say I’m “pretty out there” or “borderline obsessed.” (if you feel so inclined, shoot me a message, I’d love to know.)
In a recent conversation with a long-time friend I was described with those statements above. “pretty out there” and “borderline obsessed.” Initially I took this pretty hard. Obsessed? Out there? These words were meant to sting and they did.
So, I took a look at my life and the symbols of Christ in it.
My cover photo on FB is currently: “the only way we’ll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands, Lord make us courageous.”
My Facebook statuses are often song lyrics or bible quotes.
I have a cross necklace that I love and wear frequently.
I have a Jesus fish on my car.
I’ve been thinking about getting a cross tattoo on my back.
Why? Why do Christians do this? Is it to rub their beliefs in others faces? Is it to prove that we are better than everyone else? For some people, that answer is yes. But those people don’t really have Christ in their heart. Those people are down at General Mills shouting hate instead of love. They have completely lost sight of Christ’s message “to love your neighbor as yourself.” LOVE not HATE is the answer. Prayer not judgement.
The risk of putting all these symbols in my life is high, clearly because as a person who is “out there” with their faith the pressure is 1,000 times higher. I see these symbols as a responsibility and an opportunity to show anyone I encounter what a Christian can look and act like.
Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
piety – noun: dutifulness in religion.
You know, maybe I am guilty of this from time to time. Maybe I need to be more careful about how I portray my faith. Maybe I should remove all those symbols from my life. If you perceive me as trying to get attention from my faith, I am so sorry. I honestly am. Those symbols are not meant to cause pain, but to be a reminder to me and to anyone I encounter about the things God has done in my life because they are incredible.
An abusive, selfish father. Alcoholism and drug use on both sides of the family. Very little extended family support. A single parent household with little supervision. Depression and self-esteem issues. If you’re the case worker, what do you predict about this person at age 24?
The only reason I became who I am is because God’s infinite love for me. And it is so easy to forget that. It is so easy to get caught up in what we don’t have or what we wish we could do. How much we wish we earned or what we wish we looked like. There are many days that I forget God’s love and that’s a tragedy because in those moments I am failing Him. YES, I, Sam, fail God ALL THE TIME. In fact, this quote might as well we written on my tombstone:
“I cannot brag about my love for God because I fail him daily, but I can brag about his love for me because it never fails.” -anonymous
That’s the reason I write this blog because I want people to know that faith is a struggle. Having a relationship with God is a STRUGGLE. There is nothing easy about it. It is not warm, happy, fuzzy butterflies all the time. In fact, over the past month I have been really struggling with my relationship with God. I can’t explain why it happens, but it’s a part of the game. You just go through phases of incredible love and incredible doubt. I have been pushing away God because frankly some of the work he’s doing in my life and on my heart, I’m just sick of it. Yup, I’m completely over it (see previous post on change from a couple months back).
The Big Man and I, we’re gonna be fine. Yes, it’s been a rough summer, but I am truly blessed.
So I encourage you to look at the symbols of Christianity in your life. First, how do you show your faith and your beliefs? Do they portray love or hate? Having these symbols is an incredible responsibility because what does someone say about Jesus when a person with a cross on their car flips them off? Or a person wearing a cross necklace walks past a homeless person and looks away? We are God’s hands on earth. It’s up to us.
So my symbols are here to stay. To a.) remind me to always look up and remember why I am here. And b.) to continue to be honest and open about my faith in hopes that others will at least check out this God thing and what it’s all about.
It changed my entire life. It could change yours if you gave it a chance. (you & me, a cup of coffee & a chat or a visit to my church any time and I will be there with no judgement and open arms.)
So I guess I am a little out there. Tonight I pray for people who have misconceptions of God, of what a Christian is, or what my beliefs are. And tonight I pray for you, that you have the strength to (in a non-threatening way) put what you believe out there and be brave enough to show God’s love everywhere you go. And for the people who are going to tear you down?
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. – Winston Churchill
It’s a long walk through this world, but keep walking tall, you’re one day closer to being home.