Sunday, April 24, 2016

Navigating Unfamiliar Holy Water

I was raised in a religious household.  I was raised in a church that uses the Bible as their only teaching tool and by a group of people who love the Lord, but I was also raised in a very legalistic religion.  Everything had rules and regulations surrounding it.  If a rule couldn't be found, specifically, in the Bible it was covered by saying there was no "Biblical authority."  There were rules surrounding everything from dancing to mission work and from instrumental music to co-ed swimming, NONE of which were allowed.

I look back on my upbringing with appreciation.  I'm thankful for the discipline that I learned and I'm thankful that I had hedges to protect my relationship with God when I was young and vulnerable.  I also look back in awe though.  I was telling a Christian friend about the rules I was raised with and he said, "sounds like it's harder to get into church than it is to get into heaven" and he was exactly right.  It was complicated and I always had a feeling of balancing on a tightrope.  I knew that one minor slip up could condemn me for eternity, it made me work harder but it also filled me with fear and insecurity, in the Lord, that I still battle.

Now that I've gotten older and I've spent a lot of time in the Word, I've changed the church I go to and, man!  Is it different! I didn't leave my former church with any hard feelings, I just found a different church where our family could thrive.  Change isn't always a bad thing and you have to change to grow, but that doesn't make change any easier!  We live in an ever changing universe but some changes are hard to adjust to, no matter what blessings they may provide. 

There are so many hot buttons in my old church and there are so many things you can talk about and things you can't, and I know the ins and outs of all of them.  Whether I agree or not, I know how to work the system.  I've spent my entire life in that branch of religion and I know the ropes.  There are tons of different degrees of the religion but (whether they'll admit it or not), they are all very similar.  I can flow in and out of any of those churches fluidly and fit in effortlessly in minutes. 

My new church is very different and although my grandparents went to a church similar to this one and I visited occasionally, its not my norm. I'm navigating completely new holy waters.  No one has made me feel anything other than loved and welcomed but I'm always just a little on edge.  I'm stay on pins and needles with every conversation and with every activity.  I'm waiting for the time I mess up and wondering if I'm being judged as a bad christian or a failure.

We do a Bible study on Monday nights and most of the time, I just keep quiet and listen because I worry that my perspective will raise eyebrows.  We meet with an incredible group of Christians who have made this church home, but I'm still not ready to let them all the way in.  I'm reluctant to jump into many activities until I familiarize myself with the church a little more for fear of alienating myself for my beliefs or for my heritage.  Maybe this says more about the church I grew up in than I'd like to believe, but it's ever present in my mind now.

I don't know when I've ever been involved in a congregation that loves each other and love the Lord the way this family of believers do and someday I'll be able to unpack my baggage a little more and jump in with both feet, but I'm not there yet.  I love this church and I feel more at home with these believers than I have with believers from my former tribe, since moving to Nashville.  I'm still getting my toes wet and watching from the banks.

I mourn for the loss of familiarity and my heritage.  I miss that feeling of of comfort and security.   I miss my former religious tribe but at this time in our lives, we are a part of a new tribe and I'm learning that that's okay.  The traditions are all that's changed, the Bible truth stays the same.  I'm serving the same God, I have the same Savior, and I'm learning from the same book, I'm just doing it a little different than I'm used to.  All the stuff that matters is right, and I'm adjusting to all of the other stuff and enjoying the ride.

I'm also learning that I had put entirely too much faith in my religion and not enough faith in God.  I felt such a strong allegiance to that religion and I loved being a part of it, but I need to feel that way about being a Christian, not a Christian at a specific religion.  My relationship with the Lord is growing stronger because I'm learning that my faith is in Him, not in a church.  I love my new church and I love my old church, but I love the Lord first and foremost.   

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