You’d think it would be easy to know your own thoughts. To be self-aware, to your own self be true. But oh baby, that’s one tangled web to unravel. Years ago, I used to pray regularly to become humble. I knew enough to know it wouldn’t come easily. But then just when it seems you might have reached the promised land…well, can you really be humble and think you’ve arrived? As soon as you consider yourself humble, are you maybe… being prideful? It’s all sometimes so much confusing tail-chasing, to me.
As I said, that was a long time ago; feels in some ways like another lifetime to me, in fact. Because I’ve since wandered down a different road, started exploring some of the intriguing side paths, the wilder ones, less manicured and roped off. Not because I became weary of the main drag. In those days, I was looking for all my answers from within the church. I was a longtime cheerleader, I joyfully passed out the Kool Aid, and I’ve got much sincere gratitude for the haven I found in the church. Finding a Father who loved me, a system of belief and relief, and a community of believers who embraced me was life-saving to me. One that I’ll never stop loving and appreciating.
My backstory isn’t as horrific as some. Suffice it to say that there was an absence of love. My parents never should have been together, let alone had four kids. But that’s what that generation did. It was a different time; when they finally split up, I only knew two other families of divorce. Shit really hit the fan when she married the next guy. About him I will only say that he had issues. If you call sadism and the need to destroy issues. So I was out of the house by 17, and looking for love in, well, every place. Although I didn’t know it, and I gave the search my full and enthusiastic attention for a number of years.
So when I heard a message of love and grace and a ready-made family, I couldn’t sign up fast enough. Sure, I was supposed to stop the drugs, sex, and maybe even rock and roll, but I had really done all of that to death by then anyway. And I’m not gonna lie, I did fall head over heels in love with Jesus. I mean, who wouldn’t?! Jesus is amazing and revolutionary and like no other. He is pure love; what’s not to like? I am still in love with Him, and I don’t see that changing. Like, ever.
And life in the church? Yes, it was an adjustment, a huge adjustment, but I grew to love it. The girl who had zero interest in love, marriage, or family did a 180. I married just the right man for me; a man who was as lost and self-destructive as I was. Like me, Paul planned on dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. Instead, together we made a home in Mayberry and had four kids. And yes, we had struggles in our family, lots of them. Addiction dogged us, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing more along those lines in another post. But for the most part, we were pretty happy in a life that we had never dreamed would be ours. I can’t overstate how richly satisfying that was for both of us, two lost street-weary souls. I really experienced love for the first time in those years, and a lot of it. Church life became the whole ball of wax for me. And there it is… the fatal flaw. It was church life that meant so much…and that is very different from God life. I never saw the distinction. There’s quite a bit of cross-over, but there is a distinction, and it ain’t small. And to know it you do have to go inside and be aware of your own motivations, your own needs and drives. Web Unraveling 101. I’m not saying I wasn’t sincerely motivated by loving God. I was, all the way in. I was just unaware of all the peripheral additives of the church and how much they were shaping my views.
My son Jake started asking me questions about God and the Bible shortly after he started college. Typical, I know. But they were good questions, and we had always talked honestly and deeply about everything, so I took them seriously. Questions about some scriptural inconsistencies and contradictions, observations about judgments and lack of love… some of them I shared, some of them I responded to initially with the party line. But over the next few years, he often stumped me, and I began to try to find answers for myself. As I searched and prayed, and listened, I began to have my own reservations. Not about God in any way, but about the way we were perceiving Him, about the way we were expressing Him, about the gap between His message of love and all of the conditions that the church seemed to add on to that pure message. I wrestled with all of that mightily. It grew to become a tearing apart inside of me, as I could not reconcile the difference between church life and God life any longer. About that time, I started reading books that confirmed my own hesitations. These were a great relief to me, as I felt alone and often fought my own interpretations, thinking myself a rebel and ingrate, and some of my leaders were all too eager to affirm that in me. Going back to the beginning of this post, I wondered if it was pride….
Here’s where I’ve landed. God is love. That is 101. And it was good for me to search my own heart, to try to know myself more. I needed to get honest about some of my own motivations. A girl raised with no love is gonna search it out like a heat-seeking missile. And she may find herself doing many right things for some wrong-ass reasons. Or vice versa. I’m grateful now for the way I came up, because it opened me up to finding God, needing God, wanting God. My lack led me to the Love Supreme, and that’s a beautiful thang. Where it got a little twisty was that in my eagerness to fit into the family I always wanted, I got a bit confused about what was God and what was church. I was told that there is pretty much only one way to understand things from His perspective, and not surprisingly, it was their particular brand of Kool Aid. Today I see that view as more narrow, way more narrow, then I did then. I don’t disagree with all of the major beliefs, but I do distill much of it through the grain of love, and that has opened up the road greatly. I am a tiny bit ashamed of the presumptuousness of my earlier faith, thinking I had everything pinned down so tightly, assuming that my interpretation was the only right one. But I give myself grace to forgive that earlier Kevan. And I’m hoping that you find grace for her as well today.