It's pretty funny that I go from blogging about shoes (down below) to a topic that is very deep and causes a lot of pain for a lot of people because of their belief system and their culture or how they grew up. I love to talk and think about these things. In fact in college these were my favorite classes. I feel like these issues are the hub of the wheel of my life and if they are settled within me then the everything else in my life will align and make sense as well. I don't understand when people don't want to confront these issues and deal with their spirituality.
(get ready...this is long)
Ok here's my deal...I became a Christian when I was 18 years old. I just had this itch inside of me that I had to know "why am I here on this earth", "is there a God", "do I have a purpose" etc, etc...those are spiritual questions that the whole of humanity has had for a long time. And that is where religions are born. Because people want to answer these questions. For me Christianity answered these questions because that is the faith that "caught me" at the opportune time of my questioning. And something inside of me woke up (hence why Christians say they are "born again") and I felt alive in a way that I never had before. I saw things clearer and had a greater sense of purpose and felt close to my Creator. Then I went to Bible college and pursued an education in "Praise & Worship" but while there I became very disenchanted with Christians and "the church". I felt beat down and torn apart and preached at and instead of being built up I felt torn down and suddenly made to feel "not good enough". Whether that was the intent or not it produced in me a pain beyond description that later when I left was hard to communicate to other believers. My husband and I became worship leaders at a small church in Greenville, OH and suffered a great deal there as well. The pastor was mishandling the church funds, mistreating his members and trying to get his small services on the local television stations (which never made sense to me). I saw nothing but greed for making himself known as a big ministry and making a name for himself as a mega church. Disgusting! To say the least. So then my husband and I stopped going there and attended a healthier church for a time before moving back to PA to start a College age ministry in Allentown for a large congregation with a pastor that I trusted and loved dearly. The ministry seemed to do well at first. We started meeting in each other's homes and Ryan and I played our guitars and we sang worship songs and prayed for one another. We ate together. We shared stories and laughed and became very close. So close that others saw this and wanted to be a part of it as well. We transitioned into an artsy theatre type setting where we made a very warm setting so people could come in and have a cup of coffee, look at artwork in a gallery, and listen to live music or play pool. It was great. Until it didn't produce the results that the lead pastor of the church wanted. They had spent a lot of money on us to help us do this. But when it failed to bring in the money they thought it might it ended and we had to close down the shop and move back to the main sanctuary which did not have the same intimate appeal and many stopped attending. There was a huge disconnect. I was in school in the evenings for graphic design at the time so my involvement had diminished anyway but I saw the pain that it caused many. After this time my husband and I had suffered marriage problems and saught counsel from the church. The pastor told us to go to counseling even though we couldn't afford it b/c he cared about us and it would be taken care of. Well after a few sessions we got a letter in the mail that the counseling would not in fact be totally paid for and now only partially paid for. So we thought oh well that's still nice of them. We'll try to make it work. Then at one of those dwindling college age meetings (it was being phased out) the leader at the time told us that the Pastor and his wife were hurt by us and they felt like our commitment to the church was not where it should be. I was shocked at this statement. First of all, I wanted to know why the Pastor hadn't called me and said this to me directly as opposed to having this other person tell me. And second of all our commitment to the church hadn't diminished...we were having problems in our marriage and with the phasing out of something that was precious to us...the college age ministry. We put our heart and soul into it and it was being taken away. So then we had a meeting with the head pastors and it got ugly quickly. Not on my part but the pastor yelled at me and showed a lot of anger toward me. But his real anger is directed toward the people that had left his church prior that he had never dealt with. "hurt people HURT people" as the old saying goes. I saw that happening right there before my eyes. In that moment after he yelled at me and stormed out of the office I literally had a panic attack. This was a man that I deeply trusted and respected (maybe a little too much) and here he was showing me his anger and it was directed toward me. It hurt. So after that Ryan and I stopped going there and just took a break from church. We did find a church that seems like a soft place to land but still it feels better right now to just take a break from church because it has been such a source of pain for us. It's very hard to be misunderstood - it hurts deeply.
A little while ago I started reading Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth" and the book has resonated with me on a very deep level of spirituality. But I am having an issue with one thing. He says that it is the ego to say that what you believe is the only way for all of humanity to believe. He says that our ego needs to place judgement and labels on things so that it has something to identify with and something to seperate "us" and "them". Something inside of me says "hmmmm" because all the pastors that I have ever experienced just seemed so "egotistical" to me. And I'm rethinking where the bible came from. Was it just another book? Or is it truly the unadulterated "word of god"? I'm kind of appalled that I'm even thinking this way. Because I've identified myself with Christianity for most of my adult life and it scares me to death to think about eternity if I'm wrong. How can anyone know for sure that people didn't misinterpret Jesus. I mean we don't have any writings of Jesus Christ. Man, I wish we did. I wish there was a book that was written by Jesus himself. Christians would say duh, that's the bible and that he is the bible...the word made flesh...John 1:1. But really how do you know? It's all faith to begin with. I'm struggling a little with what I believe and looking deeper. When I started to read Eckhart's book I kind of knew already what Christians would say b/c I am one...but I'm looking deeper. If anyone has any comments on this I'd like to hear.
One last thing...something big is happening in our culture at the moment...Oprah's book club around the world on spiritual matters...and last night on American Idol they sang "Shout to the Lord" which was originally written by worship leader, Darlene Czech of Hillsong Church in Australia
Here is American Idol performing it:
And here is Darlene Czech's version:
Sorry this was a long post but I have been in thought about this for a few weeks now. I'm not done. It's only just begun.