29 March 2008

Lost in the Thicket

Yesterday evening the girls and I took a walk on one of the local trails and took in a little nature and some deep conversation. It was some of the inspiration for the new header on this blog. It was nice, just the three of us in the woods without any interruption.
East Texas is quite beautiful in the spring, with areas that literally look carpeted with ferns, pitcher plants, and flowers. In a few months the heat will make the outdoors less than enjoyable so spring here is when nature really shines. We walked quietly for a while, noticing animal tracks and the carnivorous plants that are indigenous to the area. But what could be more natural than our conversation turning to God.
The girls were both telling me how they feel far away from God. It hurt to realize that I was part of indoctrinating my children into a system of religion and obligation. It is hard to undo. It is difficult to articulate things to them in a way that doesn't cause them to think as I once would have that I have completely abandoned my faith. It scares me a little bit to see them free to love and worship God outside the confines of what the religious world tells us it should look like, and encourage them to step out for what will be certain scrutiny by the "church". I was fumbling with the words, and at the same time so excited that we were touching on something that is so life changing that they were spilling out in rapid succession. The church would tell us if we don't feel close to God to "dig deeper", chase harder, press in, pray more, read the Bible more, sweat, toil and strive towards Him. Although some of these things may have value, they also seem much more like vain human effort. Might I even be so bold as to suggest without offending my readers, that the attempt to conjure up this feeling of "being close to God" closely resembles witchcraft. The truth is that we are never far from Father. He was there with us in the woods, and when we sat eating dinner, and when we were laughing until we cried last night teasing each other. He is there. Our lives are to be a celebration of Him in all we do.
One of the girls attended church with a friend this past week, and was telling me it is where she feels the most uncomfortable anymore is in church. The music is repetitive, and the teachings are hollow especially where the youth are concerned, and no matter where you go, it is all predictable, even across denominational lines. We talked about every conversation with anyone who finds out that you don't attend church coming to this awkward place where you know they have an agenda to fix you, get you "in church", etc. Much of this is done in misguided love, and I hold no resentment, but it is a clear indicator that so many have traded relationship for formula, and intimacy for corporate worship.
We talked about how the Bible wasn't originally split into chapters and verses, and how what was often meant as a living narrative saying "see how this person walked" is often taken and broken into itty bitty pieces and given to us as a "do A, B, C and reap D" plan. It can be used in such a way as to almost omit God altogether.
I was sharing with my girls, my testimony of how this is all deconstructing for me. I feel a lot like a butterfly just out of the cocoon, too aware of the shortness of my life to let fear keep me from flying. Even in my worst moments now, I know that I have not changed in His sight. I am not on the treadmill of guilt and obligation anymore. It set me up to feel deep down inside that I could never measure up. Even while I have come to these conclusions for my own life, I have still wanted my kids to remain where it seemed safe, just in case I was wrong. I am sorry that I haven't shared with them more through this journey that I have been internalizing so much. I know that it was Father who got us alone in the woods together yesterday, and I am so thankful He did. I can trust Him completely with their hearts as well as my own.


  1. the church is in a sad state, especially in the department of young adults. i don't think christians should abandon the church entirely, as christians we are called to be the church; it's true that much of what the modern church teaches is formulaic and bears little substance, we shouldn't attack the church as it is comprised of humans, fallen by nature. the church will never attain perfection in this life; the journey is crucial - grounded, sincere christians need to remain united so as to keep the light shining in this desparate world.

    the new layout is lovely, by the way.

  2. Hugs and prayers as you find yourway through the thicket!

  3. Although I have been "Unchurched" for the past several years, I still have a close relationship with The Lord. I am still convicted when I do wrong, still have that still small voice guiding my days. I actually can hear God much clearer now, without the "praise" and the "worship" , without the clutter of maintaining insincere relationships and friendships. Although I know many people need that as badly as they need air in order to live and be, I, myself, do not. I thank God for that freedom & ignore people who strongly feel I do not have that right. I want my children to learn to focus on Jesus & His teachings, not the American Christian Industry. If anyone has any issue with my words, please take it up with my Father. :) His opinion is the only one I care about and He is the only One I will ever try to please.

  4. You have a way with words, a true gift, I wish you all the best with your writing.

    I was talking to a friend the other day about how I left religion not God. The church are the people not some place to go.

    Someone at her church asked her if I would consider going to church or doing mom meetings because most of them homeschool. She told them nope not Stephanie, LOL!

    I have benefitted from your journey as well and you just solidify my own thoughts.

  5. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that though I don't believe in "Churchianity", I do believe that the Bible tells us to meet together and encourage each other. We attend church regularly- there were some churches where I didn't grow as much as the one we attend now. The preaching is verse by verse, directly out of the Word, so no one's agenda can be followed in sermons, and I find myself learning every time. Do I LOVE everything about my church- no- but it is not about my personal preferences. I think we are to look at church as an opportunity to serve others, not as "what can this church do for me". ( I am not saying that you are doing that, BTW) That being said, the most important thing is a personal relationship with the Lord, which I believe comes from daily time in the Word, (do I always do this? NO.)time in prayer, and fellowship with other believers. I am not speaking to you when I say this Julie, as I don't really know your perspective, but I do have Christian friends who say they are tired of churchiness so they don't attend, and I never really get it to be honest. There will always be things to criticize in church, but if we are keeping Jesus the main thing, I think it will keep us from becoming disallusioned with people. So Julie, this is just my personal belief and not a lecture, I hope you take it as just my musing reaction to your thought provoking post. I do think that some churches have missed the point of the gospel and do more harm than good at times- no argument there.

    I am glad that you had this time with your daughters- sounds like a special evening.

  6. Julie,
    This is such a beautiful post and thought. It makes it so clear for those of us have unchurched for years. My kids face the same issues when others find out that they don't go to church. They are assumed to be heathens/pagans/atheists/whatever automatically. It makes me ill.

  7. "Even while I have come to these conclusions for my own life, I have still wanted my kids to remain where it seemed safe, just in case I was wrong." -

    - Wow, do I feel that struggle!! That's one I wrestle with in considering where I go from here.
    But, you know, I think that so long as I am walking in the integrity of my heart with God, and being real with everyone else in my life (especially kids), that they will be touched more powerfully by the example unfolding before them, of this most awesome of love affairs. And you are right, we absolutely CAN entrust our children to their Maker (for crying out loud) much more so than to a man-made and broken system. I mean, what if we lived in a place that didn't have the system in tact? You know, some remote island or foreign land. Would our children die of spiritual starvation because they didn't have a conveyer belt to ride on? Or just maybe would their heart be awakened to a love that transcends ritual?

    I have to think back to the early church, you know the one before all the walls were erected, I'm pretty sure their kids made it all right just by watching real people have real relationships with other God-lovers. And I don't even think they had Vacation Bible School back then!?!


Awaiting your words......
♥ Juls ♥