Guest blogger: Joni Martin
I had a relationship with God, but it was a relationship based on fear and distrust.
Where was God when a little girl of five years old was being torn apart from the inside out by a man who forced her to become a woman-child?
Where was God when children were falling asleep hungry and weak?
Where WAS GOD?
And because I couldn’t reconcile the fact that God is everywhere, but God was not there, I simply concluded that he didn’t care, or that I had done something to let him punish me this way.
I have this theory that everyone has a God Box. In this box, you put everything that you believe about God and every experience you have had with God and you carry this box around and this is your perception of God. If you don’t know what to put in your God Box, then you take what other people give you and you put that in your box. I believed I needed to be a certain way in order to be loved by God. I needed to ascribe to a certain path, walk a certain road, perform a series of rituals in a particular order, in order to be who God wanted me to be.
The problem with the God Box is that God doesn’t particularly fit in a box. When we box him up like that, it doesn’t limit who he is, but it limits our own view of him.
When I became an adult, jaded, untrusting, I gave myself permission to question for the first time. God and the church and everyone who hurt me was put on the stand and I was the judge. Judging their actions and character, I threw everything I found into the light and hollered like a madwoman to everyone who would listen – “SEE? Do you see what they do? They call themselves Christians? They call themselves compassionate? They call themselves GOD?”
It was the first time in my life I gave myself permission to not be who I was expected to be. Around this time, I came across an article about Radical Honesty, and it struck a nerve with me. For the first time, I realized the lie I had lived my entire life. I have been living the life that people expected and then I blamed THEM for my pain. Growing up in church, you know the right answer, the correct response, you know the cues and you deliver – rehearsed and on time. You do it until it is second nature, until it is all you know of authenticity.
But it wasn’t me. It wasn’t how I was meant to be. When you boiled it all down, I didn’t even know who I was, and it was a surreal feeling realizing that, when you stripped away everything that I had been taught to say and do, I had nothing left. So I took a vow of Radical Honesty with myself and with God and I told God that I would give him 100 days to change my perception of him and his church, and that in return, I would try to figure out who I was and how I was meant to relate to him.
Those 100 days changed my faith and changed my view of God. I dumped my God Box all over the floor and I considered its contents, and the thing I realized was - the thing about God? He likes me. A lot. He thinks I’m pretty neat. I don’t think he ever wanted me to be a parrot repeating back cues to him. If you ask me today what being a Christian means to me, I guess at this point in my life it means freedom to be who I want to be and know that God won’t divorce me for it.
I used to believe that reaching God only happened through sacrificing who I am, my loves, my hopes, my desires. Getting to God was a series of complicated, painful, bloody sacrifices on my part. Now I kinda just think he wants to see me be who I am, who he made me to be.
About four years ago, when I started this religious journey, it confused a lot of people. Some people thought that maybe I just wanted to try out other religions and see what “fit” me. Others thought that I was trying to get an insider scoop on the competition so as better debate them and/or convince them that they were (are) wrong. Still others judged me for being an “open minded hippie” or a (heaven forbid!) “humanist” when obviously, ’being CHRISTIAN was the only RIGHT way to do things.’
I faced a lot of criticism, particularly from my conservative family members and friends. One of my [Christian] blog followers, (who also did not approve of my project) emailed me one day and said “Joni, I am just wondering. You call yourself a “Christian” but what does being a Christian mean to you? I mean how hard core are you – do you read the Bible, pray, help charities, attend church, witness, etc?”
How hard core? I considered that phrase.
I am hard core enough to know that I don’t know everything.
I attend church, yes. I read the Bible, I help people, I “witness”, but I have done these things my entire life. And those things don’t make me a Christian.
Those things are not what makes my heart race and my passions rise red and pulsing within me.
All the reading and attending and witnessing in the world will never make it real for me. The real for me is only when I am completely honest and transparent in my relationship.
I’m a person, I’ll make mistakes and disappoint people and disappoint God, and that’s ok.
I’m not outspoken about converting everybody to Christianity, because I AM outspoken about my story.
Everyone has a story that needs to be told. Tell me yours.