It's funny how a moment of insight can just hit you out of no where. I was listening to an old worship CD this morning and as the song said "rise up women of the truth" it took me back to when we sang that at our church in Gig Harbor. I loved our church. It was an awesome community and helped me grow so much in my relationship with Christ. I also developed deep friendships. In my memory, that was an amazing time in my walk with Christ. Everything felt brand new. I felt like my love for Christ was at this new level and every aspect of my Christian walk felt exciting and energizing. I was happy to have my church family and wanted to be in their company as often as possible. I wanted my kids to play with my friends' kids. It felt like such a perfect world. Which was why the phrase from the song struck me this morning. One of the things that felt so important at that point in my life was to have the identity of "woman of truth." I wanted people to know I was a Christian. I wanted people to know that my faith was more important than anything and that my relationship with Christ trumped every other relationship. I wanted them to know how different my faith made me from the rest of the world. I wanted to be able to speak the language of Christianese and fit in with other Christians.
When we moved to California I wanted to find a church clone of my home church. I wanted the smallness, the community, the charismatic bent with people dancing in worship. I wanted the intimate fellowship with other believers and a tight group of good Christian kids for my kids to grow up with. And so God answered my prayers...in the way he always does...by providing exactly what I needed to grow more. He led us to a big church--it was huge in my opinion. People raised their hands in worship but no one danced. I didn't feel a sense of community because there were 8 different service times instead of just one. They used movie clips and clips from TV shows that were popular rather than focusing on being different from the world. And the first week that my 8th grader went to Wednesday night youth services one of the other girls talked about having sex. Wait, this wasn't what I prayed for. As I wondered and worried that we were in the wrong place my family felt like this was it. They all knew we had found our church home...but I was still pining for what we had left in Washington.
But I plugged in, found friends, found community, and grew to love my new church. I learned that there were reasons for using clips relevant to the culture and learned that my kids could survive with friends who weren't always making the best choices. And I felt like I needed to unlearn the Christianese that I had tried so hard to learn. I felt like I needed to make sure that I didn't stand out and seem "churchy" to the people in my community who we were trying to help find Jesus.
So this morning's insight was that both of those views that I held are completely off base. When you look at them from the surface, they look fine. I am a woman of the truth. I believe in the truth of Jesus, his death and resurrection. But trying to mold myself into this image that I created in my head wasn't a God inspired thing. It was me, trying to please people. I am also a person who needs to be able to interact with regular people who don't know Christ and don't go to church and hopefully they will see Christ's love in me and be drawn to it. But again, trying to mold myself into the image of "relevant" that I had created in my head also wasn't God inspired.
The thing is, both of these churches, while they are so different, are really awesome churches. I have grown by leaps and bounds in both environments and I truly believe that God called us to the first church and now has called us to our current church. My feelings of what I needed to do were never put on me from people in my church or church leadership. They were put on me by that familiar burden of wanting to do anything to fit in.
And that's where the insight flash comes in. I was so off base because in both instances I was forgetting the truth that God had called me to serve him as me. He didn't tell me to become a different person, he just wanted me to grow to be more like him. He wanted to use my unique giftings, my unique experiences, my unique flaws, and my unique personality to love on all kinds of people in his name.
I often think that I would love to be a person who doesn't care what other people think of me. But the truth is, I do. I want to be liked and accepted and understood. But no one is liked, accepted, and understood by everyone. As I walk out this life with Christ, there will be people who will judge me. There will be people who look at my life, my family, my past, and my current behavior and look down on it. There will be people who will misunderstand my motives and my heart. There will be people who just flat out are bothered by my personality. And it will bug the hell out of me that they don't get me or like me.
However, going back to my insight, I need to remember that I am living this life for God. If I am confident that I am walking in obedience to Christ, then it doesn't matter what people think. If I continue to have deep friendships with people who hold me accountable and know when I'm slipping off that path, I can ditch the worry about what kind of a Christian I look like.
I need to keep my eyes fixed on the one whose approval is the only approval I need and continue growing to be more like him.