“There’s no shadow you won’t light up, mountain you won’t climb up–coming after me.” -Reckless Love
A comment on the internet on one of my more-controversial posts–ah, here we go. I read over it, pause, then read over it again. It’s not my favorite comment, but it pointed out a phrase I’ve been using again and again in my faith reconstruction, “You don’t have to subscribe to that narrative.” She tells me I use that phrase a lot when it comes to christianity culture and I nod, thinking, “Yup. No question.” I swipe a hard left on the comment and press delete. It’s never that I want to squash someone else’s voice but damn…some days I’m just tired. Some days I’m just tired of the nitpickers and the “I’ll pray for yous,” through a perfectly-placed smile. It frustrates me because I know that look—I owned that look. It’s the, “This is what I’m supposed to say but I’m supposed to have joy so I’m going to say this judgmental thing with as big a smile as I can,” look. It’s spiritual botox, essentially. And then, they’ll do my favorite thing and say, “The world hates me because I love Jesus,” and they’ll throw the, “In this world you will have troubles,” at the sky like heavenbound darts. God, don’t you ever get tired? I do. Like, come on, Karen, you live in the suburbs–you’re not being prosecuted for the gospel. Sit all the way down, ma’am.
So…unsubscribed. That sounds about right. Unsubscribed to the culture, to the patchy, convenient theology, to worshipping a politician, to bowing down to guns and border control. I’ll bow at the feet of the man who spread his arms wide and said, “Take this life–I love you even when you don’t love me. Even if you never love me.” That’s a wild love. That’s a love with bulletproof intention.
There’s a lot of concern when you post in big, bold letters wide across the newsfeed of your social media platform, “I’m not a christian.” There will be sad reactions. There will be care reactions. There will be love reactions. There will be the occasional like that doesn’t really have a meaning, but maybe just means, “I see you. I acknowledge this life step.” There will be check-ins from the people who love you and know you didn’t exactly mean what you said–or they hope you didn’t. And, to my surprise, you will find a good amount of solidarity and, “me too’s.”
It’s the morning after I chose me and slipped out the proverbial backdoor and I wake up three hours too early on a Monday, naked under a heap of blankets, that I write this. I gingerly lift the blankets from my body and walk (maybe limp) to my bathroom and stare myself in the face for a moment. Tired, but determined, green eyes stare back at me, beneath a set of eyebrows that desperately need a pluck.
I walk to my closet and look around aimlessly before deciding to try on that bridesmaid dress again and breathe in deeply, sighing with surprised relief when the zipper goes all the way up. “Thank God,” I mumble, turning from side to side in the mirror, shoving my hands in my pockets. I extend my arms to see if my tattoos fit the look–they don’t. I wince, slightly, but shrug. I wonder if that’s a bit how wounded soldiers feel after coming back to civilian life–like life is still winding around and around, but you are not the same. Like you’re limping, trying to look normal and fit into the life you once knew, but again…you’re not the same. War changes a person. Battle scars don’t blend in. Surviving a battle where there are mass casualties humbles you. In ways, internal war bears some of the same scars as any other kind. Why am I here and not someone else? Why was I allowed help and someone else wasn’t? I don’t understand.
All I know is I asked God to make me a writer that would shine a light on things no one talked about. I asked God to make me a nightlight. I graduated with remnants of great plans of becoming an investigative journalist. And the next thing I knew, I was immersed in an entirely different type of battlefield. Suddenly, my own brokenness, own need, own weaknesses were things I could no longer hide. I was sick. I was dangerously sick. I was lost inside myself. And it was through that night that I became more in-tune with the low hum in the far distance of weary human-beings who were just like me–scared, sick, hopeless, and lost.
I peel off the bridesmaid dress and slide into my dad’s old sweater that drops down to my knees–the baggy, ragged sleeves at my wrists–and sit back in bed. It’s 4:30 and fall is settling in outside my window, but I can’t help but think back to summer. God, it was one hell of a summer.
Summer of 2020 is when I lost any leftover daydreamer ideas of finding love. Summer of 2020 took me beneath sheets, 3 am lighting from my nightstand, in the arms of 1, 2, 3, 4 people–none of which could ever give me what I really wanted. Summer of 2020 I learned that intimacy doesn’t mean commitment and the moment will pass and you will still be empty. God, does it leave you lonely. God, does it make you wish for the days when you wondered what it would be like to be held like that.
Some things it’s better to not know. The ghosts of what could have been harp at you louder than you understand until you’re left in your old bed after knowing the feeling of being wrapped up in someone else’s arms. Some things, if I could touch my lips to a medicine that would make me forget the almosts, I’d gulp it down in one sip.
Summer of 2020 I traded in my girlish, naive heart for that of a woman’s–bold and fierce and warm, despite the cold it has witnessed. Summer of 2020 I traded in my religion for relationship–a patchy, on-again/off-again relationship with Jesus. If anyone were to give Jesus advice on whether I were worth the emotional risk, they’d advise him to cut his losses and run. But he chooses to brush away the mud mingled with tears on my face, looks past the shame, and simply says, “I am willing to heal you.” He sees through the fear and doubt and chaotic faith. He sees me and he doesn’t look away. I know that much.
Lastly, summer of 2020 is when I hit unsubscribe–officially. I tuned out of everyone’s opinions–quite frankly, even God’s because I wasn’t ready for him yet. I muted the radio static of everyone else’s expectations and found a bit more of what I want out of life and what I’m here to do.
So, reader. As the last post on this little space on the internet where I’ve (very inconsistently) poured my heart out since I was 15 years old and determined to be different from everyone else, I’m here to tell you that no, I’m not a christian after all. After all the years of wrestling with my faith and clinging to things that weren’t mine to patrol, I’m giving up the good-girl act and trading it in for something sustainable–something real. I’m not a role model or a good person or an even-keeled person. I wish I was. God, I wish I could be better.
But…I am loved. Despite it all. I am loved and so are you and that is everything. That is the one redemptive feature that faith provides–you’re here and you’re broken, but you’re held and loved. Always.