My name is Rebecca.
I feel like I need to reintroduce myself to myself, and to whoever is reading this, because I don't think I've been very honest or very much myself for quite a while.
Recently I watched the movie "Ragamuffin", which tells the story of Rich Mullins life, and found myself deeply connecting with his life. The struggles he faced, his frustration with the American church and consumerism, his unhealthy attitudes and difficulty grasping God's love for him, struggling with the pressures of fame (lol JK no one's even reading this); these things all resonated so strongly with me, and re-opened my eyes to the perspectives I've had in the past.
That being said, I felt it not so much necessary but maybe healing to share some of the wrestling I've done that seems to have given me a permanent limp.
I am not perfect, and I don't even think I want to be. I'm obsessive. I have a hard time letting go of things. I'm critical. I talk shit about people I love and that love me. I have body image problems. I genuinely worry that I have attachement issues, because I've so rarely felt connected with people I date. I struggle with finding healthy ways to cope with anxiety. When you've been in church ministry for a long time (I realize I'm not old enough to be in ministry for as long as some people think a long time is, but I have been for the majority of my life, so that's as long as I know), people have this expectation and assumption about who you are that I'm afraid I am constantly disappointing. They expect you to have a richness and stability that comes from years of faithful devotion and unwavering affection for our incredible Creator; to be leading small groups, and inviting their friends and co-workers to church; instead I find myself riding the roller coaster of constantly questioning God's love for me, and then having euphoric moments where I grasp for a second His love for me; swearing too much, rolling my eyes in Bible studies, and subconsciously striving to please people around me and praying that I'm holding up to their standards, and then hating myself for living for the approval of man instead of God.
I struggle with the line between being completely honest and open, and "not causing a weaker brother to stumble"; because "all things are acceptable but not all things are beneficial", and how much alcohol is too much alcohol? After years of trying to break the legalism built into my core, my faith feels like it's constantly being ripped open and reassembled. I feel guilty for things I know aren't sin, and don't feel guilty for things that are, and then I feel guilty for not feeling guilty. And then I struggle even with the phrasing "weaker brother"; I feel like an asshole for thinking anyone is weaker than I am, because I'm definitely the weaker brother in most ways. I'm struggling as I type with worrying about the 5 out of 100 people (more like 1 out of the 3 who might even read this, haha) who might lose all respect for me because I swore twice in this post.
I struggle with loneliness; I don't naturally, deeply connect that well with many Christians, I think because I am passionately in love with Jesus but deeply, openly broken. I have been fortunate to meet quite a few ragamuffins like myself, but they are scattered all over the country and I have to rely on social media to remain connected. All Christians are broken, but especially when you've been raised in the church, it's hard to connect with that reality sometimes. Honesty makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and Christians don't have a great track record for being kind to our own, or to others for that matter.
There were so many years I knew I was deeply broken, and felt guilty because I really felt like I was fine; I was aware that I was unaware of the true grip of human nature on my soul, but there wasn't anything I could really do to change that except pray that God would open my eyes to my sin so that I could experience the depths of His grace more deeply.
He answered my prayer, but I didn't expect the struggle to be so real. Now, this is why I find myself connecting more to people who are homeless, people I meet in bars, and people who pour their hearts out through a microphone. Because they're honest about their loneliness, honest about their pain, honest about their anxiety, and Christians tend not to be. Growing up, churches made me feel like people who hung out in bars and coffee shops all the time were more broken than I was. Now I know that is just because they were afraid we would become alcoholics, because what I've found is that everyone I meet is basically in the same boat. None of us know what we're doing, and everyone is just doing the best they can to be okay.
I feel like I have wrestled, and am still wrestling, with God. Like my whole life I'd seen mankind as trees walking, and after wrestling with God now I see mankind as mankind. Not at all to say that I see God and mankind fully, but just that what God has chosen to show me I can see clearly instead of through cataracts. There is still an incredibly humbling number of things I wrestle with, and wish I could have spelled out for me, but there are a few things that I am sure of, and these things have overwhelmed me with gratefulness.
I am thankful for my imperfections, because they are a constant reminder of God's compassion.
Despite my wandering heart and rebellious nature, I have the undeserved privilege of calling God Abba. Because He is so good, and so compassionate, my heart is chained to His heart for all eternity. I may wander, doubt His goodness, and spit in His face with my insecurities and wounds and anger, but His love will always draw me back into the center of His heart. And every time this happens, like a great surgeon He pulls out another layer of whatever weeds and rocks were in my heart that caused me to believe whatever lie it was that pulled me away from His affection. I find myself more humbled, more compassionate, and as I marvel at the depths of His love, I become more whole than I was before I wandered.
I don't deserve anything I have.
We never deserve to be used by God, and He uses us. That's incredibly humbling, and intimidating. I know I don't know how to be a good example, and the only thing I have come to believe about leadership is that God asks us to love Him as best as we can, and to be honest. I genuinely wish most of the time that there weren't people looking at my life or trying to model it in any way, because I struggle so much with knowing what is right, and pleasing the people around me instead of pleasing God. Christians want to make it sound so easy to know how to please God, but when you've spent so much of your life feeling like an animal in the cage of legalism, there's a strong aversion in my heart to following rules for the sake of following rules - and knowing exactly what things are actually rules. I need to know that I'm doing or not doing something out of a genuine love for Jesus and not out of a desperate attempt at carnal perfection. I'm genuinely sorry if anyone looks up to me and I disappoint them. I know what it's like to aspire to be like someone and realize that they are imperfect and human, and it can be devastating. But, thankfully, that is what Jesus is best at. He's the only one who isn't going to disappoint; who isn't going to fail our expectations of Him.
My one comfort is that God knows my struggle, and He's in the midst of it. Where other Christians might judge when I walk in gray areas, God is compassionate and understanding. Sometimes I think Christians see holiness and freedom as two separate things, but true, Spirit-filled holiness is freedom, and that's what I'm after.
This isn't going to look exactly the same for everyone, and we need to lean on God to give us understanding of how to live a life that is holy and to love other Christians who might live out slightly different convictions.
“What makes authentic disciples is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter and verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection and ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses and relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far county. Yet, they kept coming back to Jesus.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
I don't know what I'm doing most of the time, but I know that I am loved.
I really don't. I make these small decisions in life, and jump into things, and pray that God will bless them. I don't want to be rich, I don't want to be famous or important, I sometimes want to be cool but try not to; I just want to be kind, and I'm only kind of kind. For some reason, God has blessed me so much. He doesn't give me what I ask for very often, but He always gives me what I actually need.
Micah 6:8New International Version (NIV)
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
A long time ago someone shared this verse with me; I've struggled with knowing what God wants from me for so long now, and every time I read it something stirs in me, and I hear Mufasa's voice saying "Remember... who you are." And I'm thankful He reminds me. I get anxious and fall apart, and He scoops me up and burrows me into the peace of His wisdom. He knows what I don't; He has a plan I can't see and don't understand. He's wildly kind, powerfully gentle; I am so thankful for God's untamed love. So thankful He doesn't give up on me. So blown-away that I can come before Him, in all His power and holiness, and that He calls me His daughter. So overwhelmed that He calls me to eat at His table. That He knows my deepest thoughts and calls me friend.
And that is why I run away, and why I come back. Because sometimes my vision gets skewed, and I catch my reflection and think I'm dressed in rags in the Kingdom of a beautiful God and get embarrassed; and Christ comes and finds me every time, and shows me who I really am. Because we were created in His image, and through Christ that is what He has restored us to. We aren't loved because we are whole, we are whole because are loved.
This is where I find my deepest joy, and true contentment. That my sins are washed away, and though I fall again tomorrow, I will stand up again, and again, and again. This is why in the heart of winter, where seasonal depression will often bare it's fangs and seek to destroy as much as it can, I cling to the hope of Spring and rejoice in who God is and who He's made me to be.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, God loves you. His heart is for you. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing you can desire, that will change how He feels about you. The fiber of His being is compassion. His blood is a river of forgiveness. My prayer for you is that you never strive to be like me, or like any other leader or human, because we will let you down; but that you let God speak to you about who He created you to be. That in the deep rumble of His voice you would hear the "I love you" He certainly has for you, and that you would believe it.
“The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become - the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. Awareness of our poverty and ineptitude causes us to rejoice in the gift of being called out of darkness into wondrous light and translated into the kingdom of God's beloved Son.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out