Faith Struggles

You ever heard of the term “fair weather Christian? ” If you haven’t then let me break it down. A fair weather Christian is the type of person who only chills with Jesus when it’s all good. I guess that means a stormy Christian is someone who only chills with Jesus when their life is going to hell in a handbasket. For a while I was trying to figure out which type of Christian I am, and I’ve decided that I’m probably just a bad example of a Christian. There is no weather involved. I tend to chill with Jesus intermittently and even thats a struggle. I’m just bad at maintaining fellowship with God. I’m a fairly poor prayer, I read my bible every morning but I don’t meditate on it as need be, and I haven’t been to church in about…7 months I believe. I would like to say that I used to be really on fire and excited about the gospel but that was never me. At least not that I remember.

I actually got saved at revival at the age of seven years old. The guest pastor gave an altar call where everybody bowed their heads and the invitation was given while everyone had their eyes closed.  He asked if anyone was unsaved and wanted to give their life to the Lord. Personally I didn’t.  The only thing I knew about being saved was that you got baptized and you got to take communion. And frankly I had been freeloading communion juice off of my cousin already so I didn’t see the need to answer the call. My mother on the other hand saw what I wasn’t seeing. She started nudging me in the arm until I opened my eyes. “Don’t you think you need to be saved?” she asked.  What she really meant was “gone on up there my heathen child.” I did NEED to be saved but I wasn’t looking for salvation that night. I was looking for him to do the benediction, us to shake hands, and go home. But I answered the call, my mother’s to be specific, and raised my hand. In fact, I was the only person to raise my hand that night. All the other young heathens lucked out. Of course everyone clapped and smiled as the pastor introduced me and escorted me to the choir stand where I sat sweating up a storm from embarrassment. In the end a couple of other kids ended up joining me in the stands which made it a little easier to bear. In Baptist churches you don’t just decide you’re saved and they hold the baptism that week. Well not in ours at least. I believe we had about a month of counseling with our church pastor to be sure we understood what we were signing up for. I’m not sure how many of us actually understood as I can’t speak for anyone else but as a child of a Sunday school teacher and the grandchild of a deacon I was pretty familiar with what he was saying. I just don’t think I understood the gist of Christianity as a whole though. Regardless of such the counseling was completed and I was ready for the pool. I remember my cousins and sister telling me about their baptism experiences and it boiled down to the following: “hold your breath, it’s going to be freezing, it’ll feel like you’re drowning but don’t worry, and don’t slip on the steps.” My mother told me the most important part: “you’ll have to wear a shower cap to protect your hair.” She took a pictures of me standing in the pool with that darned shower cap on too. All of the pointers I received were dead on. The water was freezing cold. I started holding my breath as soon as the pastor said, “in the name of the Father….” I thought I was going to drown mostly because I was short and I couldn’t swim but they only held me under 2 seconds before lifting me back up. And I made sure I took my precious time ascending and descending the steps. And so I was water washed and born again and on my way to sipping from my own communion cup.

I learned later that you can be baptized and still not really be saved. I learned you can be saved and still not mature as a christian. I learned that God could make you do something but he’s not going to make you do anything even if that means that you willingly won’t spend time with him. I think the hardest lesson I’ve learned is that you may be born again but life will continue to throw curveballs at you because that’s how this world works. I remember when the recession was going on and my stepdad got laid off. In fact he ended up getting laid off from two jobs. My mom was working at a low paying job that had absolutely no benefits. We were coordinating groceries with her paycheck. If the house note was due there was no eating out or unnecessary shopping. In fact there was no unnecessary anything because gas was higher as well. I remember going to church, we go to a fairly large church, and looking at the kids who had the newest clothes and phones and not being able to understand how that was fair. We would get into our Chrysler which I lovingly named Whale, which shook like a stripper, while other members drove off in Mercedes. It was disheartening. My stepdad later got fired from a job because a coworker wrongly accused him of something. He never wished any bad karma on the coworker and took the firing with as much pride as he could muster. He just got fired last year for using a calculator in his truck which was against the rules. Unfortunately they never Informed him of that rule during his training. Our family has been in some financial limbos on multiple occassions. I came out one time and just blatantly asked my mom why God would allow us to struggle, to not have enough money, to be on foodstamps. I hated that EBT card as much as I loved it. It was an embarassing necessity at the time. She answered that we struggled because of hers and my stepdad’s choices. We struggled because of their employers’ choices, both to lay off and to under pay. But our struggle wasn’t the result of God not loving us enough or caring about us enough. We each have a choice and often times people suffer due to their own choices or even other people’s choices. A man can kill his wife and she’ll have died as a result of his choice. Those are the hardest pills to swallow; to know we sometimes endure the blow back of someone else’s decision. And it just sucks.

I think that has a part to play in my fence riding faith. But I feel like most of my issue rises from lack of trust. I have a hard time trusting people and maintaining companionship. I get to a point where I may not call someone back for 5 months or answer their text messages. Likely I’ll be toying with the thought of unfriending them because I’ll think, “to what end is this friendship? Why are we friends?” That’s got something to do with depression I’m sure but it’s still worth noting. My current pastor, if you still could call them my pastor as I’ve been skipping church for so long, said that we tend to treat God like we treat people around us. If I’m just really down and out I’m not going to ask for help. I’m not going to cry on someone’s shoulder  I’m not going to text a friend and vent about it. I’m just going to cry it out in my room alone for however many days it takes to numb the pain. Even if something exciting is going on I’m not going to invite any guests to the celebration. I tend to bask in excitement alone just as I sulk in sadness alone. I’m the person whose been told they’re not an island but has just about cut a piece of the mainland off to drift out to sea. I definitely treat God the same way I treat others. I shut him out until I see fit to allow others into my space. It’s a terrible habit I’m trying to break but it’s like pulling teeth.

I’ve been listening to Kenneth Hagin a lot these past couple of weeks and one sermon was on seeing God as our father. That’s a vital thing to remember. God sees us as his children not just as his servants. He wants us to bring our problems to him and cry and snot all over him when the going gets tough.  He cares about the things we think are frivolous like our hairstyle that we like so much. There are some wrong ways to approach him but most ways he sees as right because he’s just looking for conversation. I was reading a book called “Writing Your Soul ” where the writer talked about a difficult divorce she went through. She would write angry letters to God without holding back and says she feels it’s the best thing she could have done.  This statement she wrote stuck with me the most: “If you curse that’s fine. God’s a big boy.  He can handle it.” Of course I’m not going to go around tossing the f bomb into my prayers all willy nilly but i m trying to express myself more honestly and freely. As it may  have been noticed I curse on here sometimes. A church member (sweet Mr. Victor. Everyone should have a Victor) told me that whatever I’m feeling at the time I should write even if it contains profanity because what I wrote could be speaking to another person in the same situation. He believes people read what I write. He’s such a sweet naive man. But hey, God  knows our thoughts anyway. He knows I’m doing some mind cussing if nothing else. I’ve always fought with praying while trying to sound super spiritual. You know, using big words and trying to quote scriptures but I’ve been trying to break away from guarded talk. It’s a burden and praying is supposed to help lay down burdens. So there are things I’m just now learning and even more I’m just now accepting. I am immensely grateful for God’s patience with me even when I get frustrated with myself. I think back on getting saved and baptized and I know I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into. All I did was get a free bath and enjoy some crackers and grape juice every 4th Sunday. I am one hundred percent that I am spiritually saved but there’s some soul saving to do as well. The saying that Christianity is a marathon is no joke. I feel like I’m just now getting to the first mile marker and I’m already winded. But at least I haven’t stepped to the sidelines.

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