To All Who Have Been Called Backsliders, Prodigals, & Those Who ‘Left the Lord’ : The Word of My Testimony
Recently, I was approached to guest write for a Christian blog. I was excited at the idea and decided to begin writing on a very controversial topic, which seem to come in handfuls these days. What came out instead was more of my own testimony. I decided that even if I do guest blog, I want to begin writing my own story and my own passions as well. When I began this I realized that even my testimony has changed over the past year. It has moved forward to a different level of faith that I am unfamiliar with. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like faith anymore. It isn’t believing without seeing. I see God clearer than I ever have before. In the big things and in the little things. I see a blatant need for Him and a reason to finally step out of my comfort zone and serve Him with everything that I am. I will always need to have faith as long as I live in an imperfect world, but faith is becoming less and less difficult as God continues to show me what His love looks like. My favorite scripture has always been Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” Many people already know this to actually mean that He will plant His desires in your heart when you trust and love Him. And when you have the same heart as God, your desires will always become a reality. Somewhere between coming back to God and today, I realized that my desires were different. They were His. Finally.
The Pursuit of Passiveness
It took a long time to get here. I have tried so many roads to happiness and freedom because those things were always very important to me on a very profound and deep level. I never wanted to arrive at anything, even happiness, without arriving at it wholeheartedly or authentically. The things in my life that were wrong for me have always revealed themselves almost immediately. I could NOT find happiness in anything in this world, even when it was everything I wanted on paper. By the age of 33, I can say that I have been an immature believer, a “backslider” and finally… a genuine believer. Through most of it, I had always been a people pleaser. For my whole life I had myself on auto-pilot to put others first, but not in a good way. I started noticing how often I would say “I’m sorry”. For no reason at all, I would apologize before saying anything. It’s like I was covering my bases just in case someone within 10 miles of me might have disagreed. The unspeakable horror! But all joking aside, I have been scared to have a voice for a very long time. I took on other people’s voices because I knew that it meant approval. And it meant that even in disapproval, I would have someone next to me to share the heat with. It meant that people would love and accept me. More importantly, it meant I was not positioned at the front lines of any sort of change. I suppose I never felt that I could be a fearless and strong person on my own. I was right. I couldn’t do it on my own. But I couldn’t do it with people either.
Sorry Not Sorry
Right before I turned 30, a friend told me that entering my 30’s would be amazing. There would no longer be any excuse to hide who I was. I would be an adult, by all standards of the word. I would have spent enough time trying to figure out who I was and just be that person without apologizing for it. It didn’t happen exactly when I turned 30, but somewhere between then and now, it literally happened overnight. I woke up one day and there was no longer any reason to please anyone or mute out parts of who I was. It was like a familiar yet painful part of me was gone. My priorities, passions and desires shifted dramatically. Just like that time I said I would never approve of skinny jeans, I had new thoughts in my brain that were obviously NOT my own. But there they were, these new passions that were bigger than all of the patterns I had in my brain. I woke up one day and genuinely wanted to serve God with my whole heart, have a family (more so than a social life) and speak boldly without fear of rejection. All while wearing skinny jeans 😉 When all of that shifted, when my mind started focusing on a family of my own and what kind of mom and wife and daughter and servant of GOD I wanted to be, my need to please everyone melted away. I could literally feel it leaving my mind the same way you would feel yourself getting over a sickness. I wish this comparison to sickness was just a metaphor, but when you live with the fear of rejection, it feels just as crippling as a sickness that infects your body and mind and keeps you weak and on the couch eating soup. I should know, I have eaten a lot of soup on the couch.
I need to start off by saying that I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I wish that there were a way to not offend people who probably always thought I was a generally nice person (I still am) But just like anyone else out there who has a voice, the freedom to express it and the courage to do so, my silence no longer feels right in my gut. So many times I kept quiet when I shouldn’t have. All out of respect for people’s feelings. It was done with good intentions from my heart. But it also needs to stop because of the greater intentions of my heart to make God proud of me. He worked so hard to bring me here and I was NOT an easy child. Today is the day that I want to stand up and show Him that I am everything that I am because of His love.
Standing up for God used to be that part of Christianity that was reserved for bold radical people, not for quiet and timid 5’1″ girls. Yeah, I was one of those. I had an eye-opening moment when someone told me that they respected me for being a Christian because I don’t “cram” my beliefs down their throat. This was a highly pivotal moment in my life. I realized that my faith barely showed at all. It was just a title and I was respected for it because it was only a title. It was a word that implied that I was different but only in private. I wore it like it was supposed to make me a better friend and a good example of God. All while it was just a word that would bear no good in any direction. Not for my friends, not for me and certainly not for God. It didn’t take very long to see that being an actual genuine Christian in any way, even in the slightest degree of the word meant “cramming” my beliefs down people’s throats. But it was then that I realized that I was not going to be half of a Christian. I was not one eight of a Christian when I was around other Christians. There was no such thing. It was all or nothing. The grey area that I lived and struggled in was a fairy tale full of insecurity and disappointment. Imagine expecting the blessings of God while not having the faith to receive them. That was my 20’s. That was why I spent a lot of my life feeling unsettled and like happiness was always just slightly out of reach. I was never in a grey area at all. I was living in darkness. I can say this boldly because once you have stepped into the light, darkness is a death trap in comparison. Call it “cramming” or not, but you don’t just allow anyone that you love to fall into a death trap and stay silent. No one would. Why should I?
Brave America, Brave Lauren Leigh
So here I am. At age 33, I have finally decided to join the rest of brave America in having an opinion. I always envied the confidence that others had. The way no one would make any apology for who they were. It was seamless for so many people to just speak their mind and move on with their day. I definitely envied this and tried to obtain confidence in all of the self-help ways that the world offers. I couldn’t find it. I wasn’t made to operate without God.
In my 20’s I vocalized a lot of what I felt with a different kind of passion. It used to be very easy for me to speak up (sometimes aggressively) about many things. I would slap some sarcastic twist on it and claim to not care what anyone thought of me. All while patiently awaiting the little red likes of approval that would start building up because what I spoke about was actually quite acceptable & popular. More importantly, it was rebellious. And rebellion is the new black. Literally.
I was angry. And nothing masquerades as confidence quite like anger.
Church vs. God
I am no stranger to being burned by “church”. Like many people, this translated to burned by God or “authority”. Obviously this had nothing to do with God and everything to do with me being immature. This led to an even more immature desire to create an uproar that would stir up anyone else who has been burned by church. It felt good to find people who had the same anger against authority as me. How warm and fuzzy! Not really, but it sure is easy to connect on those things because anger and rejection are easy emotions to sink comfortably into. I got really good at being witty and having the last word. It was a defense mechanism because really, I just wanted to run for my LIFE back to God. I couldn’t and I will never remember why. Truth is, I don’t really remember why the thought of finding my own voice was terrifying then. Maybe it isn’t easy to remember being blind once you can see? Or maybe there is just no need to try to remember darkness when you don’t have to anymore? I did a great job ignoring this need for God, all while wondering why my panic attacks wouldn’t go away. At that time, I was uneducated in anything political, uninterested in anything going on in the world and had self-esteem issues coming out my ears. Go figure.
Something that I always share in my testimony was that I never left God for good. I was always coming back, it was just a matter of when. I didn’t leave God because I found a better way that was more fulfilling. I didn’t leave God because I unlocked some secret key to happiness outside of God. I didn’t discover a world where consequences never affected me and puppies and kittens were delivered to me daily. Just like many people, I never even realized that I left God at all. I thought I could make up some new religion that suited me because I was hurt by some Christians. Hence, the “grey area”. Somehow this anger towards “church” felt larger than life when it was living in the pit of my stomach for 5 years. After the smoke and mirrors were gone, I realized that I had no reason that wasn’t my own fault. I left “church” because my feelings got hurt. I left “church” because submitting to God’s authority simply didn’t fit in anymore with my need to avoid anything that provoked growth. I gave up something as deeply profound as God, the creator of the whole universe who DIED FOR ME because my toes got stepped on and I didn’t want to deal with anything that would challenge me. In the many years after leaving church, I worked so hard to put the full blame on those Christians that offended me that I ended up believing that it was their fault and not my own. Looking back, those people are just a bunch of nameless and faceless characters from my past who likely had been through their own struggles and didn’t need me to base my whole faith system on them. It is not so hard to see the enemy in this world when you are attacked in ways that are so personal to you and so perfectly crafted to trick you. Most people don’t see the enemy’s hand in things. Thats how good he is at deception. I only wish every person that I love could understand how much better Jesus is at deliverance and love.
Jesus is not rejecting you.
A real relationship with God is unlike anything. PERIOD. I wish I could use science or facts to prove this, but I don’t need to. It can’t be explained in any way that would do it justice. I have been persistently pursued by a God that never gave up on me. I realized that I was unable to run anymore without suffocating inside. There was nothing left of me that could move without Him. Every part of me was turning blank until I allowed Him back in my heart entirely. I certainly had free will and a choice to come back to Jesus. But when I think about it, there was no choice left but Jesus. Because you chase after the things that you love and need. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Maybe you know this feeling of needing God. Maybe you think I am crazy. Maybe you think I am crazy but also wonder why God hasn’t chased after you? Don’t do what I did and confuse your own rejection of Him as His rejection for you. Jesus is not rejecting you.
Despite what many people probably think, coming back to God was not the moment I got brainwashed, drank the kool-aid or lost the real me. Sure, I am not allowed to do whatever I want despite what the consequences are “as long as it is not hurting anyone because I am a good person and haven’t killed anyone” This world does not like consequences, which works out perfectly since our society is slowly doing away with any that rub anyone the wrong way. But I say bring them on! I want consequences so that I actually learn valuable lessons from my mistakes. I want consequences so that if I hurt someone, I won’t do it again. Consequences exist whether we like it or not. There are still going to be emotional consequences to things even when we have legal “rights” to do them. I think it is foolish to pretend that we are all just a bunch of robots that can change the foundation of who we are deep inside because society says we can. How far do we have to go to prove that we want to have control over everything and don’t need anyone!? That tune gets changed so quickly when people are actually helpless. This world needs to wake up and see that we are not hard drives that get updated whenever the world changes laws and privileges. We are the same human beings that were made by God and in the image of God and have a purpose and destiny in God. You can choose to go your own way and reject God because He gave you free will. That is the only reason you are even allowed to reject Him, because He lets you. If you do this, at least understand that you are on your own in a rapidly spinning, confusing and violent world, just like you wanted it. God’s law seems rigid and scary to many but on the Christian side of the fence, it is our safety and comfort from harm. It is a literal shelter from any storm and a promise that we will never have to do anything alone.
I used to see “radical” Christianity and mock it. It seemed so strict and violated my need to have fun. Now I see how so many things have consequences on our minds and hearts. The little things that you allow into your thoughts can become who you are over time. They can break you down in such an anonymous way that when you are finally hit with real troubles, you aren’t mentally capable of handling it. I don’t think I have to say that this world romanticizes teen suicide and being super “emo”. The fact that anyone feels more productive and effective as an artist when they are in pain says something about our need to live in constant bondage. I know, I know.. I said bondage and that’s funny, right? It is one of those Christian words we throw around like “secular” and “unequally yoked” It isn’t so funny when you are finally able to see that you are in a bondage to something that actually wants to destroy you.
It’s Not About You
As someone who has been on each end of the spectrum, I feel a strong need to explain a few things that seem to be misunderstood. For anyone who is listening… Christians don’t follow Christ to offend you. It is actually about our relationship, reverence, respect and LOVE for Jesus and not about disagreeing with non-believers. Actual followers of Jesus do not look at you with judgment, we look at you with love because that is what He commanded us to do. In many cases, we actually do love you. Even in the cases when we don’t feel it, our God commands us to love. Not hashtag love that is trending on social media, but real genuine “even when you don’t deserve it and I don’t want to give it LOVE”. Anyone claiming to be a christian who has not treated you with love was going against God in doing so regardless of what label they wore. That is the behavior of an imperfect person who is likely not done being healed by God yet. You probably get mistreated by atheists and agnostics all the time on line at stores or in traffic. Probably even more so in your jobs, friendships and families. This should tell you loud and clear that people without God also have the capability to hurt you. The true Christian that is seeking Christ only seeks to love you. If you get offended because you disagree with what we believe and always have believed, that is not judgment on our part. That is your inability to respect our beliefs and more so, your judgement of us.
We live in a culture where people want to obtain more knowledge and understanding to feel powerful. Yet it seems that those same people think that when we accept Christ, we just flip some ignorance switch and begin our quest to offend them. This is not what happens at all and I need to squash that stereotype. I need to let everyone in on a little secret about the actual real Christian church and what goes on. Here it is, prepare yourself… We don’t all gather around and sign a waiver to protest abortion, homosexuality, alcohol, sex and FUN. We don’t have team building exercises to learn how to judge people on the streets. I did not sign a petition to feel the way I do about gay marriage in order to be allowed to attend my church or have direct contact with God. I don’t get put in time out if I fail to offend someone via facebook with a scripture each week. This is not what it is about. It is slightly insane and closed-minded on the part of the non-believer to think that any human would agree to live so radically for reasons based on cold and disconnected rituals. In fact, I would not have come running back to God if this were the case. I do ask questions. I have challenged authority. I have examined things from every angle. I have to do things for real or not at all, so it would be wrong for any atheist to assume they know a thing about me or how it is that I came to God and lump me in with the “Christians” who have hurt them. The double standards about love and acceptance in this country are at an all time high. I would treat any person with any beliefs or way of life with love. Yet the mere fact that I may disagree with those things is somehow appalling.
Are we not all different and entitled to be different or does that only apply to literally EVERYBODY ELSE? To the agnostic/atheists out there: Do you do what you do for no reason at all? Do you pick what you love at random without any thought or conviction or reason? Do you have a switch that can be flipped that will make you a Christian too?! Did you decide to be an atheist because it was easier than giving a higher power any thought? That last one is a trick question because I feel like many people would answer yes and be okay with that. Good for you, but many people actually do seek out a higher power and we have that right. Despite what the world seems to think, being a Christian is very real and very personal. For many of us, we came to Jesus because our lives literally depended on it. No, I am not being dramatic here. Our lives DO depend on it. It is not something worth doing at all if it is not done in this manner or with this much genuine sincerity. So when people carry on about facts and errors in the Bible and “all roads lead to the same God,” I literally feel like someone is speaking at me like that teacher in Charlie Brown.
For me, there aren’t human words that compare to knowing God. There will never be a heated debate that is more eye-opening than a real genuine encounter with God. Come on… we are talking about GOD here. Even the people who believe in the idea of him like Santa Claus or as Morgan Freeman in movies have some respect for the idea of “GOD”. I challenge you to hypothetically imagine that He is real. What if you could wholeheartedly believe in a supernatural almighty ruler that created the WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE? Every mountain, the entire ocean, every human, every animal, every star in the sky… all created by A REAL LIVING GOD. Imagine a power like this is real and now imagine that this is my reality and I actually love Him. Do that and then ask me why I don’t care that “50 Shades of Grey” is a fine literary experience that I am missing out on. Do I care that it is empowering for women because of how some fictitious character explores her sexuality? No. I care that the anxiety I had my whole life is gone because of the POWER OF GOD.
My life DEPENDS on God. PERIOD. My whole entire life and existence depends on Him. Not on the approval of people, not on what celebrities are wearing, not on what is culturally popular, not on something JK Rowling tweeted last week and not even on what friends or family think of me. (Although that’s usually the hardest one for many of us because we do love our friends and family) When you come to God with your whole heart, you are not forced to feel anything or take a stance on anything. In fact, one of the very first things I was told when I came back to God was to stop trying to earn God’s love. It was already mine and now I just had to start enjoying it and receiving it. When I disagree with abortion, it is not because I was told that I have to. It is because genuine believers start to mirror God’s heart. We start to feel things that He feels. We start to become passionate for the very things that He is passionate about. Everything else starts to fade into the background. We don’t wake up in the morning looking for a fight but in the world we live in today, we do wake up faced with one anyways!!!
Tolerance vs Love
With all due respect, everyone needs to stop getting so surprised that Christians actually follow every word from God’s mouth without any exception. This always was and always will be who we are. The world may be progressing and changing in one direction, but we don’t have to change with it. We already changed when we decided to say yes to Jesus. We already went through an awakening that was so profound that it didn’t need fixing or improving. Jesus already did the one and only thing that will ever define who I am. There is no progress to be made unless it is to ask Him to teach me more. To give me more of “the desires of my heart” like Psalm 37:4 says. I understand why people get offended by this… It is like we are saying that they haven’t arrived at any great milestones in their life or growth. I can see how that would appear offensive. But when a gay person says there is freedom in coming out of the closet and heterosexuals applaud them for it, they are basically saying “hooray to your awakening that we don’t understand but we are happy for you!”
So you DO know how to be tolerant of others’ beliefs after all!?
Basically, our culture decides which victories are victories… Our culture decides what love looks like and what hate looks like. Anything outside of the new and improved box of love and acceptance is considered closed-minded. To be honest, I live in this world and I rarely see an overwhelming outpouring of love amongst anyone. It is easy to jump on the gay rights bandwagon or the murder of a lion and feel like a good person. But on a day to day basis, the majority of people are NOT out to serve anyone but themselves. No, this is not everyone, but come on, we all know its a jungle out there.
Sometimes, this confusion is just more than I can handle and I am so thankful that I can rest in the Lord.
The world is full of different belief systems, but none of them can erase or undo the miracles I have seen with my own eyes. I will never understand how so many people in our generation want to believe in magic and supernatural forces but when I say I have seen it, they think I am crazy and want to ridicule me. You would assume that a world claiming to promote love and peace (and flying wizard boys) would be thrilled about actual miracles happening rather than uncomfortable and defensive about them. I have been called horrible names for just scratching the surface of what I believe by people who believe that crystals have supernatural powers to change things. Atheists and agnostics may not believe the bible, but their anger towards Christians still line right up with what the Bible says. It’s almost as if by some incredible irony, it’s actually true anyways.
I can respect others and co-exist with people who disagree with me, but if we can actually admit to agreeing on anything, it is that this is not a time for silencing the heart. You don’t want to and neither do I. If this is truly a free country, that applies everywhere. Thank God that Christians still have the freedom to believe in Jesus in this country (for now). And thank God that even when the authorities strip that away, they aren’t the authority we answer to.
Thank you God for giving me your strength to speak up without fear. Thank you for giving me the desires of my heart.