Sunday, April 19, 2009

Religion vs. Relationship

I don't talk much about religious beliefs or religion in general here. I have my beliefs and they are mine. I am a believer and I think that my relationship with God is precious and between Him and I.

Coming into my own relationship with God was very difficult for me. Growing up I was given a very specific road map to get there and when that road map changed I was confused and unsure. To this day I still have certain things I bump up against that I find it hard to navigate confidently or even let go of without judgement. But I feel strongly that my relationship with God is real. I obviously don't have it all figured out. Lord knows I don't. I'm still learning and growing and being stretched. We are working on patience AGAIN lately. It would be nice if I would learn this lesson already!

When it was time for me to go to college my parents and I had different criteria. They wanted a Christian school and I just wanted AWAY. My dad is a pastor, has been my whole life and the overwhelming pressure of being the perfect PK (Pastor's Kid. Church lingo.) had worn me down. I just wanted to go somewhere where no one had ever heard of my dad and no one knew me and I could just blend. And we all got exactly what we wanted. I ended up moving to TN and going to Lee University and truly losing myself in the crowd. I don't think I even told anyone that I was a PK for the first month. I was truly anonymous and I loved it. Eventually people knew but it made no difference at that point. Being in school was one of the most spiritually moving times in my life. Everything I knew about God was stripped away and it was about relationship. I was surrounded by young women and men that were all in the same boat. We all wanted a relationship that was not dependent upon our parents, our backgrounds or our religions. And the girls that God put in my life truly blessed me, pushed me and challenged me. My best friend through college, Shannon, was a constant motivation to me. She was brutally honest about her hang ups but always pushed through it to get closer to God. This time in my life showed me that God doesn't move in one way. It opened my eyes to see that there wasn't just one way to get to God but that anyone that seeks after him will find him.

Fast forwarding through the next 10 years (HOLY COW. TEN YEARS since I graduated from college. I'm old.) this was something that I came up against again and again and again. And truthfully it hasn't been until the last year that I think I finally get it and am peace with it. I have met many people in my life. I have met a whole lot of Christians. Unfortunately I've met fewer Christ-like people. But those truly Christ-like people have come from many different walks of life, different religious backgrounds and beliefs and religious affiliation. And what I've come to realize is that God comes to us all in different ways. The way he may speak to me (which I will tell is more often than not through music) is not the same way he will speak to you, your next door neighbor or your cousin that lives 3000 miles away. And here's the kicker. . .THAT IS OKAY. Walk with me through this. God is love. He loves us all. He created this big world with all it's people and nations and cultures. Things change from country to country, state to state and city to city. So why would we ever presume that there is just ONE way to him? Why would I presume that the way I believe and that I communicate with God is the right way? I'm ashamed of myself for thinking so. And maybe I'm alone in this. Perhaps I'm the dingbat that took forever to learn this lesson, but I don't think so.

I've met some of the best people in the world and they have been Baptist, Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah Witness', Methodist or Christian. What I have realized is that it is so much LESS about what religious box you check and so much MORE about the relationship YOU seek with God. And who am I to judge? Who am I to tell you that your way won't get you to heaven but mine will? I believe that if you seek God, truly seek God, he will reveal Himself to you no matter where the pew you sit in is. And I believe that all these religious affiliations are for our benefit to help us where we need strength. Growing up as I did I need a more charismatic church. Something with a little spunk but room to let me grow and figure things out. My BIL needs something with structure. He needs a strong hand of guidance and direction. My husband needs atmosphere that isn't high-pressure. My sister needs a place that feels like family. And I don't think any of us are wrong. Just because my BIL attends a church I wouldn't doesn't make either of us wrong. It makes us different. Which is just how God makes us.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm learning to be more open and listen a little closer. I feel that there isn't one "right" religion (which I really don't like that word to begin with. God isn't RELIGION he is RELATIONSHIP.). I feel that if you speak to God and open your heart to him He will lead you where He wants to go. And if you chose to follow Him and follow His heart, how can that be wrong? And how you follow Him and go where He leads may be JUST what someone else needs to see to spark the desire in them for a relationship.


Michelle, Queen of Everything said...

Great job, my dear.

I agree with this for many reasons, but one is my own personal experience. Because my own personal experience was not very positive and downright painful at times, I threw the baby out with the bath water.

I decided that if this is what religion feels like, I wanted no part of it. So I just left and never looked back.

In the past couple of years, I have reconnected with so many old friends who are still walkig with God, but on another path than where they started. For the first time in my life, I realized that it was not all or nothing. That I CAN have a spiritual experience without it being about religion.

Because I realized that, I am now able to open up my heart again. It's been sixteen years of living in a spiritual vacuum, and it feels good to be back and exploring that part of me again.

If there was only one narrow pathway to God, I know that I would have chosen to just not walk it, period. And I would have missed out.

Thanks for this post.

Girly Muse said...

thank you for sharing this with us. i am wholeheartedly amening you over here. :)

i think God is so much bigger, so much better, so much more loving and giving..than any of us ever knew or ever will know until we see him face to face. we like to put him in a little box and keep him there for ourselves, all nice and contained.

he's about relationship. people are about religion.

i want to be like him.

Bree said...

Thank you Michelle & GM for your kind words. It warms my heart to hear that God is speaking to us in similiar ways.

Michelle, we are on the same path. As always, I'm here for you and you're for me.

And GM, YOU ARE one of the Christ-like people I know.

Andrea said...

i agree, well said

Matt said...

"What I have realized is that it is so much LESS about what religious box you check and so much MORE about the relationship YOU seek with God."

ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! Right on. truest statement i've read in 2009!!!