I’ve called myself a “Christian” from the moment I could talk. Singing Jesus Loves Me was one of the first songs I ever sang. I got my first Bible in Elementary School and was playing CD’s of Amy Grant on repeat in my room as a pre-teen (I didn’t discover DC Talk and Jars of Clay until I was a teenager. I was SUPER-Christian-cool then)
I grew into adulthood where Beth Moore bible studies were all the rage and scrapbooking clubs were how young moms connected. I hosted Premier Jewelry Parties and sang Hillsong worship songs in my car. I volunteered in ministry groups and quickly asserted myself into all things grown-up in church.
Then life got hard.
But I dug deeper. I fasted routinely, prayed constantly, spent hours on my floor listening to Bethel and crying until there were no tears left. I’d journal until I ran out of pages, anoint every square inch of my house with oil and proclaim the “promises” of God over my marriage, kids and family.
I prayed for healings. I prayed for breakthroughs. I memorized and quoted scripture. All begging and pleading God to make things better….to ease my trembling, breaking heart.
Those years were hard – all of this was done very quietly. In my room, in my car, during long showers alone with only the walls to hear my sobs. Two of my trusted friends traveled these inner battles with me…but to the outside world, I was smiling, preaching, writing books, raising a family and ministering round the clock to nearly everyone I encountered.
I loved. I loved deeply and I loved well.
I poured everything I had into the people I loved and those that I served. All of that flowed from my passion and what I believe I was put here on earth to do.
However, I was a lonely, anxious, scared hurting wife and mom. And I was doing the only thing I knew to do to survive: Pray. Speak Truth. Trust God. Repeat.
But my circumstances didn’t change. They only worsened. The only thing that did begin to change was my health. The anxiety had grown to a level of daily panic attacks and stomach issues that developed into chronic food allergies that I am still dealing with today.
I remember one morning when I was in the shower doing my daily pleadings with God that he said to me, “Anna, I died, so you don’t have to. Stop killing yourself in trying to be what they want you to be”
In that moment everything shifted. I realized that I was crucifying myself daily for the sake of what? Making people happy? Keeping the Christians impressed? Maintaining an image of a perfect family and life so people would like what they saw?
It was killing me.
In the moments that followed, God gently asked me what was wrong with doing what I knew I had to do in order to be healthy. I screamed all of the Christian arguments and he said to me, “Okay, but are you concerned with their opinion of you or mine?”
Was God’s opinion of me enough? If I pissed every person off I knew by taking drastic changes in my life that would bring me to a place of health and wholeness, would my peace with God be enough?
Honestly, I didn’t know.
And I wrestled for a long time with that. But, eventually I caved into what I knew my next right thing was. I had to heal. I made drastic changes in my life. With a shaking heart, God held my hand each step of the way.
And, you know what? What I feared most (rejection from people) didn’t kill me. I’m still standing. My tribe got smaller, but the peace inside is priceless.
I’m still learning to let go of the noise and hold tight to the still, quiet voice but at times it is hard – especially when it bucks the louder majority who are ready to throw stones via texts, Facebook or just give you a loud disapproving cold shoulder when they see you.
As I look at 2018, so much of me wants to be done with that fear.
I don’t want to please the “Christian” majority. I want to be at peace with the Divine and be at peace inside my own skin.
I am experiencing a peace deeper than I have ever known. Steadfast joy is resonating in unexpected places. A rich hope is fiercely standing like a tower of steel. And courage so brave that sometimes it takes me by surprise.
And, yet, much in my opinions and actions have landed me poor marks on the good Christian radar.
As I was getting ready this morning, I started thinking of what many believe defines a good Christian. I realized my list has shifted – a lot. But, I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, I’ll start with what you don’t need to be a “good Christian”:
- You don’t have to keep your kids out of public schools to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to only listen to only Christian music to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to go on mission trips to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to fast to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to have a prayer room to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to stay married to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to not cuss to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to have scripture all over your walls to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to memorize a ton of scripture to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to only have Christian friends to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to be a Republican to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to homeschool to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to use essential oils to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to tithe to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to be straight to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to be in ministry to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to interpret the Bible literally to be a good Christian
- You don’t have to post about Jesus, your relationship with Jesus or other people’s lack of relationship with Jesus on Facebook to be a good Christian
This list may ruffle your feathers. It may make you angry. It may make you want to email me and tell me how much I’m wrong. But, I venture to say that everything on the above list has to do with two things: fear and what people judge on the outside.
It has everything to do with how we divide groups and decide who is “in” and who is “out”.
The religious in Jesus’ day felt the same way. But Jesus wasn’t about fear or division and he quickly upset the pecking order of who was in and out. They hated him for it. But he continued to challenge what we thought God’s view towards mankind was.
Mankind believed our acts of righteousness (according to our own lists of do’s and don’ts) were enough, along with the occasional blood sacrifice to make us worthy of God’s love and acceptance. (In pagan terms we had to keep the “gods happy” in order to spare ourselves from their wrath)
Although we preach that Jesus paid the price once and for all, we still argue that our lists of do’s and don’ts determine our worthiness of being called righteous. In many ways we remain paganist in our thoughts between God and mankind.
This mentality is what drives many to anxiety and fear, trying to keep the list and the masses happy.
But, Jesus offered a different way.
He showed us that not everyone is alike. Not every person has the same list. Instead of judgment and wrath, he extended an invitation to ALL. And, most importantly, he showed that at the end of the day, we should be only concerned with the state of our heart. Period.
That is what led me to create a different list. Based on how Jesus loved and demonstrated his life, this is how I’ve redefined (and how I know to back up with the Jesus story) what makes a Jesus follower (or Good Christian) in my book.
A Good Christian has:
These are the fruits of the spirit. And, if you encounter a person who failed to make one of the points on the first list, yet embodies a lot of this list, I’d encourage you to think twice before labeling them as someone holding a ticket to hell or as one who doesn’t know God.
Jesus and the divine often show up often in places we least expect, defending those we would’ve cast out – he is constantly challenging our ways of thinking and our views of God.
As we venture into 2018, my hope is that we can drop our personal fears of not making the mark and equally our fears of those who are different. I pray instead, that we can follow our inner voice – even if it leads us away from the majority. After all, that’s usually where Jesus was.
Hugs and Happy New Year.