A Man Misunderstood: Part I

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Suspicious. Doubtful. Annoyed at your devotion while I smile and nod my head.

Happy for you. Equally wishing I could “buy in” and yet unable to foresee a scenario in which that would ever be possible.

Curious. Incredulous. Impatient. Restless.

Tuning out the moment I hear or read the words “God”, “Faith”, “Jesus” and “Christianity”. I don’t want to be your prized missionary “save”.

And yet still, I wrestle. Blaming it on brainwashing from church as a child every Sunday but deep down, I can’t escape the curiosity.  How can so many bright and intelligent people believe in this?

They told me to read The Book but every time I try, it doesn’t make any sense.

They try to encourage me, but there’s an ocean between us and our conversations only leave me feeling more isolated and lost.

Still, I search.  I read books about Buddhism and find common ground.  I continue to watch sermons from the church I started attending a couple of years ago. The pastor, a successful lawyer, author and professor, is a master at tackling current issues using biblical scripture to make sense of it all.

I assumed some are just born to believe and others don’t take much convincing.  The task is daunting, confusing and overwhelming and yet as much as I want to stop, I keep pursuing- fueled equally by my own questions and the pressure to teach my children principles to live by.

Piece by piece, I find myself peeling back the layers.

For the past month, I’ve been reading The God Girl Journey by Hayley DiMarco.  It’s a 30-Day guide intended for teenagers, but as my faith is certainly no more advanced, it’s just right for me.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

After a 3 day introduction, the book is divided into the attributes listed in the verse above and it has changed my life. 

I’ve never wanted to call myself a Christian for a number of reasons:  I do not want to align myself with a faith whose leaders have been convicted of child molestation time and time again.  I do not want to be associated with a religion that believes their way is the only way and all others are damned to hell or not welcome in heaven.  I have issues with the damnation of homosexuals or the idea of confessing my sins.  I have issues with well-meaning missionaries converting people from other cultures under the pretense of helping.  I have issues with hypocrisy which I feel Christianity and many of its followers are grossly guilty of.  I have a hard time believing in biblical stories and I don’t want to “cherry-pick” my religion.  If I’m going to label myself something, I want to be all-in.

For these reasons, and many others I’ve skirted Christianity.  Peeking inside its chambers, but never fully entering.  Cautiously observing.

As a child, I attended an Episcopalian church, summer camps and even found myself at a Young Life retreat one year.  I clearly remember sitting on a rock, pleading with a leader to tell me how I was supposed to believe.  His answer was, “You just have to have faith.”  In what?  Blind faith? Believe first and the rest will come?  I’m not hardwired that way.

And yet I am insanely envious of those who do have faith.  I think to myself, “I wish I could be that naive”. Harsh, but true. They seem so peaceful.  In the face of some of the worst tragedies, time and time again I’ve heard or read Christians who are able to find goodness amongst evil- like when the congregation and family members of those killed at the church in Charleston publicly forgave Dyllan Roof for his senseless massacre. How? Why?

Reading The God Girl Journey has helped me to understand just how and why that could ever be possible. Reading this book has given me a much clearer understand of who Jesus was- a man that I’ve researched enough to know that few doubt his existence. Reading this book has helped me to understand why the Christians I know and respect seem so confident and peaceful and why they share their faith.

I’m still at the beginning of my journey (hence, Part I), but now I know that once you start to believe, you feel selfish keeping it to yourself.  It’s not that you are trying to convert others to check off your “good Christian to-do-to-get-into-heaven list”- it’s that you feel true JOY and you want others to feel it, too.

I have lots of questions but for the first time, I am beginning to understand why so many people love Jesus.  Strip away the rules and denominations surrounding him.  As I learn more about what he stood and died for, I see so many similarities in all that I love about Buddha- principles that I try to live my life and teach my children by: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

And as much as I want to know it all before I begin, just like parenting, I realize now that sometimes you just have to start somewhere- anywhere. I’m tired of curiously observing from the outside.  I have nothing to lose by diving in and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to gain.

Jesus: A man I’ve grossly misunderstood.  A man, a faith, I want to understand. A man whose birth I’m actually celebrating this Christmas.

 

Dee Akright Photography 

 

 

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