My Journey to spiritual wellness
It is coming up on almost a full year since I have entered the doors of a church building.
Many have found streaming or joining Zoom calls for their weekly spiritual feeding as an only option has not been enough. Going to a physical building for worship has been apart of many of our lives since we can remember. We love the community, we love the music, we love the feeling of being connected. Many pastors were faced with difficult decisions to keep the doors of their churches closed. Church as we know it has changed.
Across the country, churches have opened their doors and have have begun returning to their places of worship. I have to admit this saddened me. While there are some pastors that are genuine and made this decision from a sincere place, others have rushed back for different reasons.
I was disheartened to hear a snippet of a message from a pastor that was condemning those that celebrated Christmas. While I fully respect what a person chooses to believe or practice, his message did not sound like it was delivered in love. Nor did it feel he came from a place of sincerely wanting to educate his parishioners as to why he had chosen not to celebrate Christmas. Again, it was just a snippet so I am unable to give full context.
It is my guess he is one of those leaders that used cute quotes such as “faith over fear” to cause his followers to question their own faith because they have chosen to exercise caution. I digress. Too many churches across the country are filled with people week after week that are subjected to abusive rhetoric and abusive delivery. This unfortunately begins to work it’s way into a person’s spiritual identity; and the voice of God starts to sound less and less like one of love and grace.
The gift of social distancing afforded us the opportunity to check in to ensure we are in a good place spiritually when we are not able to be validated in a church setting. For those that needed it, we have been able to repair and align our hearts and minds to ensure we are aligning with God’s. Sometimes you may not know you are being spiritual abused until what you are used to is stripped away. It is my prayer that as people begin returning to church, that there is not an undoing of any spiritual progress that may have been made during their time away. It is my prayer that one’s spiritual identity is not predicated on the approval of pastors or the position or rank we may hold in our local assemblies.
I’m happy for those that have not experienced anxiety being away from church and realize your spiritual autonomy remains in tact regardless of where you are worshipping.
During my time away I have been able to see ways in which I could exercise more love and patience. I have observed ways in which I needed to be better about showing compassion and grace. While I have not gathered weekly with those I was used to seeing so often, my relationships with those I have genuine connections with has not waivered. I’ve accepted the gift of spiritually social distancing and found that I am better for it.
I had a wonderful childhood and upbringing. I was born to and raised by 2 loving parents and a wonderful village. My parents served in the church my mom a missionary and minister and my dad a deacon. They loved to serve the people of God. More than that they loved the God of the people. I like to say I was given a fighting chance to make this Christian walk possible. I was raised in a church where the gospel was being preached, uncompromised where there was a standard of holiness. Here’s where I was privileged and didn’t know it. What was taught at church was reinforced at home. It was not unusual to walk through the living room and to hear my mom praying, or to hear my dad having intimate moments with God. These people nurtured their relationship with God when it mattered most….when no one was looking.
I didn’t realize it until much later in life that a lot of my peers were not afforded this same experience. For some the life portrayed at church was not always congruent with home life. This can be one of the first damaging things a child can witness when talking about establishing and understanding one’s own spiritual identity. Is living a life of holiness truly possible? Is this God I am being taught about real, does he really exist? If he does exist why does he only seem to work at church?
Thankfully for my brother and me, our parents were not overbearing. While they believed wholeheartedly in living by a standard of Holiness they weren’t weirdo church people. They always provided a healthy balance. No we were not allowed to listen to secular music or attend school dances but a relationship with God was never forced on us. Our walk with God was our own. No one forced us to get baptized, bargained with us to join the usher board, or negotiated with us to sing on the choir. These were all personal choices. Our parents lead by example. They were not perfect but their hearts were pure and it made me believe this life of holiness and upright living was possible and the walk could be sweet.
My foundation was a good one, a solid one. I had the best examples in front of me. Why did I make this journey more difficult than it had to be?
Hey Church Girl! is my personal story in my own words of how I went from spiritually bound (and didn’t know it) to living a life of spiritual wellness. Living a life governed by rules and laws, do’s and dont’s made for a not so peaceful walk in my early life with God.
For most of my life I viewed God the way I viewed myself and other people. Super critical and lacking mercy. It was hard for me to accept grace and mercy. I felt I had to work for God’s approval and I didn’t realize it but I was driving myself crazy. Constantly questioning or wondering where I stood with God caused occasional bouts of anxiety.
It wasn’t until I gained more clarity on the origin of these thoughts and feelings that I realized I was governing myself. I wasn’t trying to nurture a relationship with God as much as I was just trying to stay out of Hell. Much of what I felt was the voice of or conviction from God was really me. I was making my walk with him strained rather than sweet by setting unrealistic standards for myself. That was ROUGH y’all!
I know I am not the only one that identifies with a story much like my own. There are so many expectations of who a church girl is or what a church girl should be. So many of us have walked away from our pursuit of a life with Christ due to poor examples and influence. We feel or have felt we will never do enough to live up to what is required to be a “good” Christian. I pray as I share my story you are able to begin redefining what your relationship with God looks like. I also pray you are able to see achieving a balanced life of spiritual wellness is possible.