A week or so ago I woke up in my dorm room. I sat up and saw my beautiful view of the city from my window. And a thought came into my head.
“What if I’m not a Christian anymore?”
I have no idea where it came from. But it stuck with me the rest of the day. I couldn’t get the sentence out of my head. I began to wonder what that would even mean, what I would do with myself, and more importantly, if it was true.
I grew up being a Christian. It was the only identity that I was always sure of. Because no matter what aspects of my personality changed, my faith always stayed the same. I was the goodie-two-shoes. The sheltered homeschooler. In church, I was the girl who sang too loud for worship and danced too much. I took notes during sermons. I evangelized to strangers at subway stations, taking every opportunity to invite people to church. I made everything in my life about God. I read my bible every night. Prayed without ceasing. Memorized scripture at youth group. People looked up to me. I craved church and fellowship. I was one of those people who was so on fire for God and it inspired others. I cried listening to worship music and smiled when I mentioned my Savior. I had spiritual zeal.
Sure, I had doubts. But I knew I believed in God. I had experienced too much to deny that. There were too many coincidences in my life to be just chance.
That’s not me anymore.
Actually, I have no idea who that girl is. I don’t recognize her. In a lot of ways, its hard for me to see that person as someone I once was. We are so different from each other now.
I go to church as more of a skeptic with a religious past. Recently, I changed churches in order to accommodate this change in me. I wasn’t sure how the people I grew up with would take to seeing me like this. At school, I met up with a woman from the school Christian club in order to ask questions about theology. I wanted to see if they could handle a critic. If they could handle me. I don’t feel like an insider among believers. When I say “Christians” I feel like I’m talking to some group of people I have no connection to.
A lot of people hate me now. My friends were angry at me. Some got over it, and some didn’t. I lost people I love in my doubts. They decided they couldn’t love me during my struggle or pain. I can’t say I blame them either. They looked at my actions and concluded I must be a false prophet or a heretic or a poser.
I don’t look like a Christian anymore.
I was at a bar for my 21st birthday last week, drinking more than I should have. I don’t look like a Christian with the amount of times I say “fuck” on a daily basis. I don’t fit the Christian stereotype with my crop tops and short shorts, nor with my tongue ring or nose ring or belly button ring. I don’t lift up my hands during worship songs. I sit down and stare blankly at the words on the screen. I don’t sing at all anymore. I don’t look like a believer when the music I have on shuffle is Kendrick Lamar; every track labeled “explicit.” My bible has not been touched since I moved into college; and actually, even before that, it was unread. To be quite frank, I have not prayed in months. I don’t know how to do that anymore. The whole process makes no sense to me. I am appalled by Christian views on politics. I attend a very secular, liberal school that feels like home to me. I am so glad I never got a purity ring because the whole idea makes me sick to my stomach. I wrestle with theology and doubt. I scream at God right now in this time where we are surrounded by suffering. I scream because prayer seems to do nothing to alleviate pain. I have learned to be self sufficient because I’m not sure I can rely on anyone to fix me. I’m not sure I believe any of the teachings of my past at church because those ideas have not helped me in the real world.
And so, I stopped looking like a Christian.
There were people who did not like this change in me. Sometimes I don’t even like this change in me. I look at myself and wonder how I got here. So hurt and confused. So far from who I used to be. So sinful. I have made more mistakes than I could confess in a lifetime. Sometimes I wanted to self destruct because I hated who I was. People think I am unaware of my wrongs; but trust me, I am well aware. Those things keep me up at night. .
And today, as I stared out the window at a cotton candy sky, another thought came to me.
“I don’t look like a Christian. But I pray to God that I look like Christ.”
And I do.
Jesus of Nazareth, a man I have read about but sometimes feel like I have never know. He was a man who knew what it was to suffer. He came from a family who had nothing and were no one. He was a guy who hung out with whores and thieves. He flipped tables in church. He called religious leaders vipers. He was controversial and wasn’t afraid to rock the boat. He knew the politics of the world He lived in. People hated Him for it. Religious people wanted Him to be this hero; this king who was going to destroy all their enemies and fix things for them. An then He came and was this normal guy. But He was a man who knew how to love. He paid attention to kids and women who were treated as nothing by everyone else. He was a homeless guy who probably smelled like fish from all the fisherman He hung with. He wasn’t educated. He wasn’t a scholar. He was a carpenter.
Call me crazy, but I think that man was the Son of God. And I don’t even know how that works. I know my voice drips with lunacy when I say that. I know that makes no logical sense. I am still trying to figure it out.
But in any sense, I want to look like Him. If I shove away all the complex theology and doubts and fears; if I just forget everything else, I know I believe what that man taught. I hope I look like Him.
I do not look like Christians. I have not uttered a real prayer in months but I scream the lyrics to FEEL. straight to heaven because I feel like God listens to me when I am vulnerable. I am unafraid to rip my previously held beliefs to shreds because I know I could be wrong. I am comfortable with doubt. I long for something more. Christians have created a subculture that I am not associated with. Their weird lingo and unspoken, unbiblical views. Their politics. Their art. I can’t say I stand with that. But I love people. I love people no matter who they are or what they believe and when I offer my hand to help you I am not expecting you to owe me a conversion. I just want to love you the way you deserve to be loved. I advocate for social justice and social change because that’s what Jesus would do. I’m a feminist because women matter so much to me, and I see Jesus’ heart for those women who were abused, those women who were sex workers, those women who were nothing. I write stories because Jesus didn’t get caught up in spiritual dogma or discourse; He talked in ways people understood.
I know who Jesus was not because of some great spiritual awakening or vision. But I have had encounters with God. On the train when I couldn’t stop ugly crying, and a random woman came up to me and held my hand and told me I would get through it. In my best friend who cries at the suffering of the world as if that pain were her own. In my best friend who does not even believe in the existence of God but who has shown me more about faith than I ever saw in a sanctuary. In my mother, who has shown me that prayer can be screaming with tears down your face about how much you hurt. In my favorite band, whose secular music gives me a glimpse of what heaven must be like. In my little sister whose fierce passion melts me to my core. In Ronda Rousey who taught me how to stand after being knocked out. In the way the lake looks from my window and the sky at sundown. I see God in the way my professors teach. In those people who protest for human rights. In environmentalist. In the people who give money to the homeless. In those who choose to believe the best about humans. Those who volunteer their time and effort for those in need. In all the ways the world has come together to fight back against the tragedies and the pain. These are real examples of God. This is what Jesus meant when He prayed “Your kingdom come.”
I’m not trying to be that church bashing person who rejects Christianity to needlessly rebel. I am saying that God can be hard to find in a church where all people care about is rules and how many regular attendees they have. I know it can feel like Christians just want something for you, like a profession of faith. I know what it feels like to be an outsider. But I want you to know that my God is not about fake smiles and hypocrisy. My God does not support a political agenda. He does not play favorites among ethnicities or sexual orientation. My God is not for hate or holy wars.
I know He wants a better life for me than the one I’m living now. I think He has ways that are better than mine. I know I’m not the person He wants me to be yet. But then I think about all those messed up people in the bible and all the horrible things they did. All the mistakes and pain they caused. All the ways they fell short. All the misunderstanding and so many doubts and questions. All the times they didn’t know who God was or what He was doing. Those people in that book weren’t heroes. They were walking disasters. They were liars and cheaters and thieves and prostitutes. But they knew God when they saw Him.
I look at those people and I fit right in. It makes me think they maybe God has a place for me, even at my worst, in His narrative.
8 thoughts on “I Don’t Look Like A Christian Anymore”
I don't even know how to write a response to this. This hit me hard, I have been having a lot of these feelings and thoughts too. I grew up similar, I was the good, christian kid. I never doubted anything. Now I scream, cry, curse, and question everything. My music taste is dark and depressing, I'm a cynic. I fight with my parents about politics and judging people. I dislike religion. I hate how most Christians I know are pushing people away, and are looking more like Pharisees.I think that this is part of growing in your faith. Realizing that it's not as easy as everyone seems to think.I am struggling through depression and anxiety. I never feel good enough, but then I remember the tax collector who beat his chest and cried for mercy and I realize that's me. I'm a sinner and all I can do is beg for his forgiveness. Just know you are not alone in this.
Oh Faith…. I love you! I love your questions and your doubts. I love that you see Jesus for what he was. I love that you have the courage to walk away from haters and judgers because they wound you. It is SO okay to take care of your lovely, tender, caring heart. Don't let humans that need healing get between you and God. He is the only one you really need to worry about, and he loves you beyond comprehension. You are his beautiful creation, and I know he has great plans for you. Faith, struggle makes you stronger. You've had more than your fair share. You are an awesome young woman, and I love you! ~ Sharon
wow. thank you for that beautiful response. I love what you said about this being a part of growing in our faith. I think kids who grow up Christians have that weird crisis of faith. I think they need to in order for their beliefs to stop being childish and naive and actually take root. its a scary place to be in.If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here for you always.
This is s refreshing to hear this. Thank you so, so much for sharing!!!!
Oh my goodness, this was so beautiful and honest. You are so spot on about Christian subculture and how isolating and suffocating it can feel. I sometimes can hardly believe the \”Art\” that the \”Christian\” world creates because it doesn't even seem relatable to nonbelievers. And you've articulated some things that have been on my own heart lately and I'm so grateful I'm not the only one who feels this way:\”But I love people. I love people no matter who they are or what they believe and when I offer my hand to help you I am not expecting you to owe me a conversion.\”\”I am saying that God can be hard to find in a church where all people care about is rules and how many regular attendees they have.\” ^^ THIS. It all boils down to loving people like Christ. That is what believers should live for, bleed for. We're all screwed up here in this life, and no one is better than the next. This is an inspiration to me not to judge or take others' judgements to heart. We're all flawed. \”Those people in that book weren't heroes. They were walking disasters. They were liars and cheaters and thieves and prostitutes. But they knew God when they saw Him.\”You are spot on. Seriously amazing post. Very wise ❤
Thank you so much ❤ your words mean so much to me.If you're looking for more inspiration or stuff to think about (from someone way more wise than myself.) I would recommend reading Out Of Sorts by Sarah Bessey. I had been thinking about all this stuff for a while, and after getting halfway through that book was when I finally decided to open up about it. Its an amazing read.thank you again for your comment ❤
You are so courageous to changed your view after growing up with this education. I admire because I think it hasn't been easy for you and all your family and friends, but you are free to believe in what you want!In my opinion, religion is something that every person feels inside and nobody is allowed to judge!
your vulnerable heart is the greatest gift to the Father. you may not have all the answers in this season, but these are the moments when you grow the most. thank you for being raw and real. thank you for not shying away from your messy. for not hiding your \”stuff\” but being real and letting truth sting not only your heart but the heart of many of your readers. may you never forget how deeply you are loved. how deeply the Father cares for your heart. what hurts you. hurts Him. what gnaws at your heart. gnaws at His. He isn't afraid of your messy. He isn't repelled by your questions and screams. He is a good good Father. and a good good Father loves always. and always loves the same. You are not forgotten by Heaven. Though you may feel forgotten by a part of this earth that you once felt apart of.Be blessed, dear heart.