Disclaimer: This post is not for the faint of heart. Not everyone will agree with me, here, and that's totally okay. But the post below contains some raw and honest language, so don't say I didn't warn you.
Sometimes, my faith confuses me.
God only knows what the people around me think of my beliefs, at least those who know me well enough to know that I sing worship songs to Jesus with my hands lifted and also say 'shit' with some regularity.
And if we're being honest here, it feels a little strange sometimes to call myself that -- a Christian. I mean, I am one, in the raw and realest way you can be. My heart is wholely and solely in the arms of Jesus, but the word Christian can be so… icky… sometimes, and it makes me think of Jesus as a slimy Pat Robertson with a southern accent, banging His Holy Gavel on a condemning platform, calling out "sinner!," "sinner!" and glaring down his nose at gays and alcoholics and potty-mouthed soccer moms while he listens to Focus on the Family on K-LOVE and denounces public school children for their wayward education.
But that really isn't Jesus at all… not even a little bit, and I still haven't figured out how to reconcile my faith with the weirdness of the body of believers and all our little idiosyncrasies and why we can't just get on with it and agree that we're all royally screwed up and in need of heaps and loads of grace and love on each other and cry together and sometimes look at one another and then up to the heavens and say, "Well shit, God, what am I supposed to do now?" (Because we're all saying it, really, in one way or another, and if you aren't, then you might want to stop reading because I'm probably no one you want sitting at your lunch table, anyway).
It's harder, too, in ministry, because when you wear that badge, that label, you're supposed to be a representative of Jesus all of a sudden, like you weren't already just by acknowledging his deism in the first place. But when you're in ministry, this weird little game happens in your head where these rules lay down upon you and, if you're me, you suddenly look around and realize that none of this really looks anything like the God you know, and the ministry lifestyle starts to look like a competition for some kind of consecrated brownie points and you wonder what you're really after anyway, and the whole thing starts feeling like a spiritual ride on the carnival ride The Scrambler, only with more prayer and (a little) less vomit.
It may have been why I had to leave Texas… because I couldn't bring myself to get over the layers and layers of extra crap that somehow gets added to faith when it begins to cross into religion, and I couldn't keep my big mouth shut when pointless religious rules overshadowed the ministry we were trying to accomplish (which was supposed to be love, pure and simple, but started to become a war over proper church clothes and acceptable reading material and who got the award for memorizing more Bible verses).
And while we're on the subject, let me just bow right out of that competition now. I'm not a better Christian than anyone. I might just be the worst, even -- the most wretched and helpless and confused of us all. And wrong or right, I can sleep better at night when I'm just keeping it real here. I connect with the real nitty-gritty of my faith only when I'm honest about that, when I sit in my mess and say I'm a mess, and opt out of the game of having arrived in the faith and think I've got any right to tell anyone else how they're supposed do it. My feet are dirty, too, and the only way Christ can redeem me is if I haven't already achieved holiness for myself (but I try... ohhhh, do I try like a damn fool).
I am learning that being a bad Christian is better than being a good one. Because if you think you're a good Christian… well, that's a problem already.
And I'm not saying we all should throw up our whiskey bottles in the air while we rip up the Ten Commandments and crank up our gangsta rap, but I just wish us, as a church, would get off it already with the big act we're putting on -- the one where we think representing Jesus means pretending we know how to be Him on this fallen earth and we see each other's petty efforts at goodness and give one another a hand, because love might be the only good thing we really can do in this world, but none of us will really ever understand the depth or height or breadth of love as long as we're breathing.
I'll take a mud-streaked, tear-stained Bible full of parts I don't understand over the leather-bonded edition that says only what I want it to any day of the week. The real Christian life, the one Christ led, is full of prostitutes and cuss words and dirt and shame and poverty, and the only way I know how to connect to any of it is to see my shiny white Sketchers for the dirt that's on their soles… to wrestle with the disgusting reality I don't want to believe but I can't make go away -- that I am as wretched and sinful as a murderous pedophile, that he is as good as me, that our feet are equally dirty, and that grace… extravagant grace… covers this whole hot mess, and that until we've really grasped that and let it change everything about us, we don't really understand faith at all, and no amount of holy water can clean our dirty soles and dirty souls. It's all grace, friends, and the day I get to be a good Christian... the day I'm holy enough to bow down and wash my own feet, is the day I'm really in trouble on this journey of faith.