It took years to get here.
Others seem to just shake off their old roots and immediately step into a new liberated garment. It’s not so easy for everyone.
When you have been taught something since childhood and it’s been drilled, reinforced and acted out it front of you seemingly forever, you simply can’t change in a day.
Especially if you have felt threatened with Hell fire and damnation, and taught that your very salvation depended on obeying all the rules, justified or not.
Maybe what helped me in the end was seeing somewhat of a double standard, even among those licensed in the same fellowship.
It seems the same code of conduct and so called “standards,” often varied from state to state, north and south etc.
Some could wear short sleeves, wedding rings, dress out for gym, use a little hair rinse, participate in some sports and even get divorced sometimes.
I always secretly envied those folks. Life just seemed a little bit easier for them. Being from the bottom end of the Bible belt, didn’t leave much room for bucking the rules.
Making these things a heaven or hell issue when everyone in total did not have to comply, made me resentful.
I didn’t know I was resentful then, but I know now I was, because I had to spend years working through the anger issues.
I guess my group thought up every scripture they could to keep us all in line and keep us obedient to those in authority.
Of course it didn’t matter that some of those ideas were taken out of context and some had no basis whatsoever.
There were even things about the doctrine I couldn’t understand, but when the code is to obey and don’t ask questions, there wasn’t room for learning more.
It was years later before I realized just how many Do’s and Don’ts there truly were. Even as a child, a gifted child I’ll have to say, I could not reconcile the behavior and spirit of some of our people, even those who were in leadership.
The scripture “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” tormented me. My Bible said that those who professed Christ and believed in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord would be a part of his Body.
Of course there were guidelines one should follow, and those who were Spirit-filled would bear fruit of this. It was some of that fruit we were producing, but not exhibiting, that bothered me terribly.
“My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Like it or not, that one statement just didn’t seem to go with the life I knew growing up in the Church.
I didn’t know the scriptures so much back then, but I somehow knew that Jesus and the Apostle said that if love did not prevail, the rest didn’t mean anything. It seemed you dare not say that to anyone.
Leaving is hard. It goes against everything you were taught. Some didn’t have any choice. They were driven out or the feeling that you just were not wanted eventually sunk in.
It was their way or the highway. And too many of us found out just what the highway was really all about. Total inclusion or total exclusion, no moderation and no middle of the road.
It’s hard to go against everything you’ve been taught, but when you’re dying anyway, or already dead inside, you really stop caring.
Listen! You have to build an all new relationship with God, one that is based on love, trust and mutual understanding.
You have to go back to the absolute basics and start over. God is love! That’s a start and much of what we once lived by was nothing about love, only blind obedience.
You’ll have to work hard on yourself. Let me promise you that “old tapes” are hard to erase and they can start playing anytime, especially in times of stress or troubles at home.
You’ll learn that “keep my commandments” meant HIS commandments, not those made up by man and his tradition.
When you’ve been in Church, especially most of your life, being without a Church home is awful. There is great joy in true fellowship and going it alone takes a lot of courage, and let me say it, pure guts.
If your heart is right, you’ll learn that not everything you were taught is wrong and you don’t have to become a pure reprobate to make some changes in your life.
It’s a hard journey, I won’t pretend it isn’t. Guilt and fear will ride your every move. Stop and think about this. This overwhelming guilt and this feeling that God is going to smash you for every little move you make He doesn’t like should tell you that this is not the kind of God you need in your life.
Your understanding of God has to change. We were taught He was your best friend. That is not how best friends treat those they care about.
This Jesus. They told me He would never leave me or forsake me. They didn’t believe that. I found out the hard way that His Word was true exactly as it said, NEVER means never.
Oh, I wish I had known that. Well, I’ve touched something on this keyboard I borrowed and I don’t know how to change it back, so I guess it means I’ve said enough.
Everyone else might forsake you, but He will not. Recall those positive scriptures you remember, like the one that says “nothing” can pluck you out of his hands and hang on to that.
Once you give your heart to Him, nothing can take that away, not even you. If you did go to hell you would go as His child and He will do everything to keep you from that. Don’t forget that.
Many might would let up on some of those harsh man-made rules if they could but it would mean giving up their credentials and maybe even their churches and ministries.
Expecting those hardliners to apologize or soften up is unlikely. While I’m thinking about it, this idea that we were the only ones right and everyone else was going to hell should have told us all we needed to know about our religion.
Spirituality, that’s what everyone should aim for and having an ugly, exclusive attitude and constantly screaming about it is not being Spiritual, it’s really quite carnal.
Find a group somewhere that still shows unconditional love and treats you with respect.
If they can’t accept you as you are now, they have no right to accept you when you become what they think you should be.
If you can’t find one in your area, find some others and start one. There are millions of people, lonely, sick, lost and burdened that need your help.
You don’t have to have a registration card to reach out to them. Take your do’s and don’t signs down and walk the middle of the road. Love like you’ve never loved before. If you do that, the rest will come.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That’s the Jesus I know today.
I wouldn’t trade Him for all the religious experiences I ever had.
I love Him more, and I’m learning to trust Him more that I ever did in all my life.
He forgives, He forgets and He doesn’t tear down someone who loves Him.
He’s that kind of Friend…..
First published: June 8, 2011.
~ Robert Blackburn