Today I posted a picture of a Project Life layout that included letters that I wrote to my kids. Some of the handwritten notes I included contained prayers for my children. This afternoon I received an email from a reader who saw it posted on a Facebook page and asked me, “Are you a Christian? You seem to be too real and honest to be a Christian. You talk about God, but also about grace and not judging. You aren’t like my former neighbor who judged me and my mom all the time when I was growing up.”
In my response to her, I apologized. I apologized to her for her having to ask the question. I apologized to her for the experience she had as a child. I asked if I could call her. We immediately enjoyed a long distance conversation with each other and I am already looking forward to more chats in the future.
I have spent the afternoon writing this post. This is perhaps my 7th draft. Please know that I am pouring out my heart and I am asking for compassion and grace.
I’m thankful for Godly parents and for being raised in the church. I had many amazing influences around me. But like any religion, there were people that I put tremendous faith in that disappointed me. And I can assure you, I disappointed others. My biggest problem with my fellow Christians in my 20s was an inability to offer each other and non-Christians grace and love.
Unfortunately, I think many people focus on the failures of other people as an excuse not to examine the ultimate truth that God is the constant source of peace and grace, not people. I know that I am guilty of that. The beauty here is that God still loves me for all of my mistakes. I am undeniably flawed, yet perfect and beautiful in His eyes.
Privately, I have always written letters to my children. Through my divorce. Through my cancer journey. Through my disappointment with religion. I am beyond thankful that these letters always displayed an unyielding love for God despite pain and disappointment. I will treasure these letters always.
Publicly, I have been a closet Christian the past decade. I come out in the security of Christian blogs or when surrounded by the comfort of a woman’s bible study. I haven’t always been this way. But I let my faith take a back seat when I married Jeff twelve years ago.
Jeff was raised in a loving home, but one that was of a different religion. Jeff became a Christian shortly after we were married and it caused tremendous pain. I love Jeff’s parents and family. How could I not? They raised a man who loved me after being left by my Christian husband while 8 months pregnant. Jeff welcomed and loved Rebecca even though she wasn’t his own. And Jeff was my earthly rock during cancer treatment.
But the reality is that our religious choices still cause pain for others. Sometimes I have hidden my faith or kept things generic to keep the peace and not hurt feelings. Anytime I get frustrated, I remember that it was my choice to marry someone of a different faith. When you marry someone, you not only marry their families, but also their communities. And I did exactly that when I married Jeff. We don’t regret our choice to be Christians, but we do regret the pain that we have caused. It is something we pray about on a daily basis, twelve years later.
Three weeks ago, Jeff and I were able to attend a conference in which a speaker stated that we will assuredly disappoint one another, but that we are still called to speak boldly. He asked, “Why are you ashamed to voice your beliefs? Of course people will be disappointed in us and discount our stories. But who else is there? Who else is there to tell your story of God’s grace? Is there someone who can tell your story better?”
And you know that my ears perked up when he used the word story. I am passionate about telling my story and teaching my children the importance of telling their stories. And I was missing out on speaking about a huge part of my story.
I also felt convicted that I was teaching my children to be ashamed of their faith in front of others. Ouch.
I am loved by a heavenly Father. I have been given more grace and mercy than I ever deserve.
Let me make this perfectly clear…Christians will disappoint you. I, as a Christian, will disappoint you. I ask you not to put your faith in me or others, as it would be misguided. Please don’t use religion, shame, people pleasing, or your disappointment in the shortcomings of others to determine your walk with God. Do not be ashamed. He is the constant in our ever changing world.
I also want to say that I know many of you come from vastly different religious backgrounds and I’m thrilled you are here. Know this is coming from a “lump in my throat” kind of place right now. I ask for grace. There is no contention here or any religious motive. There is only a tremendous amount of love and compassion for all of you reading these words.
This is merely just me, trying to tell my story and share my heart.
Blessings sweet friends – JennyTweet