It was a few months ago at the restaurant I work at with a good friend that also happens to be a coworker when this thought started. We were discussing past church experiences and struggles we’ve had with Christianity, and he made a statement that really troubled me, he said, “did you know there aren’t any books out there for people who used to be Christian and no longer feel they are.” I was unfortunately not surprised by this observation as I know from experience how lonely it feels to remove yourself from a religious community during a time of question and doubt, but that was a piece of information that I didn’t know for sure.
I, like most of you, have walked away from my convictions and as personally identifying myself with Christianity as a whole. Not only did I walk away, but I turned my time and attention to hanging out with people that didn’t actually care about me, but enjoyed my company enough to drink one another into deep and very consistent intoxication. Whether you’ve previously walked away or are in the midst of the desert, the feeling[s] you feel isn’t one to be ashamed of because most of us have experienced the dark and cold season of doubt.
Mine started because I no longer felt wanted by my Christian people, my pastor decided to screw the admin and leave his family when light shined on his dirty little secret, and the pressure to deny myself from normal social interaction was maddening. I’ll never forget the day I walked away from my religiosity; it was a well thought out yet spontaneous moment in time. It had been about a year since I started serving tables at Applebee’s and I was offered an opportunity to transition from serving tables to slinging drinks. My initial reaction was to say no because good Christians don’t assist in getting people drunk, because getting drunk is a sin and sin is unacceptable. After weighing the do’s and don’ts as I had learned them over the previous four years I decided to take my shot at being a bartender. One of the steps in this process was doing something I had never done before as a 23 year old adult, have a drink in public. So, after one of my last serving shifts I went home, showered, changed and drove back to Applebee’s and ordered a cocktail to compliment my medium rare steak and that my friends was me taking a stand and then moving in a new direction.
Almost ten years later I am husband to a gorgeous woman, father to two incredibly rambunctious children, and visionary of a home church movement that is more life-giving than I ever imagined it could be. I have been drunk an immeasurable amount of times, paid for an abortion during my senior year of high school, worked as a pastor on staff at America’s largest Christian Church organization, and fought tooth and nail for an understanding of who God is and how much He actually loves the humanity He created.
Here’s what I learned… Even in my darkest moments, I have had experiences with God that I can’t run from. God specifically set apart Holy Spirit to be the communicator, the voice that sounds like you but says stuff you’re probably not used to hearing. God’s relentless love is bigger than the pretty face that Christians wear; it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, or where you are, He will meet you there. Although running from God gave me an excuse to literally do whatever I choose to do, living alongside God empowers me to do everything my heart desires. The only catch is that I have to rely on my faith, [that Jesus is the one we call Creator and He raised up from the dead and walked out of His tomb] balance conviction, my desire for peace, crazy-man passion , inexpressible joy and the ultimate freedom to be covered by grace even if I make the wrong decision. Unlike you may have experienced, Jesus wants you and welcomes you [back] just as you are, and there is no pressure for you to “clean up” or sweep your dust under the rug. We’ve all got dust, might as well make one another feel normal by shining some light on it.
Be encouraged & come home.