In the car with my husband tonight, as we drove home from visiting family, we shared the time to enjoy some music. The final song to play before pulling into our driveway was Jesus Freak by DC Talk. Deep into a sinus infection, growling every word that comes out of his mouth, even my husband couldn’t help to sing along at the top of his lungs with me. Feeling the words, I shared with my husband how amazed I still get when I’m really feeling God. I began to think about my faith, and my experience with religion and God since I was a child, as well as the difference in how I worship now, compared to what that meant to me growing up.
My mom took me to church as early as I can remember. I remember falling asleep, lying on the pews at around five years old. I remember making shrinky dinks in the early age Bible class, learning the books of the Bible in song as an older child, being Baptized as a pre-teen, and despising what I was hearing as a teenager, just before my faith in God (or much of anything really) vanished. I remember rediscovering God around my pregnancy and wondering how I would answer questions when my daughter asked, when I didn’t actually know the answers myself. I remember sitting in the back of church, listening to the words, and really feeling their meaning for the first time. Most of all, I remember the many different things that I’ve been taught about God and about His word up until this point in my life.
I grew up, predominantly attending the Church of Christ, with the occasional visits to Baptist and other various churches. Once I was old enough to pay attention, I remember being forced to do so, even though the subjects being discussed meant very little to me, if I even understood what they were talking about at all. I knew the rules, and I knew how to ‘get through’ the sermon: stay awake, stay very still, very quiet and listen for scriptures to write down so it would look like I was really paying attention. You can see how much I was really learning at this point.
When I was eleven years old, I decided to get baptized. Why? Because baptism is essential…and as a bonus, I can do whatever I want after that, regardless of what the Bible says because then I’ve already been saved anyway! Right? Wrong! Not knowing that at the time though, it seemed like a flawless plan. After all, I believed in God and believed in Jesus and that was what they asked before I went under, so that was all that was needed.
The next change was a new church. I won’t go into detail on this, because that is a whole new can of worms that it’s just better if I don’t get into. To summarize things, I was taught that no matter what I do, I am going to hell. If I spoke to boys when I went to the post office, I was going to hell, because that is “unladylike” (at fifteen years old). If I celebrate Christmas, or Easter, I am going to hell for “worshiping” a tree and a bunny rabbit. That gives you a very abbreviated version of what was (really) being pounded into my head at a very impressionable age. What did I learn from this? Basically, it doesn’t matter how you live or what you do, so what’s the point? Still, up until this point, church meant being very still, very quiet and doing things “just right” to fit in.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that I learned that faith doesn’t always “fit in”. Feeling God, doesn’t look the same for everyone. When I feel God, when I am worshiping God and singing praises, it doesn’t move me to dance. I’m not the type to go up to the altar and get emotional in front of people. That doesn’t mean that I’m not feeling it, that just means that I’m feeling it differently than others. It’s very rare that I will do as little as put a hand up or do much of anything to show my feelings, and when I was first witnessing these things going on in an assembly, it used to be off-putting to me. In fact, that was the case as recently as two months ago. However, I started thinking about it, and honestly, started studying the Bible more and realized that the look doesn’t have to “fit”. It isn’t about “fitting”, it’s about serving and worshiping, loving, and living. It hit me that, the person dancing in the pew isn’t really doing anything wrong, just like I’m not doing anything wrong by standing still. Faith shows itself differently through different people. Some people can be so overwhelmed by the feeling that they have to drop everything until it passes. There isn’t anything wrong with that, just like there isn’t anything wrong with NOT being like that. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. It isn’t against the rules to move during a sermon. It isn’t wrong to show an emotion, or to have to cough even.
It’s unfortunate that Christians have been put into this mold, and held to these expectations. It has given a large group of people a bad name. I know many people who refuse to classify their religion because they grew up as “Christian”, but aren’t the typical Christian stereotype and don’t want to be looked down on for it. I’ve been one of those people. So why does it matter how your faith manifests itself? If you are feeling the Spirit, do what it leads you to do! Faith in God is always going to be looked down on by tons of people, but it shouldn’t be being looked down on in Gods own house. I can tell anybody, after being on both ends of this spectrum, don’t bind yourself-don’t hold back the feeling, that would be like holding back the spirit, and it is a truly awesome thing to feel.