I was reading a post by one of my FOTTSP friends this morning, and it has inspired me to write. So with props to Katdish, ADD, and chickens, I’m going to tell you about a struggle I had. It was a struggle to be me – not the me that I was told to be by established religion, youth leaders, and college professors, either, because that me was on full display. I had to fight to be the me that was suppressed and hidden under all that – the me that God created.
I always struggled with me. I grew up Baptist, and for the most part, I enjoyed being a part of that world. I believed – and still believe – much of what I was taught. But there were some pretty distinct differences between who I was on the inside and what I knew typical Baptist youth pastors were and were expected to be. I think I always figured that God would help me to change and be a better Baptist, but He never did. And it’s not that I think being Baptist is bad or makes you a bad person. Most of my favorite people in the whole world are Baptist, particularly everyone in my immediate family except my brother, Steve. They’re delightful, God fearing individuals who would serve and help out anyone at any time. But they’re not me, and I’m not them.
I lived through six years of youth group in an environment where my opinion wasn’t welcome. It’s not that we weren’t free to express our opinions; it’s just that my opinion was “wrong” many times. I spent three years in Baptist college, completing my bachelor’s, and trying to play nice. I wasn’t very good at it, but I did give it a good effort. The problem was that I didn’t believe a lot of things that were being very strongly stressed in classes, and I had a hard time not raising my hand to say so. I believed the doctrine I had been taught growing up, but those things weren’t so heavily stressed all the time. The things that were stressed were very difficult for me to believe, given my ability to read and having the Bible at my disposal for the reading.
I didn’t wise up while I was in school. I took a job in an Independent Baptist Church after receiving my degree. I’m not sure what I was expecting, because what I got was a philosophical nightmare for me. My boss and I didn’t agree on a lot of things. On my first day, he told me I was spiritually immature, and that was the only reason I liked rock music, and hopefully one day God would change my heart. God never did. He didn’t change a lot of things that my former boss told me He would change. I prayed earnestly that God would change me. I mean, I liked me, but if being me was really a problem, I wanted Him to change me. He didn’t, though.
After a year of trying to toe the company line (the Baptist company line), I grew tired from the fight. In all honesty, I struggled with the integrity of staying on staff at a church that I knew was not teaching what I believed. God used a wonderful set of circumstances to assure me that I should leave for somewhere – something else. And I did. God moved me to New Hope Community Church
, which was a far cry from the safe and warm world of the Independent Baptist Church. It was a place like I had never seen before. We worshiped Jesus, and we taught the Truth, but the difference was that we did so without any pretense on who we should be while doing so. I was allowed, even encouraged, to be who God made me. It was scary at first, because the whole experience was foreign. It was exciting and nerve racking all at the same time. But it was exactly what I needed, because for the first time in my life, I felt like I knew Jesus. For the first time, I felt like I knew me. And for the first time, I realized that God loved me as me. After all, He was the one that gave me my personality, my desires, my passions, and my hunger for Truth.
I’m not a perfect man, that’s for sure. I’m not yet who I should be, but I’m closer now than I’ve ever been, and I have more peace and love in my heart than ever. And, to quote Katdish, “For the most part, I enjoy being me. I now understand after years of fighting to be like someone else, it was never God’s intention that I be anyone but myself.”