stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

I’ve got to be me.

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.”

Comments on: "I’ve got to be me." (5)

  1. Awesome post! I’ve heard many people say that about ‘rock music’ that it’s not godly. I believe that God made all music, the lyrics not so much sometimes, but the music yes. I’m glad you found your ‘peace’.

  2. Good post, Jeff. I believe that some of what you are saying is right. I think Baptists (and not only Baptists) sometimes focus too strongly on external things, and decide if someone is a good Christian or not based on that. I wholeheartedly agree that that's just not right. However, please don't put all Baptists in that camp. The Baptist church is doing a lot of great things for God, and with so many people bad mouthing that denomination as a whole, it only creates confusion, and potentially steers people who might like to try a Baptist church away, when God might actually want them to be there. Does that make sense?Now, like I said, I think you are right. I wholly believe that a mature Christian can love the Lord with all their heart and still like whatever style of music, etc. But if you'd like more of my humble .02, I think you should expound more on what you mean by just having to "be me." Less mature and I think particularly many teenaged Christians are very easily confused. If you tell them to just "be themselves", they could easily take that to mean all kinds of crazy things. "Our selves" are completely self focused, and opposite of what God wants. So it's a tricky subject. God really wants us to die to ourselves daily. Now, I know what you mean by that, but you could have kids thinking, "Whew. I thought I'd have to be different, but Jeff is telling me I can just be myself." My brother is a Christian, I think, (at least he thinks he is) and he takes that to mean that eveything is fine. Getting drunk is fine, partying is fine, even occasionally marijuana is fine. Anything he wants to watch on tv or movies is totally fine. As long as he goes to church on Sunday and truly thinks he is worshiping God there, he thinks he is just being himself, and if you try to say anything about that stuff, he says you are judgmental. He tells his friends about Jesus and thinks he is being a good witness. He really believes that his children will turn out right because he is going to teach them right and wrong. Obviously he is confused because he is immature and someone along the way did not remember that God warns us not to be a stumblingblock. As mature Christians, we might have tastes in music or clothes or whatever that might not mess up our relationship with God, but parading it around might be a stumblingblock to an immature, and maybe confused believer. I remember when certain music used to be a stumblingblock to me when I was a teen. As soon as I would hear it, I could feel myself being pulled toward the world and away from God. I know someone else like that too. Anyway, do you understand what I'm getting at? Yes, be you, and we should not judge people's spirituality based on external things, but on the other hand, we mature Christians need to be careful not to put stumblingblocks in front of people that we have no idea what is going on in their hearts. Really, it is ALL about CHRIST!! I want to teach my kids that we simply need to love HIM with all of our hearts, minds and souls, and stay as close to Him as we can, and live for Him. And stay away from what might influence us to go in the wrong direction and away from our goal. Oh my, I went too long, and less is more, right?? Oh well. I hope that all made sense. : ) Somehow we need to find that balance, and teach our kids and the kids we work with at church what that balance is.

  3. One of the most smothering churches I ever belonged to (and not for long, let me tell ya) was an independent Baptist church. I can imagine you didn't thrive there at all. I'm sorry you had to put up with legalism that made you think you had to "be" something in order to please the church and please God. Yay for the new church that's growing and nurturing you!!!!Give Jakob a hug from his crazy, cyber-psuedo, FOTTSP Aunt Marni 😉

  4. Thanks for the shout out, Jeff. The danger of being spoon fed the Word of God is that we sometimes are given someone else's truth, not our own. I don't mean to say the Bible is open to interpretation, just that some things we must find for ourselves for it to become true in our hearts.I do have a question about something you said, though…You said "except my brother Steve". Do you mean he's not a Baptist, he's not one of your favorite people, or a combination of both?

  5. Thanks, Jessica. I believe He made all types of music, too, and that just like anything else He created, the Devil can corrupt it.Thank you, Holly. For the record, I'm not putting down the Baptist church. I even said that being a Baptist isn't bad, it's just not me. You are right that they are doing many great things. I still love Pastor Moore and HBC, but I couldn't find myself going there regularly, because it doesn't fit me. Sorry I wasn't more clear on that. To insult Baptists as a whole is to insult my mom and dad, and not only would I never do that, I wouldn't stand for anyone else doing that.

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