Faith: Before and After
July 19, 2010

I gave a talk at my faith community today, summarizing how my faith has changed. Here’s a summary of that summary. Hopefully you’ll get the picture.

It starts with the simple message I gave people when evangelizing: “It’s so simple. All you need is Jesus. Just choose to follow Jesus.” And when we would get them interested in the simplicity of the message, we’d then say…well, all it takes to start following Jesus is to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior. And to do that you need to say a prayer, and so on.

So someone would say the prayer, become a Christian, and get involved in a church, because every Christian has to go to church…Oh yeah, that’s another guideline we forgot to mention before you said the prayer. And then with the attendance of church comes certain stipulations, and with those stipulations come others, and so on, until we end up with something like this:

My Faith Before

“What should my life be about?”
(abbreviated version)

1. Choose to follow Jesus
2. Choose to accept Jesus as Personal Lord and Savior
3. Sinner’s Prayer
4. Baptism
5. Confession of sins
6. Public Confession of belief, which includes (but not necessarily limited to) the following…
7. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
8. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
9. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
10. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
11. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
12. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
13. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
14. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
15. the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
16. the forgiveness of sins,
17. the resurrection of the body,
18. and life everlasting.
19. Read your Bible
20. Pray a lot
21. Go to church (the right one)
22. Evangelize
23. Put a Jesus fish on your car.
24. Don’t Smoke
25. Don’t Drink
26. Don’t Chew
27. Don’t go with boys or girls that do
28. Don’t cuss
29. Don’t be Democrat (abortion, communism, anti-God)
30. Don’t be Republican (don’t care for the poor, arrogant, narrow-minded)
31. Don’t be Gay
32. Don’t be friends with gays (encouraging sin)
33. No secular music
34. No materialism (unless it’s organic, fair-trade, or makes Christians look cool)
35. No tattoos (unless they make Christians look cool, which promotes the gospel)
36. No questioning the anointed, appointed leaders
37. No questioning the wisdom of saints of old
38. No questioning this list, which may grow or change with or without notice…
39. Etc…

I tried to adhere to this list since the times I grew up evangelizing others.

And here’s the thing. I would have said that “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” And that my Christianity is not a dull religion that’s nothing more than rules and rituals. Because we knew that that was an opposition people had to becoming Christian. But the fact is that, even though the general idea revolved around a “relationship with Jesus,” we had plenty of rules, some unspoken and some very outspoken, for describing what that relationship should be like.

So at some point–maybe it was more of a process than a “point”–I threw away the list. All of it.

“Yeah, but you’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” some might say. Well, yes. I had to. Because the baby was dead. We had drowned it. It was no longer recognizable. I had to start with a new baby, a tub, new water, a new house, everything. A blank canvas.

A blank canvas is like an ocean. Wide and deep and full of freedom and possibility. But it can also be very lonely, isolated, and empty feeling. So I was tempted to make my own list again. I needed to establish boundaries to tell me where to go and where not to go. It started to say things like, “Those people should do this…or should not do this.” And I realized that my list was no better than the old one.

And eventually I realized that my faith was too precious and personal and ever-evolving to boil down to any list to assert on myself or others. It was more like a work of art (with no guarantees of quality, by the way). And this is what I came up with the other night:

My Faith After (for Now)

My Faith Now*

I won’t explain. It is what it is. I am also trying to appreciate the fact that others’ faith is like this too. Each of us have our own expression of life, and it will help us all if we try to value each others’ individuality of faith.

But anyway, my wife just wrote something on her blog, GirlReupholstered, that so clearly and concisely gets at the heart of it:

I have seen a lot of people try to be what others think they should be or what is the most acceptable.  It’s easier to be what someone else wants you to be b/c you know, more than likely, you will be accepted. Also, it’s easier to be told who to be instead of searching yourself to find out who you truly are.

Maybe this has been a struggle for me b/c I was brought up in Christian culture where there are very distinct ideas on how you were created or how you should live. It has always been a very suffocating experience for me which caused a lot of anger, frustration and depression. It’s been since I have left the traditional institution of Christianity have I been able to truly experience freedom to be who I believe God has created me to be. Which is sorta ironic, don’t you think?

[ *Note: The artwork I used here is an image of a beautiful painting by Ren Crawford, found here. I just slapped words on top of it. Ren, your art touched me deeply. Please don’t sue me. 🙂 ]

Pretty little houses… [from Girl Reupholstered]
March 29, 2010

I’ve re-posted the following from my wife’s blog, GirlReupholstered.wordpress.com. She has a beautiful way of saying things about our life that I tend to complicate, and I thought this summarizes our past few years quite well…


I was making offer packets the other day at work, so it was the perfect time for my mind to wander.  My coworker and I discussed weekend plans and she told me she was going to get out in her yard.  I thought about all the hard work Dave and I put into the front yard of our first house.  The house had been a foreclosure (before the housing marketing tanked) and it had absolutely no curb appeal.

Before…

First, we installed a new door.  Then, we paid for a landscape design and, to save $$, we decided to do all the work ourselves.  We spent 5 3-day weekends working on it (well, I did 3 3-day weekends and told Dave that if he wanted clean underwear, he was going the rest of the way ALONE – I was so over the dirt.) It turned out beautiful.  Our house went from being the eyesore of the street to one of the nicest houses – from the outside.

After…

We lived in that house for 4 years.  We didn’t do much work on the inside except for stripping some wallpaper, doing some painting and changing a few fixtures.  It was a huge house – 2500 square feet 2-story for 2 people and 2 cats.  We added one small weenie dog toward the end, but it was waay too much space.  It was pretty empty and not a lot on the walls. Towards the end, we hardly ever went upstairs.  It was wasted space.

Dave and I went through a pretty major life shift during our stay in that home.  I realized that home represented a life that I thought I should be living – but it was a life I never wanted to live.  From the outside, we looked like we had it all.  Dave made good $$ in sales; I had the ultimate job for a Christian – working on a church staff; and we had this big lovely house.  We were young and hip as well, which made it all the better.

The first thing we did was to get rid of the jobs.  Being on a church staff is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Particularly when you never really have bought into the politics or even the message. And Dave discovered that making bookoo bucks doesn’t matter either. The next thing was to sell the house.  We also sold most of the stuff in it, too.  I remember, when it was completely empty, I wasn’t sad at all.  I was relieved. No longer was I living in someone else’s house – living somebody else’s American dream.

The house we currently own is nothing like that house.  It’s a rancher and 1000 square feet less. The cats are gone – we got another weenie dog to keep the other company. And we’ve done no work on the outside of the house.  Except for paint the front door and pull out the hedges in the entryway – it was beginning to feel like walking through a labyrinth getting to the front door.  I would be remiss if I wasn’t completely truthful.  In the 2 years we’ve lived here, all the work has been on inside.  It’s truly a reflection of us and our journey.

Mi Casa…

I think our houses are perfect representations of how we live.  We tried to convince others that we had it together – that we were successful, happy, and blessed.  But we were empty on the inside.  Sure, we did a little bit of work.  Stripped some of the bad away and covered up other areas with paint.  But we sure looked good on the outside.

Now, we kinda don’t give a shit about what people think about the outside appearance.  But, on the inside, there’s been a major overhaul.  Walls knocked down and rebuilt, floors torn up, carpet stripped and new flooring installed. Most of the furniture and accessories have been given to us or we purchased second-hand.  There are a few new pieces.  And that’s who we are today.  We focus working on the inside.  Eventually, we’ll get to the outside. It’s bound to happen.

How do your surroundings reflect your life?  Inner and Outer?  Just something to think about.