The word of the day is neophyte: meaning a person who is new to a subject, skill, or belief. I would consider myself new to Christianity, or at least new to following Jesus of Nazareth. I grew up living with multiple family members that lived multiple beliefs. One of the most common themes was an angry God who was willing to write me off at my youngest little imperfections. So I wrote Him off. I had always been taught that Jesus loves me and he’s got the world in his hands. This love was conditional, though. He loved all the good little boys and girls, and I wasn’t one of them.
The idea of a heavenly father was too much to comprehend. My father was rarely around, and when he was, he was beating on my mother or yelling at me. He once took our TV that my sister and I would watch G.L.O.W. on and sold it for drugs. He did this often. I’ve watched him do many acts of violence and evil, he was a very angry man. Here people were telling a young girl afraid of her father, to fear the Heavenly Father. My own father didn’t love me and I was convinced it was my fault. So if God’s love was conditional and I didn’t deserve what Jesus had to offer then why would I believe He was any different from my view of what a father was. I look back with a broken heart and see all the opportunities people missed to teach me of a loving, forgiving, and compassionate God. It was always thou shalt and thou shalt nots. Hell was always right around the corner for this wild child.
I blew off God at every point in my life unless it was to pray to take me or say sorry once again for messing up. Then one day God showed me who He really is. I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m in awe! I have been learning with brand new eyes. I am not bogged down by tradition or surety. I am not well churched and therefore I don’t have my mind made up already about who’s in, who’s out, who God loves, who God hates. I can ask questions, I can doubt, I can read Scripture and learn on my own what it means to me. I am grateful to be part of a church that allows this. Grace is taught at my church and it gives me room and allowance for questions and new insight. I’m not some woman who came in that needs saved. I am someone to not just teach, but someone to learn from. I can push back on what I see as harmful and I can speak and be heard.
I also am learning I am not alone. There are people out there hurting from fear theology and from childhoods that have left them wondering what kind of loving God would allow such pain and tragedy in the world. That’s why I’m going into ministry and eventually seminary. That’s why I write, God isn’t someone to fear in the way we are taught to fear. I like to compare it to my love of sharks. I respect them greatly because I know of their power and size, but I would dive with them anyway and I fight to help save them from going extinct at the hands of man. That is why I push back against fearful theology and raise up a more grace filled theology.
My father was nothing like who my Abba Father is. I’m sad that I didn’t get to learn that at a younger age. I’m sure many of the choices I made would have been different, but I’m sure my life wouldn’t be the same now, either. That is something I thank God for all the time. He turned my mess into beauty and He will do the same for you.