Getting away from the Christian bubble is so liberating. I have to say, I hope never to return to said place except for brief visits to those still inside. I don't belong there anymore and every step I've taken to get out has opened up more and more freedom. There are so many things that bubble-dwellers make issues of that simply do not matter outside of the bubble. Now that I am out I find it amazingly depressing how bound up I felt in there and how little interest I had in anyone's life who was "on the outside". I say "depressing" because there are so many who are still stuck in there struggling with the same things that I struggled with. Wow, did I have my head in the sand, to use a well-worn cliche. I have been doing better. I am still struggling on and off with depression but also sensing that it's hold has been progressively lessening. Even now I don't know all of the causes but I think there have been a myriad of factors involved which seems reasonable to me.
Having unrealistic expectations has been one of the causes; both my own and those belonging to others. When we first jumped into this venture some one who goes to our former church was talking with me and informed me that "being a senior pastor's wife is a lot different than being a high school pastor's wife" (not that this person had been either one, ironically) Anyway, this person's near-lecture seemed to be more about keeping up appearances that about caring for others. Nonetheless, it was like a bitter pill that gets lodged in the throat and did nothing to arm me for what was to come. I allowed myself to fall into a trap of being anxious about those type of things for quite some time after our arrival in our new town: Will people think I'm a good parent even though I scream at my kids sometimes? What if I don't know how to help this person who is in front of me? What if someone I know sees me drinking a glass of wine with dinner? And on and on it went. The truth is, the person who said all that stuff to me is a fearful person who hasn't been able to let go of unrealistic expectations when it comes to "being in leadership". I am a real person with real issues and I'll be danged if I am going to suffer alone in those. At a team meeting I went off about something that is an issue in my life and just being able to admit that I can be a jerk about some things is a good thing for me because I have spent my whole life trying to be good and hiding all my stuff because I thought I was supposed to be this spiritually mature person. I tried to make that happen in my life by following all those asinine how-to steps that people fueling the Christian machine like to pump out. You know, like "Five Steps to Knowing God Better" and other stupid sermon or book titles. How about a sermon titled "Keeping Up Appearances and other Horse s---"?!
I went from pastor's kid to missionary kid and it only went from bad to worse because it seemed like the stakes kept getting higher. Now here I am, a "senior pastor's wife" (gag me, like, totally with that title) and if I can't be authentic than I don't want to be at all. I couldn't take the whole stupid leadership persona any more - it was killing me. I don't have all the answers and there is no one who does. As for being in leadership, we are equally important in the "body". Leaders only exist to help bring continuity to what is going on within the body and to help facilitate spiritual growth. There is nothing special about leaders beyond that. I have been doing well, l and feel more like a real person than I have in years.
Now more than ever I think that delving into one's doubts is the best place to begin when it comes to one's faith. If I don't ask the hard questions then how will my faith ever be called into account? Blind faith seems illogical to me. Even Jesus said to count the cost before choosing to follow Him. That, to me, says that He knows we have questions as well as brains. He wasn't some cheese-ball salesman so why should we behave that way when it comes to our faith?
There are plenty of Christians who get really irritated by those who express doubts and tend to offer reproach. It seems like a lot of these people are motivated by fear - perhaps because their own faith has never been called into account. It's easier just to follow a formulaic approach than it is to ask whether or not God is real and if He's worth following. Is He worth following? Only if He is real. How do I know He is real? I keep asking Him to reveal Himself to me. How will I reach the maturity level of the apostle Paul unless I am first convinced that God is real? It isn't possible! Paul staked his life on the fact that he knew God was real. Paul had a personal experience with Christ that changed his entire outlook.
Sure, people might ask, "Well how long are you going to keep asking if God is real; at some point you just have to believe!!"
"I will keep asking God as long as it takes." That is my response.
No, I don't have to just believe. That is foolish and naive. People who "just believe" are people who join pyramid schemes and cults and drink the Kool-Aid given to them. God is OK with me asking questions in order to try to gain more understanding. It's like a four-year old who is constantly asking, "Why?" Four-year olds don't ask questions to be annoying, they ask questions because they want to understand the world around them and to understand their place in that world. Do we expect a four-year old to know how to drive a car? No, we expect that they barely know how to wipe themselves after using the toilet. The difference is, most four-year olds do not have a problem admitting that they need help wiping whereas many of us would like to pretend that we possess the skill when, in fact, we need help wiping also. At some point there are the inevitable skid-marks on the ole under-roos and the evidence of our inability is undeniable.
Pride, fear, pretense, self-absorption, lusts, contempt - these are the spiritual silicone parts that we add on until our true selves become unrecognizable. They become the ties that bind. "Therefore... let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ....Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. " (Hebrews 12:1,2,12)
I want to see the bubble filled with that kind of wisdom; especially my own bubble.