A sense of God's wholeness, of everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." (Philippians 4:7, the Message)
I think every Christian has "that thing", "that person", "that" part of their past that made, or makes them, think about rejecting Christianity.
Mine was Grace Community Church (name changed for health, grace, and safety...). GCC was the first place my parents had felt accepted in a while, and honestly, I felt accepted there too- for a long time. Our entire family was involved in ministry, my parents had places of leadership, things seemed to fit together.
But there were a lot of disconnects... Places that I saw the leaders of GCC say they were moving in the Spirit, or things that they claimed were being done or heard from God, but weren't being blessed by God, or actually being done.
My family ended up hurt and escaping the whole situation, stopping only to lick our wounds before moving further away.
I rejected everything I had learned at GCC- speaking in tongues, the prophetic, healing ministry, hugs, receiving love, giving love. Everything in the world of the church I had grown up in, had ever been taught about ministry and the spiritual realm and the ways God works.
God, and His awesomeness and power and the things He can do, had become something to fear, not something to anticipate.
I struggled through YWAM as people prayed over me in tongues, encouraged me to discover my spiritual gifts, and seemed to ignore my hurts. I was still licking my wounds, and everyone was telling me to get over them- now, and fast.
I remember one time, specifically, when I felt attacked by those who were supposed to be my supporters. The teacher of the week had us in our small groups, and those who didn't have the gift of praying in tongues were supposed to be receiving prayer from those who did have said gift. Problem was, I didn't want it. I didn't want to touch it with a 22 1/2 foot pole, let alone think about letting it near me.
My small group was very receptive and tried to be compassionate towards the situation, but I still stood there with my arms folded across my chest as they prayed that my heart would get to the point where I could forgive and thus move in the gifts of the spirit.
I was recently at a ministry opportunity where we were in a large group, a corporate worship and prayer session. We were singing the chorus to this one song over and over again, something about being set free. I was standing there, for once actually worshiping instead of watching everyone else and wondering what I was "supposed" to be doing, and I remember thinking, "I am free."
I hadn't decided as I walked into that meeting that I wanted to speak in tongues, I hadn't planned to ask God for that, I did not choose to speak in tongues that evening. But as I stood there, in total peace with God, the words I was singing were no longer English. I caught a glimpse of the healing God had planned for me, the redemption He had waiting.
In the months that have passed since then, I haven't actively pursued that redemption, but I knew it was lurking. I meditated on Joel 2:25-26 ("Then, I will make up to you the years the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, my great army which I have sent among you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; then my people will never be put to shame.") and prayed for the day when shame wouldn't be what ruled my days, but rather the peace and comfort of a loving church family, where I could be myself in my skin, instead of trying to fill the mold I felt placed in front of me.
And I still have my misconceptions and my concerns over the supernatural.
When I started attending our house church, 24/7 church, I had the same experience I've had with churches for the last 3 years- I can settle... After a long while. So I walk in and I check over my shoulder, am on guard for the whole time. After I've been somewhere for a couple meetings, if I like what's going on, I can generally settle down towards the end of a meeting- but I'm still anxious at the beginning.
That was the experience I was having at 24/7 church. I was feeling accepted, and I knew I was welcome. I knew that these were people I could trust, and I knew that they were following the spirit of God. But I didn't really buy that I would ever feel safe there.
This evening, however, I walked in and settled in. I didn't notice- not right away. But as we were worshiping, I journaled:
"Tonight has been one of the first times in years where I've walked into a "church" setting anxiety-free, without doubting if what I was going to find once inside was going to eat me alive. I'm sure that it is partially the people and the place... But I'm almost sure that it's partially me, simply being able to be somewhere, not constantly looking over my shoulder, double checking and super over analyzing. God's got my back, I just have to keep walking forward."
And then the teaching started. And beautiful words about the purpose of prophesy and church and their intended purposes, and our goals in relationships, and the meaning of scripture poured over my ears, and I fell back into old habits- I briefly considered bolting from the room. Although I don't know where I would have gone- we were in the mountains and there's no cell reception. Also, I'm the least wilderness-survival-preparedness-knowledgeable person there is, so there goes that.
I decided I'd wait it out and see how it went. And then we flipped in our Bibles to Joel 2:25-26.
And I settled.
God speaks to me through scripture, apparently, and I've seen this multiple times since my move to the mountains- in the Jeremiah 29:11 thing, and now in this.
I think because scripture is concrete- I can mark it up and come back to it later and it's exactly where it was before, saying exactly the same thing.
But it's also changing. Scripture can mean something totally different when I read it one time than it is another, based on my life circumstance or the teaching being paired with it.
It's like stars on a stormy night. Earlier, hannaHRose and I (eventually joined by Sarah) went out and laid in the driveway. There were only two stars (one of them might have been an airplane) but they were so beautiful. I might not have ever noticed those two stars on any other night, but tonight, because they were perfectly framed by the clouds and dark sky, they were the most beautiful stars I've ever seen.
I'm sick and a little foggy, still, but one thing I know is true:
I have lasted the night, come out of the desert having not just survived, but thrived.
It is a new day's dawn. And it was worth the fight.