Sep 23, 2010
Letter from Kristi
I can’t thank you enough for your willingness to step out of the church and speak the very things that I’ve needed both to hear and to have the words for my entire life.
Through a meandering journey, I was given your book “The Misunderstood God” and read it while traveling to Dallas in August. I’ve struggled my entire life, always being a “square peg in a round hole”. I grew up in the most fundamental of religious atmospheres, a place where church was our friends, our family, our school, our sports and the place we attended on Sundays. It was the only lens I was given through which to view life. Ours was a home that would beat you with Scriptures. I can’t tell you the number of times a finger was pointed at this picture that said, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” It was a license to lay us out, humiliate us, cause us to question the very way we were innately. It robbed me of my soul, my humanity.
I was the person that Wayne Jacobsen described in his book, who memorized hundreds upon hundreds of Scriptures, won Bibles, had too many Awana trophies to count. I was bred to know it all and one day point the finger at everyone else while my nose was held up in the air. My only value was based on the number of verses that I could quote. The problems with that were numerous. For one, by the time I was in junior high I began to question the number of discrepancies. I read and memorized the Bible more than I breathed—nothing lined up with the world of spiritual smiling (sitting around the campfire with a placid look that says all is well) I was experiencing, this God of love, then this terror that reigned constantly in my heart. We walked on so many eggshells; we were not allowed to vary from this narrow path. Yet, even the churches we would attend couldn’t figure out the basis for their structure. They split all the time. We were supposed to love one and hate another. We were expected to know who was “right”, when that term could shift on a dime.
Through high school, I began realizing something was very wrong with what I was being taught; but I was so certain that there was the “right” teaching out there. It was just something that my home could not impart. I began in those years seeking on my own—I was eventually asked to leave the home because I couldn’t play the game the way they wanted me to. I ended up by myself in a whole different world. Everything inside of me wanted to do what’s right. But for years, I’ve thought that there is believer or unbeliever, church or unchurched. I simply wasn’t at a place where I could see that God doesn’t draw those kinds of distinctions. We were so driven by the authority (of church, pastor, teacher, man in the home, etc); that I never fully came to this place of it’s okay step out of that box of black and white.
After several years of trying so hard to do what was “right”, running to multiple churches, looking for the place where I could fit in; where I wouldn’t feel dead inside, I came to the realization that I am only me. I can’t live up to the standards of any organization. I can’t be someone I’m not. It was a bitter time for me—from then on I made peace with the idea that if I go to hell, so be it. I can’t be living for a life in heaven when I can’t even live the very life that I have right now. Why die prematurely (this rancor was driving me to untold dysfunction), simply to tell God, “I did it. I stayed the path, though it killed everything I have inside of me.”? That may have been six or seven years ago. From that point on, I’ve resolved to be me, going to hell or not. But I always felt that God must see me as rebellious; that I couldn’t live up to his standards. My heart longed to please him, but I began measuring my boundaries by the things that would cause me anxiety. If doing (what was “right”) caused me to live in fear, doubt or uncertainty; I simply couldn’t do it.
We were so dismissed as children, that language simply never formed. I was probably in my mid-twenties before I could tell you what I was thinking. But going deeper than that, it’s been like a black hole. I think I was afraid to open up that much of me—it would spill out and I would not be able to keep up the proper person I was raised to be. But your words, the way you wrote the book; the way you speak in the podcast—they’ve broken down that wall in my heart. They’ve given me the impetus I needed to believe that I can be fully and wholly me, that I can think, trust my heart, enjoy (gasp!), and God’s only going to smile that much more. I’ve grown closer and closer to this truth through my entire adult life, but I think I was so conditioned by the respect for authority that I needed to hear a man who’d done all the leg work, who’d gone through the same experiences, say plainly what I felt but couldn’t verbalize. I needed that gift imparted to me and I was in the perfect place to receive it once your book fell into my lap.
I have seen so much in this last few months—it’s calling into question all of the “truths” that I grew up with. But for the first time, that’s okay. I don’t shudder in fear thinking I may have been lied to. I want to run through the streets screaming it. You are the first person I’ve ever heard say, “I’m not telling you how to think. I’m not giving you principles. I don’t know this or that.” I finally feel free to explore and discover God—but not just God, finally, this whole big world right here in front of me—without wondering if I’m going to mess it up. I know this is true, the conversations you excite in my heart, because you’re the first person who doesn’t need to tell me what to do or what costume to put on, what schedule to adhere to. I kept searching for the church/pastor that would tell me what I’m supposed to ‘do’ to be more like me. And it kept breaking more pieces off of me; pitting me in this terrible war against what I felt and what I knew—hating the very essence of me. And you just say, “Go and live and let God love you.”
Thank you doesn’t come close.
But from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
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