I am smack dab in the middle of 6 amazing brothers and sisters!
(Disclaimer: Everything shared in this post has been used by the permission of all that I have mentioned.)
Just thought it would be fun to share a visual with you!
Anywho, I was chatting with my youngest sister yesterday while waiting in urgent care with my son... he had a sore throat and fever, ended up being a reoccurance of strep throat.
Her and I were talking about our family, and a couple situations that have come up.
Oooh the drama ;)
We were also sharing our thoughts on religion and how it has so deeply affected us.
It's so interesting... all 6 of us kids were raised in the same household with the same mom and dad, and each one of us has a different bent on religion and how it affected us.
Honestly, my mom and dad are amazing and such generous and loving people. And as parents, they did the very best the could with what they knew how.
They were pretty forward with a lot of things, being as both of them came from the generation where children were seen and not heard.
We were held and kissed and loved so much.
Both of them loved being parents to little children. I think their biggest struggle to this day is with that transition of moving from being a parent to your child to being a friend to your adult child.
They both want to still parent their adult children, and as an adult it is very frustrating.
One of the family dynamics growing up in my household was keeping secrets.
I don't think my mom and dad realized how damaging keeping secrets was to us... they simply were concerned about my dad's reputation as a pastor, and our reputation as a family IN the ministry.
And, let's face it, our family secrets were all the "no no" sins of Christianity.
Because my mouth was sealed shut for so many years, it's probably the reason I blog. :)
Seriously... It's such a part of my freedom journey.
Shame was such a huge part of my upbringing...not intentionally by any means, but so present none the less.
And the best way to come at shame, is to share your story.)
All the reeally bad bad sins according to the church, that people in the church judge so harshly.
When we really should just take that person in, bring comfort and love and help get them help.
So opposite world, isn't it?
Getting back to my sister...
My youngest sister was raped as a 3 year old by a family member.
She had been being molested for her whole little life, and after one particular instance she had the courage to speak out and tell us.
Come to find out, she wasn't the only one being hurt by this person.
We found out this person had been sexually abusing my younger brother, myself and all our cousins.
But she had received the worst of the abuse.. probably because she was so little, and would be quiet.
Really hard stuff.
Now my sister as a young adult had attempted suicide, and has had an intense road of recovery.. she has since married an incredible guy and has had a baby, my sweet little niece Ellie who is 5 years old now.
Ellie just recently had a scare from a bug bite that landed her in the hospital for a few days.
And my sister and I were talking about it.
My sister told me...
"You know what's really interesting?
Not once did I pray while Ellie was in the hospital... not once did I ask God to intervene or heal her. People kept telling me I needed to pray for Ellie, but I didn't. I just couldn't.
I kept my thoughts positive and my attitude hopeful.
Why would I want to invite a God that let's bad things happen to little girls into my little girl's hard situation?"
Then she stopped... and said.. " Whoa... I think I just had an epiphany."
And I love that we can just talk so openly and candidly about all this life and God stuff.
She continued.. "There is no way I would ever want or desire to know that "g"od.
He is so scary and mean."
And I asked her.. why would you want to?
Then she said, "But man I would hate to not know that "g"od, then find out I had it all wrong and spend all eternity in hell."
And right there.... that is the hook of fear that religion throws into people.
Never walk away.
Never think for yourself because what if....
What if you are wrong?
What if by you questioning you wander off into places Jesus can't find you, and end up forever burning in hell??
I recently had a discussion with somebody that struggled with my last post.
They really did not care for my "negativity" towards the church.
I can understand where they are coming from, and I totally honor and respect their opinion and journey.
It's ok, we are each where we need to be, and each one's freedom journey is individual.
What is for one, is not for the other.
Absolutely and perfectly fine and pure freedom to both.
My heart is honestly to love people...and I love the people that go to church, I just don't like the religion and the institution called church. I am truly not hurt, or angry or bitter.
This blog is my safe place to share and hash out and write about my thoughts on this freedom journey.
I so appreciate that we are all at different places in our lives and on different journeys...so if you find peace and your heart is encouraged by finding community at a church, then please do that for yourself.
That is just for me.
I do want to offer a word of caution...
I think we have to be so so careful that we don't put our freedom on other people.. OR measure and gauge another's freedom according to our own, and what works for us....
it's very easy to swap one box mindset for another.
By a box mindset I mean..
One day I might be in rigid religion...measuring my spirituality, comparing myself to others who are more spiritual then I, doing the right and wrong thing, judging other people who don't think like I do, placing my views on them as the "right" way...
THEN I am awakened... to another way, so I start walking in freedom, and begin doing the same thing I was doing inside of religion...measuring my freedom, comparing my freedom to others, and doing the right and wrong thing with freedom, judging other who are NOT free like me or who's freedom looks different then mine, they are not doing their freedom "right" according to my way...etc....
Can you see it?
The switch of one box for another?
It's so easy to do.. in our human nature we love definites.
They make us feel so safe.
One of my sweet bloggy friends commented on the last post...
a friend had mentioned to her in reference to her freedom, and her going or not going to church...
"If you're not free to leave, you're not truly free. And If you're not free to go back, you're not truly free."
I am sorry but this quote slaps of a different kind of "religious" mindset, and says NOTHING of freedom!
If you have a measuring stick or any kind of "gauge" for if a person is free or not, then that is NOT freedom at all.
Measuring and gauging is NOT how it happens, and I am sorry, in my opinion, they are NOT God's heart either.
That quote just makes me cringe inside.
I know what words like that do to people like myself who want to be free so desperately, and at the same time want to be pleasing to God...
I'll tell you what it would do, it would keep my butt planted in a church seat trying so very hard to please God, AND be free inside a place that was so incredibly abusive to my person and heart.
And to people like my sweet friend who shared that quote, it is death to her heart and offers not a bit of freedom.
So, I look at my sister.
Her beauty, her gifts, her gorgeous heart... how she loves her husband and daughter... how she longs to find freedom, peace and joy.
In the very deepest part of her being she longs for connection to her Creator, but for her to find Him inside organized religion would be death to her soul.
Freedom speaks to her and Freedom speaks to all of us to just be.
And come and sit and be loved and be healed.
Freedom doesn't care if I call it George or Sharon.
Or Her or Him.
Freedom doesn't care if I go to church or stay home.
It leads you, as you are.
And it leads me, as I am.
So if me experiencing God looks like me loving my children, or taking a nature walk and I finding Him in the beauty all around through the lens of my camera..
Or whether it looks like I experience and find Him in music or meditation, or yoga, or the laughter and pleasure of my lover.
It doesn't matter, because in the end.
He will always be found by you.
Source: Transformation Art
It's that pure.
It's that simple.
There is no hook of fear that Freedom offers.
There is no measuring stick or gauge.
It just is.
And it knows you and I.
It knows our wounds and our filters.
It knows my story and all the places that kept me bound.
And it reaches past all of that to the places where we can connect and know God.
Can we offer each other that?
No judgement or criticism?
People like my sister... people like you... and me.
Can we realize that freedom looks different for every person, because we are all so different.
Can we put aside our boxes and just let each other be and grow inside of freedom?
Because freedom IS individual, so let's love each other and offer grace AS individuals.