I’m so excited to welcome Bethany Paget to my blog today! She is the first guest blogger in my “Blowing Up Evangelical Baggage” Series. I met Bethany through Story Sessions and have been thankful for her beautiful and honest words ever since. Please welcome her here!
My faith exploded two years ago. I had what I like to call my pretty little boxed up with a bow faith where I kept everything in compartments and God was a legalistic judge whom I had to perform for.
And then I got really sick and had brain surgery.
And nothing has been the same since.
It was at that point that everything I thought I believed about God changed and I realized that I had been listening to the voices of those around me and not God Himself. I was depending on their words that Jesus was going to make everything ok and not listening to the very words of Christ Himself in my time of deep need.
I stopped believing that everything had to be rigid and moral and “good.” I realized that there is probably way more to God than I will ever be able to understand and that is okay, He is still God and He is still good.
I had to be okay with that.
Let me back up. I wasn’t raised “in the church” but I grew up going to church. My parents took us to the local Methodist church because it’s what good people did and my parents were all about having the appearance of being good. I hated church as a kid because it was boring. Once I got to the elusive Jr. High Youth Group though something suddenly changed and all of a sudden I wanted to be at church and go to youth group on Sunday nights. It was as if a fire was lit.
That lasted for a few good years, then life happened, I got angry at God for the shit that was thrown my way and walked away. I would come back to Him again a 24 year old pregnant drug addict desperate for some semblance of hope.
Hope He gave.
He gave. I would soon learn though that I had a rigid standard I had to follow if I wanted His hope to keep flowing, if I wanted His love to stay with me and if I wanted to remain pure in His sight.
Yes you heard me.
That is what I was taught for the first six years of my walk with God. I was taught, and absorbed that it was about living up to His high expectations of us as His children. In order to continue to be loved by this God who had saved me that I had to follow through with His list of extremely high demands. It probably saved my life in the beginning but six years in I was tired and rigid. It was also difficult to live, work and have relationships because everything was characterized by my “need to save you from the fire of hell.” You know because that’s our JOB as believers is to save souls
I know now that I had a very hurt part of me that soaked up every single bit of what I was first taught about God because I didn’t want to go back to being a drug addict. I couldn’t afford it, now that I was a mom to lose everything. God was my salvation in more ways than just my soul. He was the gatekeeper of it all.
That’s why two years ago I started to see that I didn’t want to be her anymore. I was so tired of everything being so strict all the time and then feeling like I had let God down if I didn’t live up to His expectations.
I had gone to Africa on a mission’s trip and when I got home the shit hit the fan. I was forced to resign from my career, I got really sick and my bible study ladies suddenly became unfamiliar and hurtful. Suddenly I found myself in a place where I was incredibly alone.
That’s when I discovered the world of progressive Christian bloggers.
It was a scary but eventually beautiful and freeing thing.
My eyes were opened in a way they had needed to be for a long time. I started to see that the way I was taught after giving my life to Christ was an unhealthy representation of faith. It was a legalistic and fundamental tightly bound way of thinking. I didn’t want to think that way anymore. It wasn’t helping me grow; it was only holding me back.
The hard part about expressing my newfound beliefs and ideas is that I lost the majority of my old friends. Once I started to disagree I was no longer allowed in the “inner circle” I was gossiped about, lied about and called a backslider and told that I was walking away from the Lord. It was so hurtful to me that the women that had walked through the prior three years of my life with me no longer were accepting of me because I suddenly held differing beliefs.
I didn’t stop believing in God; no actually my beliefs in God have grown deeper and more profound in the last two years.
I didn’t suddenly stop professing my faith in the Christ, God-man who had saved me all those years ago.
I just realized that certain things aren’t as big of a deal as it pertains to faith and I stopped holding onto the rigidly held idea that God would be disappointed in me if I don’t follow through a prescribed daily check list.
My faith now is messy, bold and deeper than it’s ever been.
I don’t know a damn thing about theology and I am okay with that.
God is good and He loves me.
That’s all I need to know.
There are various facets to Bethany’s life. She is one part poet and one part punk. She is a dreadlocked, single mom to a beautiful wild girl (who still calls her mommy.) A justice and equality seeker for all, she desires that the love of Christ break beyond walls and barriers that have been set around it. Writing has been this girl’s safety since she first picked up a pencil. In the words, the story and the heart behind her eyes you’ll soon begin to see those various facets. Start with her stories at allthingstruthful.