I yelled at God: “This is not what I signed up for. I have no joy, no peace and I’m depressed. Is this really it? I quit being a Christian. ”
This cry came four years ago as I was “doing all the right things”. I was working at a church seven days a week and pouring all of me into “furthering the kingdom”. But something wasn’t right.
It was the Christmas season, so I was definitely burnt out from doing ten services in two days. My face hurt from putting on a plastic plastered smile. My feet were killing me from running to and fro, serving everyone. My head hurt from trying to figure out why I felt like something was missing. My heart hurt because I felt like I was being taken advantage of by people and God.
I would have a day or two off to celebrate Christmas with my family and recuperate before it was back to the grind. It was crash time. My favorite recuperation tactic is to take a nap. “I quit being a Christian” was my cry, as I fell asleep that Christmas Eve afternoon.
Even in sleep, I couldn’t escape my work. I dreamed I was walking into the sanctuary. It was before service and there was a lot of prep to be done. I was the Connections Pastor so this work fell to me. Surprisingly, today was a little different. There was a large buffet set up in the middle of the room. It was an amazing L-shaped buffet with every yummy morsel you can think of: hot, fresh, cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers, sticky-gooey mac and cheese, and fresh sweet butter rolls. All the things I loved to indulge in were laid out in front of me.
I invited the people that were starting to arrive to partake of the buffet. Some of them were leaders that I worked with daily. They grabbed their plates and loaded up on the never-ending banquet. Once everyone had their fill, it was my turn. I walked to the buffet, but realized I was on the wrong side (where the sneeze-guard blocked me). So I went around to the other end where the stacked dishes were. Every plate I picked up was smeared with dirty leftover food. I stared down at the buffet and accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to partake. As I started to wake up from the dream, one of my co-workers grabbed a fresh butter roll and walked away. I woke up angry and thinking that I didn’t even have the sense to just grab a butter roll (no plate required).
Once I fully woke up from this dream and in light of my proclamation to quit Christianity, I realized that God was trying to tell me something.
So I asked, “What does this mean?”
Immediately I heard the answer in my spirit:
“You are serving and serving and doing and doing. You are offering everyone around you my benefits, yet, you don’t truly partake in my benefits. I have laid a buffet of goodness out for you to enjoy, but you don’t. I offer you peace, joy and contentment. You go about trying to get it in the wrong way, or you wait for your plate to be clean when it’s already there for the taking, dirty plate and all.”
To which I responded: “I don’t know how to partake. Show me.”
You see, I grew up in a Christian home. I did all the “right” Christian things, no drugs or drinking. I went to church at least three days a week, I married a Christian man. I waited to have sex until I was married. I volunteered all my free time. I showed no cleavage and skirts/shorts were always worn mid calf. This was what the Christian life is all about, right? I followed the rules.
I got it all mixed up at some point. Living the “straight and narrow” of rule following didn’t make me feel all the benefits. I didn’t realize that that’s not what Christianity is about. Religion says we need to be “good”; we must never slip up. If we keep all the rules, then we will feel the joy, peace and contentment. Religion even tells us that we need to conjure all these benefits up for ourselves, or something must be wrong with us. I couldn’t make myself feel peace, joy or contentment. I tried. It didn’t work.
The next four years, God took me through a process of learning. I learned how to partake. Slowly, one by one, I could sense God putting his finger on each benefit I was going to have. First there was Fun – I reclaimed laughter and a sense of childlike wonder. Then, Contentment – I let go of some crazy American dream that was choking me. Joy – this season brought back childhood things that I didn’t let myself experience because of perfectionism. Peace – this deepened my joy and took away anxiety. The list goes on and on and will continue to do so, as I grow and learn to listen to God’s will for my life.
I know the buffet has so much more for me – for all of us to partake in. I’m not in a rush to become the perfect Christian anymore. You shouldn’t be either. I know that we don’t have to conjure up any of these blessings. God will not leave us hanging. He is there to teach us. Like a good Father, he will build a friendship with us as we go together on this journey.
So are you ready to quit Christianity with me?