One of the many things I learned during this time is that churches can be really crappy places to be. I couldn't find anyone to relate to because despite the obligatory 'we all make mistakes' it seemed like no-one there ever admitted to any mistakes. I felt like I was too damaged to ever fit in, so I gave up on myself.
Somewhere around this time I was re-united with my very Christian high school boyfriend. Let me put this into perspective: while I had been dancing on bars in Sydney, he had been distributing bibles in China – you get the picture.
Needless to say, when the topic of my 'two years off' came up I wasn't too thrilled about filling him in on the gory details. I didn't know how he would take it. I thought he couldn't possibly understand. I thought he would never get past it.
After I had finished he sat for a moment and processed. Then he looked me in the eye and said:
"You are no less precious to me."
You be the judge
I hate it when people make assumptions about me. One of the assumptions that gets on my wick the most is when people I don't know assume I am going to be judgemental just because they heard me use the word 'Christian.'
There are plenty of topics where the bible and our current culture don't seem to agree. You'll find several rather high-profile minefields in the area of relationships alone. I get frustrated when I get challenged on these because I feel pressured into giving a black and white view on what are usually far more complex issues.
I find myself between a rock and a hard place. It seems like I'm expected to either tell someone that their behaviour or a part of who they are is fundamentally wrong, or deny the book that is supposed to be the very foundation of my faith. Neither of which are ideal, or theologically sound at that.
So I choose option 3: 'grace'. I choose not to have a black and white opinion, and instead I try to love first in my own flawed way. I am definitely not perfect, but I try to leave the judging up to the One that actually has the authority to do so.
I can practically hear the protestations already.
"But there are some hard truths in the bible that we can't run away from!"
Well, yes. I'm not trying to rewrite the bible and I'm not trying to use this as an excuse to ignore God and do whatever is easiest for me.
All I'm saying is I don't think it's fair to measure someone based on a bible they don't believe in. Why would anyone follow the guidance of a God they don't think is real?
For me personally I had to know Christ first before I could understand why He calls me to live differently. Just because I've made a decision for my own life doesn't mean I can expect everyone else to fall in line, especially when I know my own 'falling in line' falls well short. 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'? I think we're all walking away from that one looking like idiots…
"Who are you trying to impress, people or God?!?!"
Both. Yes, I'm going to go right out there and say both because in this case why do they have to be mutually exclusive? I don't think God would be too impressed by me turning people further away from Him. I would much rather show too much grace towards someone than judge them and watch them walk away. The way we respond to people has consequences.
When my Dad was 7 years old he was told in Sunday School that if he didn't believe in God he would go to hell. His response was 'well this God guy sounds like a bit of a tosser' and he hasn't so much as considered Christianity since.
I realise I can't actually blame a well-meaning Sunday school teacher for my Dad not being a Christian, but I can't help wondering if things could have been different. What if he had been taught about God's love and blessings rather than threatened with condemnation and judgment? What if we considered what people need from us, rather than what we want for them?
I think we need to seriously think about what our priorities are. What's more important, making everyone conform to our interpretation of the 'rules'? Or making sure they know God and letting Him do any work that He - emphasis on 'He' - finds necessary? Are we more worried about people's actions or their souls?
We are God's children, not his police force. A church isn't a place for the holy people to discuss the state of the world. A church is a safehouse. Unconditionally. I want to be a part of a church where people can come as they are and actually learn about a relationship with God, rather than stay away for fear of judgment and rejection.
My Safe House
I am grateful to have found a place where I can be completely honest and completely accepted at the same time. I have friends who look to my heart and not my past. I am not defined by my failings – they are an inevitable part of life, but they are not my prison
I am also grateful for that one human gesture of grace, all those years ago. "You are no less precious to me." In the midst of my fear and shame, right when I was feeling like I would never be accepted, those words reminded me of how much I was valued. That moment gave me the courage to keep searching for a God who loves me fiercely and unconditionally.
It's funny how much difference one sentence can make.
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at