The Good Christian Girl

I am two years old, and I am at my cousin’s house, acting out one of my very favorite stories—Noah’s Ark. Though I can barely read—and am still wobbly walking—I am a born storyteller, acting out the entire story of Noah, getting every detail correct, my eyes bright, excited about Noah’s story. I am alive with Christ’s power, and His joy fills my heart. It was tat this age the tiny age of two, that I first asked God into my heart and became a Christian. I fell in love with the stories first—after Noah, I would segue into grand presentations of Moses, Jonah and the Ark…any story I could for my aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents to see. I would wear costumes, use props—whatever I could to tell the story of God’s power and glory.
At two, I never questioned that Jesus died on the cross from me—I knew it was true, and I wanted him in my heart, right there and then, as soon as I heard about it. Though I don’t remember much about being a two-year-old, my passion is one of the things I do remember: it was ultimately clear, and ultimately true. I loved God with all the vigor a two-year-old could, and I wanted to love him my whole life. However, fast forward sixteen years and, though I still have that same love of Christ, and, as a Religious Studies major who is considering being a pastor someday, want to share that love with others, too, I have also been tainted by the world: so much so that I no longer even want to call myself a Christian.
According to Dictionary.com, being a Christian means not only believing in Christ and his teachings but “exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike”. This is a definition I try to live by everyday: though it’s so difficult, my goal is to live like Christ, and practice His teachings. However, throughout the world, many people do not see Christianity the way I do: and many people who call themselves Christians are very, very un-Christlike. When I was sixteen, my youth pastor—my hero, the one who has answered all my questions about Christianity and helped me really make my faith my own, starting when I was ten—was forced out of the church because of a web of lies and misunderstandings and hate that was spun out of control. People were hurt on both sides and us, the youth, were completely forgotten as the adults argued about policies, problems, and things that had absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ and his love.
I try to move past this, but it’s hard. Though my parents are amazing examples of Christ’s love and compassion, many are not. My pastor’s wife is a smiling Stepford-like clone on the outside, and yet, she has made one of my best friends, who is now no longer a Christian and wants nothing to do with the church, cry—simply because she didn’t set up chairs correctly? Is this really what Christianity is about—power? Making vulnerable sixteen-year-old girls cry because they don’t set up the chairs exactly right for a program you’re throwing in the church and might ruin your spotless reputation?
It hurts me, too, because when I tell people I’m a Christian, I get judged for it. They think I’m no better than everyone else—a mindless hypocrite who pins a big metaphorical “C” onto her sweater so that she has a nice golden ticket into heaven, and judges and ridicules everyone who doesn’t perfectly live up to my Christian standard. There are organizations like Focus on the Family that pretend to care about families and Christ and use this to push a political agenda, saying people that aren’t exactly like them—from gay people to people of other faiths—are sinners, and don’t belong in the kingdom of God. Shouldn’t God love everyone? Doesn’t the bible mention love so many more times than it mentions homosexuality? How can I reconcile the little girl inside of me who is still passionate about telling the stories of Noah and the Ark with the young woman who has seen her friends and fellow world citizens hurt so many times by my fellow “Christians”?
Sometimes, I feel like a caged bird, trapped in my church, in a community that feels so less-than-Christlike. Since my mom works in the church, I must come face-to-face everyday with people working towards their own agendas. It isn’t everyone—I know so many loving, caring people at my church, like my mother. She’s the Director of Caring Ministries, and certainly one of my heroes. She bakes baskets of muffins to give to the community, visits the nursing home every week, and sends numerous Sympathy, Birthday, and Anniversary Cards to the members of our church. Despite the fact that she has been caught up in controversies herself—our pastor’s wife doesn’t enjoy that there is another woman with “power” in the church, and has tried to get her fired and spreads rumors about her—she still holds her head high. I see so many people coming to Christ through my mother. She is no caged bird: she is flying free, right from God’s hands to the world that needs her. So, when I see Stepford-like, power-hungry church wives, gossiping about the newest church scandal, I hold my head high. It’s not worth the drama: what would Christ do? Maybe he would confront them, but, then again, they are my elders, so I suppose he would want me to respect them as much as I could: and then live in the way I know is right, a way that is like Christ would act, a way my mother models to me each and every day.
After the “scandal”, and losing my youth pastor, and many members of my church, Vicksburg United Methodist is slowly picking up the pieces, and though there is still a lot of drama, there is a lot of love there too. We have a new youth pastor at my church now, a phenomenal guy who is really trying to serve God and help us realize our potential as lights for Christ in a dark world, but the little battles that occur all the time within the church are far from over. Some people say that Christians are in a war, a war against the “evilness” of the world, but I would disagree. Maybe we aren’t in a war against the world, but a war against ourselves, a war against our own human sides. Until we defeat them and try to live like Christ would, we’ll never be able to go out to the rest of the community. After all, the Bible—God’s book—states it well (and unlike many verses, this isn’t taken out of context for a particular political cause): “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 4:7, New International Version). I think that’s the kind of attitude we, as Christians, need to take. Something I have always believed is that it is God’s job—not my own—to judge the world. When the end comes, it says that he will judge the world: so let him judge, not us. Jesus Christ, my ultimate role model, loved everyone, and look at the people he hung out with. He didn’t choose people just like him, but tax collectors, prostitutes, and the outcasts of society, and yet these are the ones he trusted with his secrets and his lessons about how to live. I feel like God gave me this life for a reason—why would he give me it to judge others and make his other children miserable with my political opinions? He would want me to love as many people as possible, and just preach that message of love and acceptance to everyone I come across. After much thinking and digging within myself, living Jesus’ message is exactly what I have finally decided I’m going to do.

I try not to get hung up on specific little issues—I have no problem with homosexuality, premarital sex, and though I would never have an abortion you’ll never see me at a clinic with a sign. Gandhi has many quotes that I love, but there is one I particularly love: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ”. I don’t want to be that kind of Christian, the Good Christian Girl, but that girl who loves people with the same ferocity that she loves Christ. Instead, I want to be the kind of person who looks at the big picture—not a “Christian”, but a Christ-follower, someone who dedicates her life to him, messes up, falls down, gets back up, and follows Christ again until the end.
One of my favorite songs sums up my world view about Christ perfectly. It’s a little tune by Aaron Niequist, which he wrote for a church called Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, called “Love Can Change the World”. In the song, Niequist writes many truths I find very applicable to my own life: “Bridges are more beautiful than bombs are”; “Listening is louder than a lecture”; and, most importantly for my faith, “Love can change the world”. This, to me, sums up what it means to be a Christian, and, specifically, a Christ follower: Jesus is love, and that love can change the world. With that song in my head, I make it my goal to live every day with that mentality. In a way, not much has changed: I might be a little more jaded, but I’m living just like I was way back when—and I think my two-year-old self would be very proud of the young Christ-following woman I have become.





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