Friday, July 27, 2012

Quitting Religion

I'm quitting religion.

Well, kind of.

I'm not quitting my church.  My relationship with God remains strong and steady.

But something disconnected a while back and I've had a nice heart to heart with the Man Upstairs and the word came back- "You're trying too hard."

As I've been dealing with stress over the past year, I have relied on my faith for comfort, guidance, peace.  Somewhere along the way, I got this idea that I had to do more to do it right.

I started listening to nothing but Christian Contemporary music in the car.  I started reading multiple devotions everyday.  I started "liking" various ministries on Facebook to get their regular doses of religion.

And it has been doing nothing but adding to my stress.  Because the personal relationship I have with God has suffered for it.

We were good.  We were tight.  Had a great thing going.  But I thought I wasn't doing it right or wasn't doing it "good enough."  So I started seeking more, better, different.

I don't like what I see when I dip my toes back into those religious waters.  I don't like the hate, the ignorance, the blindness.  I don't like the preachiness, the refusal to be open to the hugeness of God's universe, the refusal to accept that perhaps we don't know everything.

I have been going through all of these motions and completely losing the Emotion.

My faith is my passion.  My faith in God and my belief in the teaching of Jesus Christ are what lead me to be the person that I am.  It's what drives me to love others, to be compassionate, to embrace all people, and to seek kindness and love in hard circumstances.  Instead of listening to my heart, instead of following the internal compass I was created with, I've been following the Rules and Regulations of Religion and I haven't liked it one little bit.

Earlier this week, I decided to pick up breakfast on my way in to work.  As I sat at the drive thru window, waiting to pay, I felt the nudge.  Pay for the guy behind you.  I look in my rearview mirror.  I don't know this guy.  I've paid for the person behind me before- it's an easy random act of kindness.  I start thinking- send up a quick prayer.  Is this really what you want me to do?  Buy this guy breakfast?

Stop thinking about it and just do it.

So I did.

And nothing miraculous happened.

I didn't expect it to- I paid, got my food, drove away.  I didn't stick around to watch the guy find out I'd paid for his food.  I didn't stop to talk to him.  I didn't pull over so I could bow my head in prayer.  I paid and drove away, never to know this guy or the results of what I did.  Because I don't need to know.  I just have to trust and obey.

Days later, that came back to me.  I've been trying too hard, questioning too much, and seeking "answers" in all the wrong places.  I need to trust and obey.  I'm out of tune.  I dropped the personal connection in favor of the "doing the right thing by society's standards" connection.

You don't strengthen a relationship by reading all the self help books but never talking to the person you're in that relationship with.  You don't strengthen a relationship with someone by talking to everyone about that person but not spending time with them.  You don't maintain a relationship by just following a list of rules and should-do's.

And if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I'm stepping back.  I'm "unliking" a bunch of stuff on Facebook and dropping this list of expectations I've suddenly found myself with.  I'm getting back to focusing on my personal relationship with God and not seeking a definition of religion.

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8 comments:

Mrs4444 said...

This is really great, Liz. I especially, very much appreciated the second-to-last paragraph--So true. Thanks.

Momza said...

I read our words this morning, and have been thinking on them since.
Definitely thought-provoking.
I have felt for many years now that religion is a vehicle to help express one's faith from thoughts to action.
Faith is a verb, not a statement.

The language of God's love is to serve others and the peace that comes from that offering is its' own reward.
I'm not sure I get exactly what you're feeling here, but I do know that your heart is always in the right place and others are blessed by knowing you.

Momza said...

*your words, not "our". typos! argh.

Unknown Mami said...

Good for you!

Katherine said...

It's been for many of these reasons that we have been hesitant to do the whole "religion" thing. We have become semi-regular attendees at a nearby church, but still feel that our relationship with God has nothing to do with church.

Cheri said...

"I don't like the hate, the ignorance, the blindness. I don't like the preachiness, the refusal to be open to the hugeness of God's universe, the refusal to accept that perhaps we don't know everything."-- These are the primary reasons I gave up on "organized religion" a very long time ago. And, I live in a "Bible belt" state, so I get a lot of this attitude even without attending church. But, as you say, relationships are strengthened by the time spent with the other party, not by the outside interests, so I don't worry too much about the others.

Garret Atherton said...

I like the colors in your blog.

Laurie Matherne said...

I am learning to quit religion. Jesus came to set us free not to impose a whole new set of Christian cultural demands. I love Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and a sprinkling of other secular artists. Some of my friends would be shocked that I am not on the far right in my politics. Isn't it fun to listen to the quiet, still voice of the Holy Spirit rather than the maddening voice of the Christian culture around us?