When I was a child, I was taught completely mixed messages about God.
On the one hand, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…” On the other, God was angered and disgusted by our sin. That no matter what good we tried to do, we could never match his perfection and that we needed a Savior named Jesus. Which was great but…
Jesus was supposed to have paid the price for all my sins so I could have a relationship with God but also I learned that what I did or didn’t do could cut me off from God again.
While the words Grace and Mercy were used, I was still told my actions would result in God’s blessing or protection from pain. From that belief came the fear of not knowing if I was really on the right path. There was God’s “perfect” will and God’s “permissive” will for your life (this is a theology that ensures God is still “omnipotent” whichever you choose) and you could only hope you’d found the perfect one. This left me in constant fear. Was I “saved” or not? I asked Jesus “into my heart” over and over till I was an adult.
I threw myself into devoutly following God, memorizing scripture and reading the Bible on my own – so I could understand how I was supposed to live to please this angry and confusing God.
While I did have a brief “rebellious” phase in 4th grade which required weekly trips to the Principal’s office, as the recipient of the Awana Meritorious award and graduate of Christian school and high school Student Mission Internship, I have probably memorized more scripture than a lot of people have read, especially including all that I was reading and memorizing on my own. I was hard core about learning it and passing it on to others – whether they wanted it or not. ? Definitely a “Jesus Freak” and proud of it!
Coloring all my determination to follow God was my filter of fear.
There was on the one hand the (supposed) grace, and on the other – the fear that failing to obey perfectly would leave me separated from God again.
You can imagine the confusion these conflicting ideas caused in a little kid. There were so, so many rules in this place that always preached against legalism. Rules about what we wore (mainly women, mainly culottes and skirts and “classic” styles), who we befriended, what we listened to and watched.
I left services feeling dirty and afraid rather than free or loved by God.
Even though we moved churches when I was in my teens, that filter given to me so early on colored everything I believed about God and Jesus and my ability to feel free to love other people freely – for years.
I thought everyone saw God this way.
Even talking about all this brings those feelings back, like a vice on my chest.
But I couldn’t continue this way forever…something was about to change.
Have any of you experienced this?