“I hope there are other Christian people in your life who will hold you accountable.”
Surely I am not the only person who has heard some form of this statement repeated to them throughout their life. For so many of my growing up years I assumed the best. I assumed the best because I thought they wanted my best. As I’ve grown older, I’m not so sure anymore.
To start, let me explain that finding God’s path for me has been and continues to be hard work. I have realized over the years that much of what is preached to us in childhood is nearly impossible to achieve as an adult. There is this relentless push and fostered desire for you to become something – as if what you are is not enough. That with enough work, enough dedication, you can become something special. I don’t think anyone means to make you feel this way, they want to help you “reach for the stars,” not realizing they may be silently pushing you into a black hole.
Adding in Christianity only further complicates this identity search. You need to wrestle not only what is possible but also what seems impossible. You need to pursue what God wants for you, not just what you want for yourself. What talents and gifts has He given you? How does He want you to use them? Are you using them to His glory? Are you fulfilling His calling on your life?
Let me repeat that: are you fulfilling His calling on your life?
The weight of that question sits heavy. Am I, Grace, fulfilling the Almighty God of the universe’s calling on my life? How is one even supposed to answer that question? I imagine that question is, perhaps, sitting in the back of every Christian’s mind. Are the countless hours I’m putting in adding up not only in time spent, but in value added? The self-imposed (and otherwise) expectations remain, the black hole grows.
The crushing weight of wanting to be all things to all people and especially to God can often feel like too much. It can feel crippling amid a world that loves to point out your failures.
Then a new chapter began. When I started work at my current company, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a long time. The organization, to their credit, values hard work, appreciates people, but most importantly they create space. I felt seen, heard, amid a world where I had felt unwelcome and other. I felt room to express myself, to be the messy version of me that was still growing and learning. I didn’t leave work thinking about work. I left work thinking about my neighbors. I left work thinking about the people and the stories I had interacted with that day. I was learning how to love people.
Most importantly, I was learning how to love people that were different from myself. I was happy knowing that my world was expanding, that my heart was growing, and that I was discovering God in those moments. I was learning empathy in a way I had never been able to experience before from individuals of every age, race, culture, religious identity, sexual identity – you name it. To be perfectly honest, my workplace has become more of what I envision heaven to be like than any church I have ever attended.
Does that make you uncomfortable?
I took a brief moment six months into the job to post about how I felt. It was a bit superficial, but I had to at least share the happiness I was experiencing. I titled it what 2U is 2Me. You probably didn’t see it. It didn’t get many likes. It did, however, receive a very impactful comment that I found waiting for approval in order to be posted publicly the next morning.
I read this comment, ironically, while I was sitting at work.
My vision immediately became blurry, the tears refusing to stay in my eyes despite desperately attempting to blink them away. I could feel my face flushing, so I let my hair fall in front of my face. I didn’t want to alert my coworkers to my pain, the shame I was experiencing in broad daylight. I took a shaky breath and reread the comment. I clicked back to the post I had written the day before. I reread it. I read the comment again. I didn’t know who this Andrew was (and still don’t). I didn’t know why they felt the need to respond to my post, but their message had been received, loud and clear.
I suppose, at this moment, you could have read the comment and sided with the writer. Perhaps you agree that I was/am self-absorbed, that I am aiming for my own glory. Honestly, the pain I felt in that moment made me, too, side with the writer. I felt so small. I thought back to every post I had ever shared, to every picture I had ever snapped. The vulnerable parts of me exposed, my shame on display. Honestly, this faceless comment haunts me. Whenever I go to post a selfie, it rings in my ears. When I want to share about a promotion, this shadow of a person taps me on the shoulder. Even going to post this now fills me with dread.
I don’t share this story to relive a bad day or embarrass myself further. I share this story for the same reason I posted the story prior to this. No part of living a life in pursuit of Christ gives others the right to control you. Your identity in Christ should create a spirit of humility, kindness, and love. I think, for a moment, this Andrew forgot that our God is more powerful than any words they could ever say. That He is alive and well, moving, working. Andrew, acting as though God is weak, as if God needs them, used their words to cut, to bruise, to break. It needs to be asked – what place does guilt have in the kingdom of heaven? God is never called the accuser; it is Satan who holds that title. This mystery Andrew not only had no relationship with me, they didn’t want to be known by me. They hid themselves. I reached out to the associated email address from this post. I received no response.
Thank goodness God wants to be known by me. Better yet, He already fully knows my heart.
It needs to be said that this Christian supremacy is deeply damaging. It is damaging to those who claim to be believers, and it is damaging to those who do not. What part of this toxic culture do we think is attractive? What part of it do we think entices people to want more? I don’t use the word supremacy flippantly or to hijack this very important term in any way. I simply mean to emphasize how it is perceived. Supremacy is the state or condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, or status. How dare we combine our commitment to Christ with our desire for personal supremacy. How dare you, Andrew.
Despite the pain, I do not hate this Andrew. I just desperately want better for us. Frankly, I won’t apologize for showcasing my very raw pain and for making you uncomfortable because the reality is – it’s not a secret. The world sees these interactions all the time and they call us hypocrites. I get it. We’re a group of imperfect humans making poor choices, but we don’t have to accept that as the status quo and continue covering each other’s ugly parts. The story of Jesus is beautiful and can cover our ugliness with immeasurable grace. Yes, even my ugliness.
So, Andrew, it’s been over three years, but I want you to know I forgive you. I forgive you because that is the power of God. That is the gospel at work. The irony and the beauty of grace is that we’re not deserving of it, and it is extended to us anyway. Andrew, do you have others holding you accountable? Not accountable to your actions, but accountable to learning to give and receive grace? I hope so, because it is grace that makes the story of Jesus so irresistible. I hope you see it and feel it, because it’s what frees me from this sadness, this ugliness, this disgrace. It’s what keeps me so sure of the love of God, despite every black hole and every cruel word. It is what gives me peace.
Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
2 Timothy 1:9