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June 17, 2013 posted by Lindsay Ferrier

A Little More on Feeling Like a ‘Bad Christian’

A Little More on Feeling Like a ‘Bad Christian’

I’ve spent the last week on vacation and I’ll get to that later this week- but first, here’s what I wrote while on the road–

My last post, on feeling like a ‘bad Christian,’ was really difficult for me to write. It took four days of thinking before I thought it reflected what was on my heart. A big part of me wanted to abandon the post altogether, but I felt completely blocked to put anything else up on this blog until that post was written.

Once it was out there for everyone to see, your comments made it worth all of the effort and anxiety. I loved reading what you had to say — even the ones who disagreed with me. I knew when I wrote it that some would not approve, probably many more than those brave enough to state it in the comments.

What prompted the post, I think, was that we recently switched from a hip, modern mega church to a small, traditional neighborhood church. We love it– The kids actually beg to go each week, and Dennis and I like being part of a church where the members all know each other and spend a lot of time together.

But I realized as we were getting to know everyone in our new church that I was feeling a crazy amount of anxiety over forming those relationships. Based on past experience, I was bracing myself for a rush of kindness that would be followed by silent rejection after people really got to know me- or, more specifically, after they found my blog. I guess I figured it was better to go ahead and be up front about how I am, right from the start. I’m going to ask questions. I’m going to be honest. I’m inevitably going to ruffle some feathers along the way. I’m not always going to agree with you, but I promise I’ll try be polite about it.

Most of you understood in the last post that I’m not saying I don’t need to strive to follow Christ every single day. I am continually trying to discern God’s will for my life, and to live according to the principles laid out by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This is a very personal thing for me, so I don’t write about it often on my blog– but it is an absolute constant in my life.

That said, I honestly don’t think that the angels weep every time a curse word comes out of my mouth. I don’t think God is upset with me over an obviously humorous blog banner that has the word ‘ass’ in it. I don’t worry, as one commenter warned, that it may have caused someone to stumble in her ‘Christian walk.’ I tried to picture how that would ever happen and couldn’t stop giggling- I’m just not buying it.

And yet, several Christians have written since last week’s post to tell me exactly why THEY would NEVER have used that header. Well, I love you all, I really do, but here’s the deal: When it comes to my spiritual life, I want to please God, NOT other people.

It’s another ridiculously simple statement, yet I’ve been caught up in doing the opposite for years. And I suspect I’m not alone here. I actually don’t believe that God sees me as a bad Christian. I don’t think he’s marking down my slip-ups in a gigantic Book of Life– I think he’s looking at my heart. So it’s frustrating to continually hear from other Christians who feel the need to tell me I’m DOING IT WRONG. Something’s messed up with that, don’t you think?

I have asked God many times over the years why he made me this way- why it’s so hard for me to fit in to traditional Christian culture without bucking and kicking the whole way. I have taken inspiration from the Bible- In so many cases, God used the most unlikely people to make a point, and that hits home with me. I may see perfection everywhere I turn when I’m among other Christians, but in the Bible that’s hardly the case. I think there’s a reason so many of the Bible’s greatest heroes seemed like wildly inappropriate messengers of God’s word- I figure God’s making a point in the Bible that He can use even me. And even you. He’s not looking for perfection. He’s looking for potential. And potential?

I’ve got that.

‘Does professing to feel like you are part of a club called “Bad Christian Club” do anything to further God’s kingdom?’ one commenter asked. To that, I say… Maybe.

Maybe—just maybe– God can use me to reach people that the traditional Christian community just isn’t appealing to these days. Maybe it’s okay for me and for you to question the direction and motivation of Christianity today- a religion that often leaves me feeling bad about myself and unworthy, even though the Bible never does. Maybe if enough Christians talk with each other about how they really feel, we’ll start to see real change in the church and the community. Maybe if you see a change in me over the years on this blog, you will know that it is real heart change- not superficial, trying-to-fit-in-with-other-Christians change.

And maybe that will mean something to you.

I know I’ve written variations on this theme over the years, but I need to keep coming back to it. I need to remind myself of why I’m here and what I’m doing and what I SHOULD be doing. And I need to make it public, in order to hold myself accountable.

Thanks for letting me do that, and for being part of the conversation.

 

Image via SubtlePanda/Flickr

Comments

comments

  • Shelley

    This is pure gold! Love it…and identify so much.

  • Margie Lusk

    Christians chastising each other over how to be a “good Christian”, is simply put, the height of irony. I agree with you 100%, God is not marking down your every swear word, or irreverent joke on some tally sheet.

    Honestly, the people out there getting their panties in a bunch over what other people are doing, or not doing, where it pertains to anyone else’s walk with Christ, need to be smacked upside the head with the beams in their eyes.

  • Kathy

    Halle’effin’lujah! “When it comes to my spiritual life, I want to please God, NOT other people.” Thank you for this perfect sentence.

  • Carmen

    One of the best statements I ever read…”People will tell you that you to need to have a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus Christ. And then they proceed to tell you exactly how you need to do that.”

  • Jane Tatum

    You were first a wonderful christian lady. Then came the phase where you were a wonderful christian wife. Your children are being raised by a wonderful christian mother. As well as for the current phase.. Dennis will be blessed with having a wife here and who will be with him in heaven some day. The other good things that happen to you are wonderful and totally deserved. You are blessed, dear Lindsay. We are all better for having you as a part of our worldl

  • Lindsay, I’m so glad I happened to see this post on Twitter. I missed your original Bad Christian post and now I’m all caught up and ever so grateful you’ve discussed this so openly. You’re definitely not alone and I have no doubt your honesty will encourage others. There are plenty of us who don’t quite fit in with the usual church community or look the way Christians “should” look like. I have hope that there will be a real change in the church and it starts when we’re all able to talk about what that could look like and maybe be the change we wish to see. From one Bad Christian to another, thank you.

  • Yvonne

    I always remember my grandmother saying, “No one hates like a good Christian!” I have found this to be, unfortunately, all too true, but I am following my own path and coming to terms with my own beliefs. I relate to you 100% Lindsay and love your posts : Imperfections and all!!

  • Aileen

    Thank you Lindsay, you make such important points that I’ve always felt, but never could articulate. This is so true and whether people want to believe this or not, the criticism and judgment that come from Christians does more toward hurting other potential followers in their “Christian walk,” than someone honestly admitting their flaws and talking honestly about their struggles. I love this line: “When it comes to my spiritual life, I want to please God, NOT other people.” PREACH SISTER! And please keep writing about this! This is keeping it so much more real than those edited, saccharin blogs depicting perfect Christian families.

  • Melissa

    The “perfection” you speak of is a facade. And we’ve done it to ourselves. Where in the Bible does it say “Oh, and you must appear perfect at all times or you will be smited!” It doesn’t. If we would all stop putting so much energy into looking perfect and just be real with each other I think the situation would be much better. I’m very well schooled in what lies behind peoples’ facade of perfection. And it ain’t pretty. The filter got pretty violently stripped from my mind a while back.

    • Anne

      From mine, too. A man, one of the pillars of my former synagogue community, is NOT what he appears to be. He cheated on his wife!
      I really didn’t want to know that, and I lost all respect and liking for him.

      • Melissa

        We’ve been through the same thing. It’s been an interesting journey, though. I’m at a point now where my first feeling for people when they royally mess up is compassion. I wasn’t always that way though. I’ve thrown stones with the best of ’em.

  • The Mommy

    I will never understand why people (Christian or not) feel the need to judge…and then post those judgments on the internet. You’re exactly right, though. If you live your life to please God, even though it might piss off some “good” Christians, you’re doing it right. Actually, probably MORE right than those who it angers. There are so many ways and styles to follow Christ but only One way into heaven…by being His follower. What that looks like in your life is ALWAYS going to look different in someone else’s. God made us all unique. Why shouldn’t our way of serving him look unique, too?

  • JewishMommy

    Oh, that’s rich. @The Mommy: “I will never understand why people feel the need to judge,” and a few sentences later, “there is only one way into heaven… by being his follower.” You don’t see the irony in that??

    • The Mommy

      That’s my belief. Did I tell you to believe it? Am I judging you because you’ve got a different set of beliefs? I was speaking to a Christian AS a Christian. OUR beliefs are that there’s only one way. You can choose to believe it or not. When something is a truth, it doesn’t matter if someone believes it or not. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Will I judge you? Nope. But thanks for proving my point. I’ve been properly judged.

  • Anne

    Lindsay, I’m Jewish, and I sometimes feel like a “bad Jew” because I don’t do everything I’m supposed to do like keep a kosher home, cover my head, go to synagogue faithfully every week, and I could go on all day. I loved your posts – I found your blogs shortly before I moved to Nashville and I’ve been reading them ever since. I think that as long as G-d sees effort being made to do what’s right, He will forgive the curse words and other stuff that makes us feel so guilty. I’m doing the best I can, and I think you’re doing the best you can! And I’d love to meet you for coffee or a glass of wine sometime!

    • suburbanturmoil

      Thank you for writing, Anne. I think a lot of the issues I write about can apply to many faiths- It’s sort of a human condition situation. And I think it hurts so much when it involves others in our faith because faith matters put us in such a vulnerable position- Our hearts are open, so when we get hurt, we REALLY get hurt.

  • Leah

    I moved to a new state 3 years ago and have been having a difficult time connecting with a church because of the anxiety you’re talking about. I was not on the best terms with churches before I moved here, and now? In some ways I miss the community and having people to know my name, but on the other hand, it has been so nice to not deal with the “facade” and to not spend so much time building relationships that are discovered to be very shallow once there’s the tiniest bit of distance between you. I wonder… what’s the point? Why did I spend so much of my time with those people? And do I really want to do all of that again?

    Another problem I’ve found is that churches have all the compassion in the world for sins committed BEFORE one comes to know Christ, but if you screw up afterward? In my experience, “grace” by church members has been like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat.

    When I was in crisis after a personal failure, completely broken AND repentant, and absolutely desperate for love, guidance, and support from Christians, the messages I got were, in a nutshell: “You have no excuse. You can’t be trusted. Your faith wasn’t real. If you were the person you should be and if you truly loved Jesus then you COULDN’T have done that.” I’m pretty sure I got worse judgment because I didn’t fit the hearts and unicorns mold before then either. I loved God and tried to follow and serve Him the best I could, but to the church it didn’t matter when the chips were down.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I’m still struggling and right now I’m a “go to the 11:00 service twice a month and dash in and out” churchgoer. I’m really glad to hear that I’m not alone. Please keep posting your thoughts, Lindsay. Your perspective helps.

    • suburbanturmoil

      Leah, I’d encourage you to keep trying churches until you find one where you feel like you fit in. I do believe it’s essential for us to seek out a community of others within our faith, whatever that faith might be. Don’t give up, and I promise I won’t either! 🙂

    • Barb Lysack

      You should try to find a house church. These are small enough where everyone can discuss problems as well as worship and praise.

  • Love this. Thank you for your honesty.

  • Jessica (the celt)

    I wrote about your last post on my blog, and I completely agree. I have had a hard time finding a church that doesn’t judge the “differences” that in actuality make no difference (my husband and I aren’t typical American Christians). I have long sought out others to share my faith in my own way, and it usually means I’m learning a lot about them as humans while they’re learning about me as a human (my faith is integral to that). People respond to that much better than “You’re all going to hell!” and .. well.. I do, too. I used to be such a “Christian rules” kind of woman, but now I realize there’s really only one rule due to that whole grace through faith thing. How amazing is that?

  • Deanna Piercy

    Your posts on this subject inspired me to delve into it as well. I just published my post and am nervously awaiting the responses.
    http://teawithdee.blogspot.com/2013/06/bad-christian-club.html

  • Stacey Shirley Old

    Oh my!!! You have no idea how much I needed this tonight! Of course you didn’t but God did and that’s why it’s been sitting in my reeder for a week!

    I just posted on Facebook another blog posting about love, more over loving (gasp) gays. Of course it got jumped on by several “good” Christians and I instantly felt like my position that mind you I have prayed an searched God for years was not right.

    I constantly stir the pot so much in my little rural community church I often worry I’m going to be asked to leave. But just like you I can’t keep my mouth shut, I won’t be told I must believe something because that’s what my denomination voted that I should. I believe God gave me this brain, heart and even this crazy mouth with little filter to be used.

    Thank you so much for being so honest and I will proudly join you in the bad Christians’ club because I’m pretty sure Jesus was a pretty crappy Christian!

  • “‘Does professing to feel like you are part of a club called “Bad
    Christian Club” do anything to further God’s kingdom?’ one commenter
    asked. To that, I say… Maybe.”

    I say yes. If we refuse to talk about this, those who are sitting on the outskirts, feeling left out or wrong or put upon or WHATEVER, won’t realize that they are not alone. Those who are completely OUTSIDE won’t ever want to come in. It’s quite similar to avoiding discussions on postpartum depression or depression in general. The question can be asked, “Does sharing your depressed moments when you’re on that bridge do anything to help others?” Of course it does. Sharing our human experiences always helps other people.

    Keep being you.

  • Amen, Sister. You go, girl! The masks that so many Christians wear are what scare people away: the “everything’s ok” mask, the “I believe this, but I don’t know why” mask, the “hide my sin” mask, etc. Authenticity is necessary, we need to find someplace where we can be real, hoping the church can be that place, to walk with us. It’s a sad, sad thing, when it can’t be. Another great post!

  • Tracie

    Lindsay,

    I LOVE this!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    We are NOT perfect–not a one of us!!! JESUS. IS. PERFECT. He’s the only one. But, even he got mad and threw fits and had bad days–look what he did to the tables of the money changers in the temple.

    We were made in His IMAGE, NOT to BE Him. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect–he made us human–and, therefore, messy and SOOOOO less than perfect–remember–He gave us free will, right? However, He loves us in spite of our imperfectness–so much so that He died on the cross to forgive our sins. And when our sins are forgiven–they. are. gone. God does NOT keep score. EVER.

    I also love how you said He’s looking for potential–what a wonderful way to look at it–the potential that IS inside each one of us (that He put there!)–but that potential is not perfection. Like you also said, Jesus worked with some of the worst sinners of the time–tax collectors and prostitutes–did He love them any less because of their faults/sins/less than perfectness? No–He used them to spread the word of His love/kingdom/forgiveness.

    Thank you.

  • Tony

    I googled ‘why do i feel bad about myself even though i’m a christian’ no lie.
    There’s no doubt that i’m a christian, i love God, and live with a fire that drives to please him.

    However, there are things i struggle with, and i want help as well, but i feel sometimes that i cant speak of them to other christians, and i realize that this is just a method of hiding my sins, so i say ‘well ill talk about it when i overcome it, God and I can do this’ God can definitely do, but he uses the community, our church family to help us as well. Point is your ‘inappropriate’ banner does help the Kingdom (not in itself) but to prove a point, that we aren’t perfect, and that as long as we seek God and follow Jesus day by day (to best ability) and that even when we do fail, he gives us the strength to get back up. Thats grace:)
    i’ve been feeling like a ‘bad christian’ but your blog helped me realize that we are no more no less than the non christians, Thing is we have Christ, meaning, no bragging rights, but life:D
    This makes me more empathetic, humane, towards non believers, so thanks for allowing God to use you to carry his message, as he done millions of time before with other people too:)

  • Paula

    I get you completely. I am blessed with the spiritual gift of discernment and exhortation. I know my salvation is secure and walk in grace meaning that I can’t do anything to lose my salvation. I often catch myself revisiting the comfortable place of living under the law. (deception). Because of my temperament, my spiritual gifts and my past hurts caused by others and myself I have to live by my daily bread. I can see how I step into so quickly if you and I do a b and c check off our list and to the best of our ability never sin the same way twice, stay nicely in a box no one screws up and no gets hurt!,,, as irrational as this is I go there. I stop and have hold my thoughts captive . My god loves me I can’t and won’t change that I can’t screw up and fear that he is disgusted that I should have known better and just maybe I used my last get out of sin free pass. That is not our god.
    I know and able to speak truth in love with out condemning or shamming .
    That is the freedom of grace. We are all different why would my value system be a requirement for everyone, our relationships with friends children spouses are all different how can I give to one what the need emotionally and think it would work for all. He made us unique but in his image we all walk a different path.
    Please tell me your honest thoughts.

  • Wen

    I’m with you. I always felt like the black sheep of my bible study. The other girls in it didn’t have the experiences I had and couldn’t really understand where I was coming from. I felt like I had to hide my true personality or risk disappointing them. God knows me so who was I really trying to impress? I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

  • DaisyDawn

    Your comments really resonated with me… I’ve only just come across this blog, so I’m not sure exactly where you’re located but I’m presuming the USA, and I just wanted to mention that I felt exactly the same way when I lived the US.

    Living (my 20s) in the midwest of America made me feel like a bad Christian, and couldn’t work out why a loving God had created me to clearly be such an imperfect person when I was surrounded with folks who clearly had their cr*p polished so much better than I. I was working with a missions organisation which I love and respect, but culturally the need to be perfect was overwhelming. It took moving away from that culture and moving to Australia for 12 years, then the UK for 2, to help me realise that so much of what we believe makes us Christian is cultural. Watching other Christians in far off places do things that could NEVER be done in the US without serious judgement (couched as prayer or concern) and be completely unfazed by it was eye opening. These people did things that I’d never seen or heard (for example: used words that would never be ok in the midwest) and yet no one could question their faith or belief in a loving God and saviour in Jesus Christ. Their relationships with God were just as personal but without the expectation that they had to be perfect in the process. It was such a relief and since moving to the UK, it’s been interesting to see how different faith here is to Australia and the US. Again, the tennants of faith don’t change but some of the outworking that represent that faith are different and it’s been wonderful to learn that that is ok. I love the US for all it taught me but needed to leave to understand my faith journey that little bit better.

  • ConsciousMary

    Thank you for these posts. Thank you for not letting me feel alone. I have been struggling with giving my life to Jesus Christ. With, it is not about me it is about Him. It is true. But this is not GRACE but GUILT. And I know all the key phrases to say….because I have heard them repeated so often. Giving your life to Christ means burning CDs, avoiding sex and violence in TV shows, hating the new Noah film and only doing Christian things in a Christian bubble and condeming all muslims and atheists to hell if they refuse to be saved. You know, I am careful what I listen to, I try to monitor what I watch because of how I feel it affects me and my relationship with God. Didnt Jesus say count the cost? Shouldnt it cost something? But I loved Harry Potter God ? Wasnt that amazingly magical story inspired by You ? It gave children so much joy. Arent the complexities of the Game of Thrones characters amazing ? Is it alright for me to want to want to switch off and NOT read the Bible sometimes ? Will I go to hell ? Or will I get a lesser place un heaven ? Does giving up the world mean I cannot enjoy the worldy things you have made. If an atheist made my car….should I drive and enjoy it ? Is it edifying ?

    God is Love. And bigger than we can imagine….trust me. The one thing I know after one amazing supernatural encounter. And was GOOD to me before I truely knew him. And I want Him to use my life for his purposes. How we treat people is key. He doesnt sweat the small stuff….he does know our world is fallen. He gave us Jesus to tell us about Himself, Heaven and how to live for him. Be you. He created you to enoy you for Himself.

  • Anya

    WOW this is absolute truth. I’ve been feeling this way for months now. Worried about my walk, my faith, the church, my 8 month old and bringing him up in the church. Where will we attend or should we have our close friends start church out of the house. Breaking out of the norm and walking like Jesus walked! I want Him so bad, I want to be me and I want to live exactly how he calls us to. Biblically. Wild and raw Christianity. Raise the dead and dance wildly without shame Christianity! But I’ve felt soEmpty and confused a little lately. I know I’m in a new season raising my son but I am waiting for this new found freedom you’ve found. In 3 years I haven’t googled about how I’m feeling as a Christian, this post is the first thing I read and it’s so simple and exactly what God wanted me to hear. You rock girl.. Look how God can unexpectedly touch people through you. His spirit makes you free! Completely free! Bless you!

  • Dianne

    I am so glad to know someone else is out there that is experiencing similar feelings as I am. Thank you so much, and I also thank God

  • Chris

    Thank you for writing this!! YAY, I’m not alone!!!!! I seriously could’ve written this blog, I’ve searched the web over and over looking for other Christians like me and I thought maybe they didn’t exist, sounds over dramatic, I know, but I was actually starting to feel that way. God just used you in such an awesome way to help me and I just wanted you to know that!