In May 2001, my mom and I took a trip to New Jersey for my cousin Malissa’s funeral. I don’t remember much of our conversation that day. I probably blocked out as much of what my mom said as possible. One thing she said was like a knife being thrust into me and twisted. Nearly 32 years old, and my mother still treats me like a child that she can guilt into what she wants. WTF. What she said was:
“well, I’m glad you and Stacy are going to church, but I really wish you were going somewhere else”
So the United Methodist Church was not quite up to snuff in Mom’s eyes. I know what it was mom was really saying. Not fundamentalist enough. Not religious enough. Not HOLY enough. Heaven forbid…a church where Christ is worshiped is not enough, simply because of her perception…something she’s been told. They do things DIFFERENTLY.
It comes as no surprise to me that I’ve battled religion all my life. Because of religion, I was unable to see God. God was presented to me as a stern judge, and those who followed this doctrine somehow got the right to be the stern judge as well. It was perfectly clear to me as a teen that there was no way I could attain this “Christian perfection”. I couldn’t wait to get away from it.
Stacy was Methodist. There was a little church (now closed) not far from our home that she attended. She had no sense of doctrine…only Christ. Her youth leaders would take their group to different churches. Yes, she noticed differences, but saw worship as giving thanks to God for what He gave to us, regardless of the location or format.
My wife’s ability to see God for what He truly is…a gracious, loving father who wants His children to love Him…was lost on me. Because I was coming out of a fundamentalist background, I looked at her Methodism as “not good enough”, even though I knew I wasn’t good enough either. I doubted her faith. I refused to discuss it with her. She practiced her faith anyway. In spite of my unbelief, she believed. She taught our children about Jesus in our home, whether or not we were attending church at the time. She had to do it alone, because I didn’t know what I believed. In a way, I’m actually glad that she taught them. They won’t have to try to break free of fundamentalism.
Gradually, God broke down the wall that I had created out of my stubbornness and refusal to see Him as loving. He continually reveals Himself to me in ways that I don’t expect. He teaches me to look at things in different ways, despite the deep-seeded fundamentalist views I have wrestled with since I was a kid.
Theologically, I still don’t know where I am. On my Twitter profile, I call myself a “theological mixed breed”. I’m Methodist by church membership, love my church and church family, and have no intent to leave. I’ve gotten to know lots of people who practice Reformed theology. I love those brothers and sisters as well. I still have fundamentalist friends, and while I don’t agree with much of what they believe, I love the people. I am intrigued by the traditions of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, and am finally able to view my brothers and sisters in those denominations as real Christians. Yes, if you see me pray, I am really crossing myself.
But Lutheran…I never really knew much about this denomination. I’ve got Lutheran friends, but never really researched their beliefs. I still don’t profess to know much about Lutheranism, but after I got back from hanging out with a bunch of them at a conference, I realized one thing. I think I might be Lutheran.
That brings me back to the title of this post. When I realized how much Lutheran beliefs lined up with my understanding of grace, it made me think of my mom. She’s in heaven now…but I can just imagine her reaction if I could go to her and say “Mom, I think I might be Lutheran”. I don’t envision it being good. In spite of what her reaction might have been, I would hope that she’d see that regardless of denomination, God reached me through grace, and sustains me through grace. God reached and sustained her through grace too. If I stay Methodist, that will be good, but if I turn out Lutheran, that will be good too. The main thing to remember is that it’s not about me, but about Christ.
Bottom line…when I do something, I need to think…am I doing this to bring attention to me, or what Christ did for me?