I went through a season of extreme sadness, loneliness, and anxiety during my last years of high school. Desperate to make these feelings go away, I gave in to temptations and detrimental behaviors that hurt myself, my family, and my friends. Eventually realizing the harm my behavior was causing, deciding to find a way to stop giving in to these temptations, and considering what I was taught in church, I remember thinking, “Oh, I get it. I just need to be a better Christian” and concluded that that would make things better (make me better). Therefore, I decided to pray harder, read the Bible more, and listen in church better. Simple enough. So, for weeks, I did all those things. However, the prayers were prayed, the Bible was read, and the sermons were written in my journal. But the tears, the temptations, and the pain still came. Exhausted, disappointed, and discouraged, I remember having one thought: “Shouldn’t this be simple?”
From my experiences as a “church kid,” I knew that humans no longer had to work for the grace, love, and salvation that Jesus Christ provides. However, still, the narrative I created in my head around the interconnectedness of humanity and God was essentially, “God loves you. So, keep acting like it.” This translated in my head as “God loves you. So, keep smiling,” “God loves you. So, do well in school,” “God loves you. So, keep going to church, reading your bible, praying every day, giving the correct answers in bible study, being outspoken about your faith, singing praise songs with great devotion,” etc. In other words, “God loves you. So, be perfect.” However, being perfect did not include being sad, anxious, and lonely. Being perfect did not include giving in to temptation. Therefore, if I felt this way and doing these things, I was not good enough for God’s love or acceptable as a Christian. If that were true, where did I stand with God? My glass castle of reliance and certainty, built on the simplicity of my relationship with God, crumbled.
I have slowly reconstructed my glass castle of simplicity with those broken pieces of glass into an iron fort of security through experiences and lessons. Working with kids has shown me that teaching does not need to be done through perfect words or actions. But, instead, by showing up when they are uncertain that anyone will. Graduating and moving to Fort Worth has taught me that showing your sadness, homesickness, and loneliness does not make you less Christian. But instead, showing these feelings assures that kingdom work is done as much through the tears as through the smiles. Working in ministry at FUMCFW has taught me that ministry work oftentimes falls short of our own definitions of “perfect.” However, the fruit born from ministry work is not based on performative perfection but, instead, on graceful reliance on God. Letting the tears fall and the sobs loose has taught me that God does not shield God’s eyes during the bad nights and open God’s arms again in the morning. Instead, God is there for the whole ride. All of these experiences point to the one thing that has become extremely, undeniably, inescapably clear to me: our relationship with God is a complicated gift that continues to give and give, even when it does not make sense and even when we do not want it. It is simply not simple.
I realize that during this season of uncertainty, relative chaos, and extreme anxiety, some of us may feel like we haven’t been “Christian enough” or reacted to recent events in the way that God’s people “should.” Some of us may feel ashamed and guilt-ridden that we haven’t kept our smiles on our faces, kept up with our daily spiritual practices, watched sermons as often as we used to, or anything else. So maybe, similar to me, your glass castle has shattered. However, I urge you to reconstruct. Create an iron fort built on the reality that our relationship with God isn’t an exchange, but a gift; that our God isn’t a simple God, but a good God; that our God doesn’t love perfection, but humanity. In other words, build your iron fort on the truth that our God and our relationship with God is simply not simple. And that is good, good news.
Middle School Program Coordinator