As I planned my weekend, I knew going to church Sunday just wasn’t in the cards. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always faithfully gone to church, but I certainly wasn’t the “there every time the doors are open” type. When I came to this realization, I felt a twinge of worry.
You see, I’ve been conditioned to believe that a “good Christian” doesn’t miss a Sunday. Good Christians go no matter what. If you don’t go to church … well, you must not be walking right with the Lord.
By People Pleasing, I Felt So Alone
This community that I’ve been deeply entrenched in for years has dictated to me a laundry list of things I must do or must not do. Many times, I have rolled my eyes as I’m presented with an edict. I know that these mandates are not Biblically sound. And yet, they settle into my soul, dictating how I live my life. Or, more importantly, they dictate how I filter my life to look to those around me—because their approval was what I was seeking.
After my husband passed, everyone began to give me opinions about how I should live my life. How I should process my feelings, how I should grieve, and how I should proceed going forward. For so long, I lived my life trying to do what others told me was the “proper” Christian thing.
I stayed with my husband because that is what a good, Christian wife does. I didn’t drink because I was told that it was wrong. I was told to be careful what I let people see because I mustn’t bruise my testimony. So, for years, I kept all the stress and pain to myself. I was busy portraying what I was told to portray. I was people pleasing, but I was so incredibly alone.
The Pandemic Helped Me Stop and Evaluate My Faith
When the pandemic forced us all into our homes, I was given the gift of no longer being subject to outside influences telling me who or what I should be. I began to realize I had been told for so long what a good Christian should look like without ever trying to figure out for myself how God defines it.
But as I was inside my home, isolated from everyone as I processed the drastic changes in my life, I was faced with the opportunity to write my own story for the first time in years. Without voices telling me who to be, I began to drop the façade of who I had become.
As much as I was accustomed to going to church, I realized that a lot of my motives for being present and in my seat on Sunday mornings was not for the right reasons. I was there because I thought I had to be.
My Motives Have Changed, and It Finally Feels Right
Now, don’t get me wrong, I was always glad I was there and got something out of it. But my motivation was wrong. With churches closed across the country, the choice was made for me. The forced break helped me to analyze my intentions for going. After six weeks or so, I began watching online. I didn’t watch every week, but I watched.
For the first time, I found myself watching because I wanted to as my motivation began to change. Then, as churches started to open up, we began going. However, I no longer felt the pressure to attend every single service. Life is busy, and sometimes you need to sleep in. Sometimes the kids need a huge family breakfast that you never have time to make. Sometimes you need to take the cup of coffee outside to just sit and talk to God by yourself as you watch the sunrise.
I began to realize all the lies that I had been told. I now know that being a good, Christian wife did not mean staying and enduring things that I should not have endured. I now know that I should go to church for the right reasons, not because someone asked me why I missed a service … or two.
I now know that having a glass of wine was not a sin, it was a personal decision based on my relationship with God. I now know that it was okay to show my true self, as it was not a bruise to my testimony … because each mistake made my testimony. I now know that I should share the pain and suffering so that others might gather strength from seeing how I gained mine.
I Now Seek God’s Opinion Instead of Everyone Else’s
Of course, what I have learned in the last year does not sit well with some. As I’ve removed my filter, I’ve watched people judge me harshly. As I moved on with my life, I was given abundant blessing, but others looked on and whispered their disapproval to one another. But, instead of feeling judged … I feel joy like I have never experienced before. For the first time, I’m living my life without seeking the opinions of others.
I now realize I only need God’s opinion, not what someone tells me His opinion is. If I am doing my best to honor God and feel peace with how I conduct my life, that is the only thing that matters. Removing the façade of what I “should” look like has been so incredibly liberating; I just wish I had removed it years ago.
Want to know what it really takes to grow in your faith? Give a listen to this podcast episode of This Grit and Grace Life: If You Want To Grow in Faith, Try These Simple Things – 144