What if at the end of history, the question God asks us is not whether we abstained from sin. What if the question is “Did you enter the joy that was available to you?
I was once a very anxious person. It is the reason Jake and I broke up in High School. As a child I stressed about everything and did not sleep well. There were some obvious reasons like my parent’s divorce, but I think there is a lot more to this story. I was not kind of stressy, I was known for being stressy. At school people would tease me and wonder why I could not relax. I did not want to be this way, but I thought there was nothing I could do about it. I defined myself as an anxious person. (This is not to minimize anxiety in anyone else. Sometimes help is needed outside of what I am going to write, but I think what I am writing will help even if more help is needed, and even if it doesn’t completely go away).
Going to college (Oklahoma State – Go POKES!) helped some. I made new friends and learned to navigate life on my own a bit. I joined a sorority , Alpha Chi Omega, (never in my life did I plan on a sorority) but it helped me a lot! I met my best friend Jill during Discovery Week before we started college. We bonded instantly as Church of Christ girls. We did not end up in the same Sorority, but she changed the direction of my life in many ways. Jill made me act silly (and that is a good thing). Jill is full of life and spunk. I am so glad I dropped Statistics the first time because retaking Statistics with her made that class the most memorable experience of my life. The teacher was fantastic too. She had a thick southern drawl and always asked “Did you choose the path of Failure or Success?” (when she said it – it was the best!) We assured her we chose the path of success. It was funny and we made it out of there with a B! Shew! It was a really hard class, but our study nights were so much fun. It is how we became WOW girls. No reason, we just said we were so we were. We even made shirts and wore it to the final. Also worth noting as a side note, the teacher said in class “If America truly wanted a Christian President, they would have reelected Jimmy Carter.” (I had no idea how true that statement was at the time).
I was terrible at Rush for the Sorority. The girls realized it too. I actually got out of having to talk to people and work behind the scenes. I had no confidence talking to people – and that is funny because I live for it now. I did become Treasurer of the Sorority and got to work with the University President’s wife, Ann Halligan. She is an Alpha Chi Omega and an accountant. She signed checks, looked over my work, and encouraged me as a student and as a human being. I love her so much.
Our junior year, my friend Jill ran for Student Government President and won, BUT there was controversy- of course. People stole her signs, made up lies about her, and we had to go to Senate to discuss allegations against her and her running mate. It was an amazing win – it was not predicted or expected at all. I also had no idea that it was a glimpse of the future. I got angry and started calling my friends who were saying ugly things about Jill because their fraternity brother was running and they thought she had no chance. The school newspaper reported stuff that I was shocked they would print without verification. I was livid! Oh, looking back the things I would say now about what happened! But it turned out ok. We are all friends again. She appointed me Student Government Treasurer but body guard might have been a better description. LOL!. We have so many stories of our time in office – like my 6 Dr. Pepper cans sitting on my desk because I would start one and never finish. I would open another one because they were flat by the time I took another sip. Ha!
The summer before my Senior year in college, Jill talked me into working at a sports camp called Camp Olympia in Trinity, Texas. She had worked the summer before and knew I would love it. I am not a coach though–I did gymnastics but I don’t coach . She assured me they could use me in other ways. Working at Camp Olympia was a significant life changing event for me. It was an under cover christian camp, meaning not founded as a christian camp-but we would operate as one without saying names specifically. Counselors came a week early for training and that was a blast!. We also had bible devotionals and songs. That was great, but it isn’t what changed my life (I was a little too familiar with that). The people I met were fantastic and had so much energy. What changed me is we had to act ridiculous! We were split into 2 teams – Spartan and Athenian. I was Athenian, Jill was Spartan – boo! We had to motivate kids all week cheering, yelling, chanting, and singing to keep them going and competing for their team. Cheering, yelling, and leading chants was not my thing! My Church of Christ reservedness was not comfortable with this…. until all of the sudden I loved it! I realized I was made to be crazy (live a little). My body burst forth with unknown energy I had pent up for so long. My anxiety subsided so much at this revelation/experience! When I returned to college, the change was so significant people were asking how I had overcome my stress. Like I said, I was known for stress! I just needed to let go, and Camp Olympia helped me let go through cheers, chants, and absolute absurdity. I LOVE IT! I AM HERE FOR IT!
I write all of this because I believe we have lived our faith in such a reserved way, it spills out into our life. We have a theology in our head, but not in our heart ,soul and life (embodiment). Jesus is amazing, but we live like we are in bondage. We want to make sure we don’t make any decisions based on feelings, so we taught people how not to feel. I grew up believing in the Heaven and Hell after life, and that is traumatic, even with a church that tried not to make a big deal about Hell. I was supposed to focus on Heaven, but don’t be good just because I wanted to go to Heaven- pure motives. Don’t be good just because I am afraid of going to Hell (The idea of Hell is scary no matter how you teach it). Honestly, it is confusing why he died subscribing to this theology because it sounds like we are still getting cast out if we don’t get it right —even though he died. You have to love everyone, but you can hate Satan. As good as that sounds, that still leaves room for hate in our hearts. Don’t raise your hands in church- we are not supposed to draw attention to ourselves. All of this was so much to take in, I can see why people are giving up! I never realized how stressful our after life theology was until I discovered the Holy Spirit who is here now. I discovered this through ministers from the Pentecostal movement – Jonathan Martin, Brian Zahnd, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Reverend Barber, and through a Franciscan Catholic Mystic Richard Rohr (books and Twitter are powerful tools) – just to name a few. It took pain to lead me to these ministers. The Pentecostal movement has their issues too – some sects went too far the other way from the rational faith. But when the Pentecostal movement is healthy, it is life! Their words are not just head words, these are words that bring life. You hear them and you can’t stay still because something amazing is happening. More on that in the next post. Also, since I was sure I was Pentecostal last year, I joined a Baptist church. Isn’t that logical?! LOL Oh I love the Holy Spirit!
A truth I found in all of this, when you find the joy of God “here and now ” then participating in the Kingdom is endless life “here and now”. I don’t know much about the after life. I see glimpses of Heaven everyday and that is fuel to keep going. I don’t know much about Hell, but I certainly see it all around us here and now. The glimpses of Heaven I see gives me fuel to be a person of the future and bring in the Kingdom of God (Heaven) now. The Kingdom is in us. We pray “On Earth as it is in Heaven”, let us live into that truth. We don’t have to guilt trip anyone into following God with the Spirit leading, and they know how loved they are. It is joy driven. This is something new for me. Fear based parenting, teaching and theology does not work-not if you are looking for joy. Not everything I do is fun, but I find the joy in it anyway. I found joy in a Baptist meeting! Seeing pain and suffering is horrible and makes me cry. I am not afraid to cry and be mad anymore. I feel energy to be a part of the solution versus believing this is how it is and Jesus will take care of it later. Claiming Christ is not just saying it and speaking the right prayers. It is a way of life. If you miss the heart, then there is no joy and no life. I found joy and I want this to spread. I believe in grace when I get it wrong. If the fruit of what I have done is not of the Spirit, I repent (rethink) and change my direction. People need to think critically about the Bible– when we don’t our theology may be death versus life. I will write a post naming authors and theologians I have studied to make this switch soon.