Do I Really Belong Anywhere?

When I look at the vast number of ways people can be divisive, I feel even more like I don’t belong anywhere.  Whether it’s political, religious, or anything else, I don’t tow the party line anywhere.  I don’t believe in any extremes.  I hate labels.  I sometimes don’t know exactly where I stand on things, but if it in some way makes people more distant from each other, there’s a really good chance I don’t want any part of it.  The only thing I’m definite about is my relationship with God- not how others view their own Christianity, but MY relationship with God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit… and those don’t need to be flashy and highly viewable.  I shouldn’t have to advertise it; and I shouldn’t have to hide it.

Because of my ‘religious’ beliefs (I detest the word ‘religious’- it screams of empty rituals and mindless devotion), I don’t like when people are labelled and judged by humans. I don’t believe we have the right to do that to other people. We’re human, a.k.a. fallible, and need to focus on our own shortcomings instead of being hateful  (Yes !  Christians are some of the most hateful people on the planet for those Christians who haven’t figured that out!). Check out Matthew 5 & 6… great chapters in the Bible.  Do I have specific feelings about specific issues? Yep.  But I don’t think many of those things need to be put up for public approval. Some things are between the person and God.  And, most really aren’t worth making illegal to clog up an already stagnant legal system even more. We need to keep the violent people contained…not someone who had an abortion after being raped, or something else that is seen as a violation against life and God.  When Christians use God to back up their own beliefs, it makes me sad. God can speak for Himself- and He has.  He told US to love each other, and to leave the judgement to Him.  

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own beliefs and views on things. I do. But I just can’t stand the fighting about issues that are really very personal.   How does any Christian think that people who don’t have a relationship with God are ever going to see the benefit of knowing Him if Christians spend so much time belittling those they disagree with?  Is it not possible to have a personal (and deeply valued) belief system and relationship with God, and still reach out with an open hand to someone who thinks and believes differently?  Does being a Christian mean avoiding everybody who doesn’t show up at church 3-5 times a week?  That old ‘go ye into ALL the world….’ ?  I guess that was only for the olden days, eh? Seems that folks only want to be with like-minded folks, which is fine, until it becomes exclusive.

When I hear the far right talk about the ‘free’ entitlements such as Medicare, it makes me so sad.  Because of things outside of my control, I’m disabled, and on Medicare (and have been since I was 44 years old).  I worked as an RN for 20 years, and paid into Medicare and Social Security.  That ‘free’ Medicare costs me about $500+ per MONTH, to pay for premiums/co-pays so that I do have full coverage and the medications/supplies I need. Medicare is very deficient in many areas.  Medicaid is extremely difficult to qualify for; it’s not something that a person just goes and gets in line to receive.  It’s portrayed as the medical care that anybody can get if they don’t have something else, and that is absolutely not true.  For me to qualify for Medicaid help (during the times when I had a different Medicare supplement policy that left me with thousands of dollars in copays), I had a $2200/MONTH ‘deductible’ (called a spend-down).  That didn’t even leave enough for rent, let alone premiums, food, utilities, medications, etc.  I agree that there have to be requirements to be met in order to qualify…but I also know that those who find Medicare and Medicaid to be such ‘freebies’ just don’t understand.  It costs me $6000/year for the privilege of having ‘free’ medical care.  I don’t belong on that part of the  ‘right’.

When I hear the far left speak of ‘conservatives’ as people who generally hate most of the planet, it saddens me.  Many of my beliefs are conservative (stiflingly so to some), and yet I have met so many people from so many backgrounds and belief systems that I want to be inclusive.  Excluding people (who are not dangerous to themselves or others) from any part of society damages the whole of society.  When I look at the general decline of behavior as a whole since the ‘Leave It To Beaver’ days, I see that a dose of conservativeness isn’t a bad thing !  There is room for so much more than the black and white thinking that predominates every ‘side’ of any issue.  I don’t belong with the ‘left’ either.

I’ve been rethinking a lot of my personal views on a lot of things.  For the most part, that means that the people I grew up with probably see me as being wayward at best, and a heretic at worst.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I just don’t think that I know enough as a human to judge many of the ‘hot topic’ issues.  And I’m not afraid to admit it.  Yes, I believe the Bible.  But I also know that there are things that are known now that weren’t known in Biblical times, and changes in social and scientific ‘norms’ that cause me to step back from judgement and wait until the day I can ask God for myself, instead of categorizing  groups of humans, or specific activities- and in the meantime, try not to cause more divisiveness.  In the end, the nitpicking isn’t going to help anyone.  What is in my heart is what matters- and I’m OK knowing that God sees that better than anyone.

I’ve discussed my views on homosexuality with people who know me from the church I grew up in, and  with those who have no specific religious views, and it’s not surprising which group verbally beat me up for my beliefs.   I believe that being gay is biological. There. I said it. I don’t think it’s a choice. Or a ‘lifestyle’, like being a jet-setter or redneck, or something.  I’ve also talked before about the kids I saw when I was working as a pediatric RN, who had ‘ambiguous genitalia’ (that is a diagnosis based on biology)… those kids literally had either both male and female sex organs (internal and/or external) , or the only way to determine their gender was by sending their blood for genetic mapping.  Gender is determined by the X-Y chromosomes from the sperm, and are affected by the mom’s hormones while she is pregnant. If the mom is carrying a genetically determined baby girl, and for some reason has some surge of testosterone during the pregnancy at just the right time, why is it so hard to understand that the baby is affected?  If the baby can end up with externally visible gender ambiguity , why is it so hard to think that there can be biological changes in the brain that determine sexual orientation?  Regardless, I don’t know enough to judge someone. I’ve had many gay and lesbian co-workers, one transgender co-worker who was in the process of reassignment, and assorted friends and relatives who are gay or lesbian.  God loves them.  I love them.  SO, I don’t fit in anywhere.

Criticizing the President… Oy.  I shared some very anti-Obama things on FaceBook during the campaign, and I regret it.  I don’t trust Chicago politicians. Period. But he was/is our POTUS.  The office deserves respect, and once again, judgement isn’t my role. The entire political atmosphere scares me, but instead of being so negative, I need to wake up and do more praying than criticizing.  It’s never just about the man in the Office… no one person is responsible for the mess (or success) of a country. It’s not fair to bash our country’s leader, especially in the worldwide social media society we live in.  I also cringe when such stupid things are criticized, such as the sleeve length of Mrs. Obama’s dresses…. seriously?  Does it matter?  When every last thing is torn apart (instead of trying to see the positive), what good comes of it?  Constant criticism just becomes background noise, and nothing said by those who continue to tear things down is heard.  From then on, their credibility is going to be questioned by me (I tend to verify most of what I read online anyway 😀 ).   I don’t trust anyone in Washington, D.C., and the media is always suspect… I want the source, and their interest in the topic.

Another hot topic issue that I do have some personal opinions about is abortion. Specifically, post-rape abortion was  in the press this last year, and some really ignorant politicians made some incredibly stupid remarks. The body doesn’t ‘shut down’ and prevent pregnancy after ‘legitimate’  rape (is there an ilegimate rape?).  If a woman is ovulating when she is raped, she can very easily become pregnant.  I’ve been there.  I had an agonizing decision to make, and I found out very painfully why women consider abortion. I get it.  I couldn’t do it.  And I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.  I was told I was just stressed out because of the rape, and few people would even talk to me about the pregnancy.  I was blessed to have miscarried, though I feel horrible for those who miscarry that are wanting a baby. For me, it was the best outcome for a traumatized 23-year old brain. I’ll never forget that morning- both the horror…and the relief.

Adoption isn’t always the ‘perfect’ answer, either. I was adopted, and I have had positive experiences with my adoptive and biological families.  But I couldn’t give a baby away- and how could I raise a child of rape without prejudice?  How could I tell a baby it was conceived in violence with someone who terrorized me, and have that child ever believe his/her existence was a good thing?  Even if I truly did the best I could to be loving (and with my love for babies and kids, I probably would have done OK, but the whole thing was terrifying).  As an adopted child- who was always told that my being placed for adoption was a wonderful thing for my adoptive parents- I understand that underlying feeling of being a ‘mistake’, even in the best of circumstances.  I later found out that I was conceived with an abundance of love, which meant a lot to me. But growing up, especially as I entered and went through adolescence, I did feel like a fluke.  Being the product of a rape can never be something that can be smoothed over with later information should I have met the child (if I’d carried it to term and relinquished it), or managed to raise it with some degree of actual love and affection.  I don’t ever think abortion is an acceptable form of birth control; there are responsible ways to address pregnancy prevention.  But I ‘get it’ when someone is raped and just can’t emotionally deal with a pregnancy.  I don’t like it. I don’t support it. But I get it.  Once again, I don’t fit with so many that I grew up with.

The ‘morning after pill’… it does NOT terminate a pregnancy. It prevents implantation. Without implantation, even a fertilized egg will not result in a pregnancy. It’s simple biology.  The ‘morning after pill’ is not the same as abortion.  There are pills that do terminate pregnancies.  It is good to know the difference.

The more things there are to divide people, the more I don’t fit anywhere.  I can see many sides of an issue, and I don’t understand why others can’t do the same. Am I just stupid?  I’ve  generally graduated with honors, and done very well when I worked as an RN. Am I naive? Maybe.  Do I just want to feel like it’s OK to not hate one side or the other in order to ‘belong’? Absolutely.  That’s really all I want.  And to not be belittled for wanting that.   I’m glad that humans aren’t my Ultimate Judge.

Growing Up Evangelical

The term ‘evangelical’ has become attached to so many negative meanings nowadays. It’s really sad that most things to do with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or anything ‘religious’ (I don’t like that term) are met with such hostility.  Though I do understand some of why that ‘is’.   Sometimes Christians can be their own worst representatives.  I also learned later (in my 30s) that a person’s ‘assumption’ of God often reflects how they view their earthly father. If that relationship was damaged or weak, it’s hard to comprehend a loving, consistent God.  When I read the Bible for myself, I found a very compassionate and constant God.  I also found so much more love than judgement.

I grew up in an evangelical church from the time I was a newborn.  It just ‘was’ in my house.  I had a great experience in that church when I was a kid. It was my primary social contact, and the youth groups were a lot of fun.  I was in various choirs, and most weeks, I was at church functions at least four different times.  Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evenings, and some sort of weekend youth activity.  In the summers we had Vacation Bible School as little kids, and I worked as a VBS volunteer when I was in high school.  I spent eleven years working in the church nursery.   We also had an amazing summer camp that I attended for week long sessions as a young kid. For  2 1/2 summers I was on summer staff as a nature counselor between my senior year of high school and early college ages.  My memories of that camp are amazing; I still love that place.

When I was growing up in that church, I never felt that there was an exclusivity about it.  Back when I was younger, there weren’t that many controversial issues that were discussed openly.  That made for a fairly sedate experience.  The things I was taught were directly from the Bible.  Were there some ‘taboo’ topics? Yep.  But it wasn’t something that was beaten into me by some rabid preacher.  There were simply Bible verses that were discussed about various topics, and that was that.  No drama.  Nobody talked about abortion, LGBT issues, or even divorce (until well into the 80s when a Sunday School class for divorcees was started).  But I didn’t hear much about those things outside of church either.

As a teenager, there was the expectation that sex happened after marriage (and I had no issue with that).  Language reflected character, and was expected to be G-rated (I later had some issues with that, and had a lousy character for a while). Clothing was expected to be modest- but wasn’t Puritanical- shorts and t-shirts were fine, as long as they weren’t Daisy Dukes or low-cut.  There weren’t any bans on dancing, playing cards, or going to the movies. The guidelines for deciding activities were simple: Was it something that glorified God?  And God is a pretty open-minded guy on many issues !  (I have read through the Bible many times, and found that most of the ‘rules’ were imposed by humans, not the Bible).  There were instructions about the power of music and the lyrics and beat that could distract from beliefs; music is powerful.  I never got into hard rock, and even paid attention to the softer rock. It had to have a positive message.

How I decided what was right for me was also simple. It was in the Bible.  When I became a Christian (an actual event- not a progressive tally of behavior and deeds), I was very young. As I got older and realized the sacrifice of what Christ did on the cross for all of us, obedience to the Bible became something I wanted to do.  It wasn’t forced on me; I wanted to follow the Bible out of respect and gratitude. I don’t always do it ‘right’, but I’m a work in progress. Since God has my heart, He can work in me.  It’s a relationship more than a religion (which to me implies mindless rituals and Sunday behavior that isn’t the same as the rest of the week). It’s something that grows and gets more mature in time.  It doesn’t end, but that’s the beauty of it; God won’t leave me.

I had no interest in having sex before marriage. I wanted to wait until I met someone that I loved, so it was special and not something to take for granted.  My body was considered to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, and what I did with it was to reflect that.  Drinking and drugs weren’t of any interest- I did go through some stupid drinking when I moved away from home (1200+ miles away), but it wasn’t fun. I stopped.  My activities were always rather dull. I’m just not that interested in things that I couldn’t do with Jesus standing next to me (which He is).  I don’t feel I missed out on anything.  My eating disorder years were a bad example of Christian values; I didn’t respect the body God loaned me.

I do think that some issues were either glossed over or ignored.  I was always taught to help my ‘neighbor’ (basically anybody), and not think much about it beforehand.  I wasn’t taught to evaluate a situation and feel that it was OK not to help someone if my safety was at stake. It IS Biblical to be safe and not suffer from the absence of common sense.   But that’s the big ‘negative’ I experienced (and it was significant in how it affected my life). On the whole, I value my church upbringing as THE single best thing my parents ever did.

When I hear about the extremists on the news, it breaks my heart.  Most evangelicals (or conservatives in general) aren’t haters.  Many have strong convictions, and may disagree with some social issues, but that’s not the same as ‘hate’.  God wants everyone to join Him. Heaven is a choice.  Salvation is a decision- it can’t be earned by any deed or quality of life. God used social outcasts for most of His plans in the Bible.  He used people of good reputations as well- He can use anybody.  God doesn’t hate anyone (that preacher from Kansas is going to have a lot of  explaining to do one day).  I can’t view anyone who hates another person as someone who is following the Bible.  God is the only Being who has the right to judge anyone.  He gave us all free will and it’s not up to me to define that for anyone. Do I have opinions on things? Yep.  But I can’t climb on board the hate wagon.

As far as salvation and Heaven go, it’s very simple. The Bible is clear on that.  Those who believe that Jesus died on the cross to be a sacrifice for our sinful nature , He rose from the dead, and is coming back someday to take believers to live in Heaven for eternity.  For those who die before He returns, their spirit goes to Heaven when they die IF they have prayed for Christ to forgive their sins, and believe in His gift to us when He died on the cross.  It’s very simple.  It’s open to anybody.  There are no mandatory deeds to ‘earn’ salvation (earning salvation isn’t possible – which is pretty neat, nobody is excluded from eligibility).

(We’re born into sin as human beings; the age of accountability is different for everyone, and  includes developmental stage and the awareness of right from wrong; I don’t believe that babies or those who can’t understand the process of confessing sin and receiving Christ will go to hell).

Baptism is a sign of obedience, but not a requirement for salvation.  The Holy Spirit is a guidance system, and comforter.  Speaking in tongues isn’t something dramatic used to ‘show’ other people anything.  It’s a language between the believer and God, and not required for salvation, or as ‘proof’ of the Holy Spirit’s  presence.  He can be very quiet and private ! The Bible is a constant, and never changes (the versions and translations may, but the message is the same, from the same Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic sources).  There are so many verses that are ‘go-to’ verses when times are tough. Psalms and Proverbs are huge helps when I’m feeling bad, or feel I’m being ridiculed by humans.  Proverbs is also a great source of direction on how to live a prudent life. The New Testament gives me the blueprint for living as a Christian (the Old Testament is still valid, but the words of Christ are invaluable).  The books of John and Romans are great for new Christians and those who want to go to the ‘nitty gritty’ before anything else.

I mess up living as a Christian all of the time.  I ask for God to forgive my daily screw ups, and He is faithful and just to forgive me when I confess my sins.  He knows my heart like NO human ever will.  With Him, I am totally understood.  There is none of the feeling of being misunderstood that I encounter with the vast majority of people I know.  But since asking God to forgive my sins and receiving the gift that Jesus gave when He died on the cross, I can never be ‘unsaved’.  I can fall away from the type of life I want to live- but I can also return to a closer walk with God at any time.  He is still there. He is the ultimate loving Father.  The decisions of others, and my own decisions, can lead to trials and struggles in life… but that doesn’t mean God is ‘punishing’ me, or that he ‘makes’ bad things happen.  All decisions have consequences; I decide how I react to them.

I’m comforted all the time by the assurance of Heaven, especially with my health problems, but even before then.  I know that I’ll see other Christians again, which makes earthly death less painful.  I grieve for the temporary loss here, but know that in the grand scheme of eternity, the time on earth is very short.

I hope I’ll see you there. 🙂