Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is Sin?

I've come to the conclusion that I don't understand sin. Back when I was trying to accept Jesus into my heart for the "first" time, I was encouraged to ask God to show me my sin. Though it may have been that I didn't really want to see, there still didn't seem to be much revealed besides the artificial trappings of the Church. By that I mean I didn't actually feel guilty for anything unless I told myself, "The Bible says that this is wrong." And then I would force myself to feel some sort of guilt. Even after I "received Jesus" on February 1, I didn't feel like he had saved me from a lifetime of sinfulness that was weighing me down. In fact, all that was weighing me down was my false beliefs about Jesus. Once I chose to believe that he loved me, I felt lighter and freer, though that belief didn't last.

Now that I have, at least temporarily, walked away from the guidelines of the Church, I don't feel the pressure to be full of guilt any more. Why bother? Why label things as wrong when they really don't feel that way? Sure, I'm still going to follow the law and I'm not doing outlandish things just for the heck of it. I still believe in a moral code. (Don't even get started on where it comes from. That's a whole different discussion entirely.) I'm just sick of trying to make my life fit in a box that wasn't made for it. If I don't feel hurt by it, and no one else is, why should it be a sin? It all just seems so arbitrary.

I know that things can be said about this. Believe me, I spent my life saying them to myself. I'm just tired of having to explain things away. Why isn't it evident when something is evil? Why can't we decide based on our reason and feelings? Or is that what sin is? Not accepting the rules as they are given to us? I just don't know. But I know I'm tired of being afraid all the time. So, at least for now, I'm leaving the rulebook behind.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Making Lists

I don't think I have ever wanted something so bad that I would do anything to get it. This was my problem when people were trying to get me to accept Jesus for the "first" time. I just didn't want it enough.

Even with this problem, I still have motivation to get things done... but only when I perceive consequences for not doing them. What "they" will think is always what drives me. If "they" are not in the equation, there is no drive. I never seem to be able to motivate myself simply by desire. Sure, I would like to have a car, but I'm driven to save for one more by the thought that the family needs another car than my desire to have one. My sister, on the other hand, sees a car on the way home from work and decides it is "essential to her being" (those are her words).

I really just want to be so filled with passion about something that I can't eat, can't sleep. I want to pine for something, to want something so much that I will work for it. I'm tired of my laziness overcoming all my puny desires. I want something so powerful that it drives me to action. I'm tired of making lists of pros and cons to help me make my decisions. Can't I just follow my heart for once?! I know what I'm asking for has its own problems, but it just seems so much more human to feel with that intensity. Am I really just wired to be bland?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Today was a lazy day. I just couldn't bring myself to do much besides sleep. I didn't even take a shower this morning. It's kind of sad.

Near the end of junior high, two of my teachers had us write a letter to our future selves to be opened upon graduating from college. Although some of my friends from back then opened their letters a mere few years after writing them, I just now dug mine out and read it. And to be honest, it made me kind of sad. When I talked about what I wanted to be remembered for, everything just dripped with my perfectionism. It's not that I wanted anything bad in itself, just that I could feel the over-active desire to be liked behind all those goals.

Besides that, all of the goals I had then have now fallen from view. For example, I talked about wanting to keep playing soccer for the rest of my life. The very next school year after writing that, I quit soccer altogether. Another goal was to write professionally. I basically haven't written any fiction since high school, nor do I really have much of a desire to. It just seems like so much work now.

A lot of my current "goals" are like that. I want things, but I don't want to put in the work to get there. I want to lose weight, but the very thought of the gym makes me tired. I want to figure out my relationship with God, but the thought processes I have to go through to get there are so draining. When will I care enough about something again to really just go for it? Sometimes I wish I were more like my sister, who just jumps into things full force, no looking back. She's so fearless. My life, on the other hand, is ruled by fear. I'm so tired of it...but, once again, I just don't have the oomph to make any changes. I guess I'm just stuck.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm starting to not post everyday... I find I just don't have much to say. Maybe a blog was a silly idea after all. Besides, I'm basically just talking to myself on here...

Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to do much of anything today. I woke up, ate breakfast, and then promptly went back to bed until after noon. But the especially good part was, I had a kitty with me. I don't know if everyone feels this way, but I always want animals to like me. When my grandma had a horse for a brief period, I would always approach the fence and call out to her, expecting to be a horse whisperer or something. It's the same with my cats. When I got home from college and my dad's cat immediately wanted me to pet her, I felt so loved. Like a cat wanting to be around me makes me a good person or something. Never mind that she only likes me for what she can get out of me. So, when one of my mom's cats stayed on my bed after I forcibly put her on there, I was elated.

This sounds cliche, but animals just feel so much safer than people. Sure, they love you because you take care of them, but it's so easy to feel special when they cuddle up next to you and want to be petted. They're kind of like kids in their shameless desire to be waited upon. Only I like pets way more than I like children. It's just so much easier to be yourself around your pets than it is around other people. They won't judge you or think you're weird. They don't care as long as you pet them and feed them!

Maybe the reason that human relationships frustrate me so much is that they require so much effort. Call me mean, but sometimes I just don't really care about other people's lives. I just want to feel loved! I'm sure the easy answer to this dilemma is to turn to God. He's supposed to be the one to love us even when we don't love him. But I just don't see this in my life. Sure, I've had a few answered prayers, but I've never felt an overwhelming sense of love from the Almighty. So either I'm not listening or he's not talking... and I'm tired of it being my fault. It's not pretty, but that's the truth.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Superstitious Prayer

I didn't realize until this morning that I forgot to post yesterday. Whoops. I was too busy being grumpy at my family and sleeping to remember...

But, on the bright side, I found out today that my stepdad got his job back! Now we can get out of debt! Hooray!

Anyway, as I was driving to the doctor's office today, I found myself sending up a silent prayer for safety. It was more of a reflex than an actual cry for help. It's just that I find driving so stressful that I want to make sure nothing happens. These subconscious prayers happen other times as well, such as when I'm taking a test or worried about a missing pet. It bothers me when I do this because it just seems like superstition to me. I don't really trust God to deliver, I just want to stack the deck in my favor. I think a lot of modern-day Christians are like this. They want life to go well for them, so they lift up a prayer in an attempt to placate the one holding the strings. It's like he's our all-powerful good luck charm or something, and I don't like it. What kind of relationship is that?

This sort of "easy answer" mentality shows up even more rampantly when the question of "God's will" comes up. I have heard people say so often (enough to want to hurl) when something doesn't go as planned, "Well, it must not have been God's will." What?! That's pure fatalism! Sometimes things just happen because God has allowed us to live in a free universe. He's not up there arranging everything in our lives to go exactly as he has planned. Sure, I believe God can give direction to those who ask, but I think our fall-back statement when things so wrong should not be something about his will. Sometimes we just don't know. And to live otherwise is to do away with free will.

I apologize that my thoughts are a little scattered today. I tried arranging this post several ways and just could not get it right. I don't really know how to state what I feel about these things. I just know they bug me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Back Story: Part II

Once again, all original thought has left me for today, so I will attempt to entertain you with another section of my back story.

After that Easter night when I thought about killing myself, I lived in constant anxiety that I was not giving my all to God. How I coped with my anxiety that night was to tell myself that I would try to obey every little voice that might be him, but that was not really feasible, I found out. And so I lived in immense worry. My stomach was constantly in knots, rolling with acid. Every day, it was as if it was Judgment Day - I felt that I had to decide to give my all to God at that moment or go to Hell for all eternity. And why couldn't I do it? I loved him, didn't I? I tried to talk with spiritual leaders at my school about what was going on, but nothing they said could ease the overwhelming feeling of dread I walk around with constantly.

Then, at a meeting I was attending for a spiritual leadership position I held on my hall, one of my fellow dorm leaders announced that she had given her life to Jesus for the first time, though she had lived her whole life thinking she was a Christian. She said that people at her church had opened her eyes to see that what she had before was just service to someone she didn't really know or love. Then she decided to receive the love of Jesus instead of trying to give and everything changed. She knew that she knew him and her life was suddenly filled with peace. Now, when this girl said these things, I was immediately angry. Why did someone have to come with this as the answer to my worry. Why did I have to say I wasn't a Christian for anything to change? Reluctantly, I called her to my room very late one night and confessed everything that had been going on. I told her that I thought I didn't know Jesus - and I meant it. She convinced me to start going to church with her, which began a four month struggle to give my life to Jesus, though I had already done so when I was five.

I talked with several people from the church individually, though I made little progress toward the place I was convinced I needed to go. I felt a real hole in my life, a real unhappiness and unrest, but, the more I thought about it, I didn't want to give up control of my life to Jesus. As many good things as people said about him, he just didn't seem that appealing to me. There was good that came of this time, though. With encouragement from others, I started the process of learning to just be myself and let God show me he loved me that way instead of trying to be perfect and therefore earn his love. (As you can tell from other posts, I am still working on the perfection thing.) I didn't read my Bible unless I wanted to, and stopped praying superstitiously. It felt like quite a departure from God, but it also felt freeing. I could finally just stop.

Then, on February 1, 2010, I sat during worship at a college-aged service, and wept. I thought about how awful I felt all the time and how much I needed Jesus. I realized that all I had to do was ask for him and he would do it. Seeing my tears, the friend who originally brought me to that church told me it was time to receive Jesus. She said I could have him right then if I just asked. I told her I wasn't ready. She said that she knew I was, that Jesus had told her he was faithful to save me. Another friend told me Jesus had told her tonight was my night to give my life to him. Though I felt pressured, I finally agreed to take the plunge and prayed the "sinner's prayer" that night to be saved. When we lifted our heads, everything was the same. They all started hugging me and rejoicing, but I mostly just felt confused. No lights? No smoke? Where was the life-changing moment? And yet, when they asked me how I felt, I knew that something was different. Something miraculous had happened. I felt peace. And joy. And all my questions just stopped. It didn't matter anymore because I felt loved. I had Jesus in my heart...and I knew it.

I'm sure you'll be waiting with bated breath for the next installment of this thrilling tale!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Perfect or Lazy

I really wouldn't make a good manual laborer. Not that I'm really weak or anything, but that I'm too much of a perfectionist. I was helping my grandmother clean out her car today, and every time I scrubbed something, I wanted to do it perfectly. I worried that I wasn't trying "hard enough," even in a simple car-washing.

This same problem occurs in my school work. I feel like I have to do my best all the time, or else I'm being lazy. There is no in-between. A lot of this comes, I think, from misinterpreting Colossians 3:23-24, which reads, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." I figured that if I was working for God, then I better give it all I had or else dishonor him. When I was younger, I finally had to write a note to myself beside this verse - "You can't get out the toothbrush for everything" - when I was literally using a toothbrush to clean the floor of one of the bathrooms in my dad's house, trying to "work at it with all my heart."

This mindset is still a major problem for me, as evidenced from my car-cleaning adventure. My last semester of college, my dad was trying to teach me how to do things "half-assed." (To quote Homer Simpson, "But, I'm using my whole ass!") I tried to listen to him and get a B, even a C, on an assignment or a test, but my brain kept telling me that to do so meant to be a bad person. Anything less than my best effort is sinful, apparently. And this doesn't just apply to school. I handed in resumes and applications at a hair salon and a car dealership today and I couldn't help thinking, "If I work there, I have to work as hard as possible, or else they won't like me and I'll be lazy." I just can't escape the mindset.

This is part of the reason why I'm so upset with religion. I feel like it made me this way. Now, before you start getting on my case for bashing Christianity, just indulge me a minute. I know that I had the choice to not interpret that verse in the way I did, but think about how my interpretation was reinforced. Aside from all the praise I received at school for working my butt off, haven't you heard pastors preach about being "stewards" of our time and talents? I think that the mainstream culture of Christianity reinforces my interpretation of Colossians 3. And look where that got me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Doing the Right Thing

Lately, there are just some people in my life that make me want to scream. I truly think that I hate them. I want them to suffer. All they have to do is open their mouths and I want to lash out both verbally and physically. So am I really bad deep down? Does this show my true self?

If I am really evil deep down, and in need of someone to wash me clean from my sin, why is my main desire in life just to be happy? That doesn't seem so sinister. Now, some people may claim that this desire just reflects our innate selfishness, which was the first sin in the Garden of Eden. But is the desire for happiness really so bad? Am I really supposed to choose the "good" over what makes me happy? I just don't get it.

What used to make so much sense in Christianity now seems like a burden. I used to want to do what was "right" and "good" just because it was so. Now I don't know why I put so much energy into something that made me miserable. Why should I live by any standard besides happiness?

When people do cry out to God, it always seems to be from a place of complete brokenness. So does that mean I need to feel even worse before God will help me? Before I will want his help? Why does a religion that is supposed to be about hope say you must be miserable before you "qualify" for assistance? This is what makes me afraid to be happy: the fear that is is truly a reflection of my evil heart, that I should really be miserable or else God will not reach out to me. I'm afraid of becoming one of those "godless heathens" who couldn't care less what God thinks. I'm afraid of losing my chance.

So what's the right thing to do? Go with my heart and ignore God, possibly damning myself forever? Or stick to my old principles and constantly try to incorporate God into my miserable life? Should I be happy or good? It doesn't seem like I can have both.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Next?

What do you do if you graduate college with a degree in religion and yet are totally disillusioned with all God has to offer? That's where I'm currently stuck. My degree is essentially worthless at this point. So what do I do?

Since I've been back home I've been slowly applying to various jobs, many of them clerical in nature. I'm mostly just looking for something to keep me busy and help me save some money for a car. But what about an actual career? To do that I would probably need to go back to school, but at this point I have no drive whatsoever. What happened? I used to be so into school and learning, and now I just want to sit on my butt and do nothing. And yet I'm bored. It's a twisted trap I'm in: I hate doing anything, but I'm bored beyond belief just sitting here. I don't want to exert any effort to better myself, but I hate where I'm at. I'm just stuck.

I don't think this is how life is supposed to be. Aren't you supposed to want to spend your life doing something? Aren't you supposed to have some sort of passion? At this point, anything requiring skill scares me and everything else seems boring. What happened to me? How am I supposed to go on living like this? At least when I was blinded by religion, I had something to be passionate about. Now what? Is it better to be blind but happy or to see the holes in your beliefs and feel miserable about it? How do I regain a semblance of purpose when all I believed in is currently hanging on by a thread? I just don't know anymore.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pursuit of Happiness

I remember once hearing a quote from C. S. Lewis that "God doesn't much care if we are happy." (Though I may have made that up... I can't find it online...) This thought has continued to haunt me since I first encountered it my freshman year of college. Does following God mean I will have to live with unhappiness? Are Christians doomed to fight through a life of sadness? Are we simply to "consider it pure joy" when we "face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2)?

I have spent the last two years being extremely unhappy. If being a Christian doesn't change any of that, why should I bother? To be completely honest with myself (which took me quite a while to do), I just want to be happy. I don't want to be afraid that I'm sinning all the time any more! I don't want to be weighed down by guilt! Where is the liberty that supposedly comes with the "spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:17)?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back Story: Part I

I'll be honest. I have nothing interesting to talk about today. My day so far has consisted of shopping and not buying anything (I'm so cheap...) and pleading with Rosetta Stone to hire me as an online English tutor. So, in lieu of more interesting musings, today's post will consist of a bit of the story behind this blog.

Like most of the students at my university, I grew up going to church and wanting to please God. When I was five, I prayed with my mom to accept Jesus into my heart. To be honest, I think I was just terrified of going to Hell and being separated from my family. I don't think it was a real heartfelt desire to be with Jesus at that point. But, whatever it was, that moment marked my induction into the culture of Christianity. From that point on, I tried to live by the standards set out in Christian circles and do my very best to be pleasing to God. I was pretty damn good at it, too! (Hmmm...something seems ironic there...)

By the time I got to high school, my religion had become my main focus in life. I was the one organizing Bible studies with my friends and vowing to never drink alcohol (you all know how long that lasted) and, eventually, planning on going to a Christian college. Once I got to college, my dedication to Christian principles hardened into legalism thanks to a particular Bible study I chose to be a part of. I felt that if I didn't love God with every fiber of my being, there was no point in being a Christian at all. And any deviation from a life devoted to God was indication of the true evil state of my heart. Pretty much, I was doomed. As you can guess, this led to quite a bit of anxiety. I felt I had to give my all to God or else he would reject me. All of this culminated the night before Easter 2009.

That night, I was kneeling on my floor, praying, and I thought I heard God tell me to go out into the hall and sing and the top of my lungs. I was afraid - what a ridiculous thing to do! So I didn't go out, and immediately felt extreme guilt clench around my ribs. That was it. He had rejected me. I had finally proved my allegiance was to myself and not to him. Now there was no turning back. I was going to Hell. Frantic, I roamed the halls, looking for someone to comfort me. I finally holed myself up in a bathroom stall and thought to myself, "I'm already going to Hell... What would it matter if I just killed myself?" That was my lowest point. That was where religion got me...and yet I still held on to it.

Well, that should be enough for now... More to come in the future!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Is it better to experience life making mistakes or to protect yourself from ever feeling such pain? Until now, I have lived my life protected from mistakes and from heartache. On the upside, I don't really feel like I have any regrets. On the downside, I don't really know what I believe because I've never tried things out. Has it been worth it? I have yet to decide.

After having my first drink last night, the world didn't suddenly cave in around me. I was still the same person. Because of my over-active guilt drive I felt a little sinful, but that was a minor feeling compared to just feeling healthy. Shouldn't I allow myself to have more experiences like that so I can actually grow as a person?

The problem with learning to experience life is that I'm afraid to have regrets. The few times I have taken risky steps it took me days of counseling from others to get over the feeling of guilt that followed. I think what I need to do is just go do something really crazy - get a tattoo, go get something pierced, get drunk with my friends - and then learn that it doesn't make me any less of a good person. (At least I think it doesn't...)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rule Breaking

So my dad and I went and saw Priest last night. It was surprisingly entertaining, vampires and cheesy villains and all. Plus is got me thinking about one of the things that makes me the most angry in my search for the truth: church authoritarianism.

In the movie, the mantra of the church was, "To go against the church is to go against God." They were insistent that the main character not pursue the vampire menace because it "doesn't exist," and to say otherwise was to be a sinner. Now, for better or worse, I am a huge rule person. To do anything that even remotely smells of rule-breaking leaves me anxious and guilt-ridden. But, nowadays, I'm beginning to question this way of life. I've always prided myself on being "orthodox" in my religious views, but what if I explored some other avenues? One of my good friends, who definitely loves Jesus and talks with him regularly, hates all rules and deliberately breaks them when they are placed upon him. Is he to be shunned for his heterodoxy or applauded for his life of liberty? I'm not sure yet. But I do know that I want to believe things because I actually believe them, not because I'm told I should.

I was impressed by a line in the movie that went something like this: "Our power doesn't come from the church. It comes from God." Now, I'm not about to go off on a church-bashing spree; I just want to point out that being on good terms with the church does nothing for you if you are also walking away from God. So, for right now, I'm forgetting about the rules for a bit and simply focusing on what God might say about my life. Who knows, it might actually be something good for once.

On a semi-related note, since I wasn't allowed to drink at my Christian college, tonight I will be going out with my family for dinner and my first drink of alcohol!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Well, here goes.

My father convinced me to start a blog so as to damper boredom. I've been home after graduating for almost a week now. My original plan was to relax for a month before doing anything, but apparently I'm no good at relaxing. I've already been searching for a job, cleaning, looking at used cars, and mostly just being bored. There goes my plan.

But the real reason I agreed to start a blog was to have an outlet for some of the life-altering musings I've been having for the last two years. Since April 2009, my life has taken a radical turn (we're yet to see if it is for the better). I no longer want to be perfect, and I no longer want to serve a God who wants me to be perfect. I've come to see that living that way was only making me crazy - almost literally. Since that night in 2009, I have been trying to learn who I really am instead of who "they" have told me to be my whole life. I have always been the perfect student and the perfect Christian. The one all my friends looked up to (or so I thought). But all of that perfection just ended up making me tired, anxious, and loveless. My process of change has been very slow, but this blog might just help me along a bit faster.