By: Paige Crenshaw
Location: Wine Like a Mother blog
A Note from Katie Kochert first:
“Good morning dear reader. I know it has been some time since you have heard from me on the Learning to Live blog but as I am still working through the remnants of some brain fog after a recent autoimmune flare up, trust me, you don’t want my discombobulated words! So, in the meantime, God has recently blessed me with a beautiful piece by a family friend, Paige Crenshaw, on her blog, Wine Like a Mother, that she has been gracious enough to allow me to share with you this week. Let it be a beautiful reminder to you, as it was to me, that His GREATEST commandment was to love, and NONE of them were to judge, either intentionally or unintentionally. Thank you Paige!”
If you would rather go to Paige’s blog site and read the article directly please click the link below (don’t forget to subscribe for updates while you’re there!)
Check Yourself…Then Let Your Light Shine
Check Yourself…Then Let Your Light Shine
By: Paige Miller
March 17, 2021
I went back to church.
I got myself dressed, dressed my baby, loaded up in the car and I went back to church.
I drove 2 min down the street, parked in a spot along side the brick walls I attended every Sunday for the entirety of my childhood.
I stepped out onto the pavement, nerves tingling over my body, a slight shake in my hands and something uneasy fluttering in my stomach.
I faced the glass door, heavy in my hand and pulled it open, distant memories flooding my thoughts.
I walked down the hallway, past the now empty Sunday school rooms.
Rooms that used to be filled with couches, chairs, a ping pong table and most importantly… people.
Kids, adults, families, the same faces you saw every week, attendees that had grown to be friends, church family…familiar.
We would sing together and we would worship together. We would celebrate together when exciting things happened and we would mourn together when the unexplained occurred.
The place would buzz with talk, laughter, hugs and handshakes.
I vividly remember the story of one Sunday as a little girl, maybe age 3 or 4 of myself standing in that hallway showing off my new princess undies to my church bestie, dress lifted above my head I was so excited to share with her what the Easter bunny had brought me. My mom moved quickly pulling my dress back down, covering me up as embarrassment flushed her cheeks. Just as my friend returned the favor in pulling up her dress and showing off her new princesses too.
This exchange was quickly followed by our mothers explaining to us how it was not appropriate to show our under garments off in public. My friend and I not quite understanding or caring what the big deal was shrugged it off. The onlookers chuckled at our innocence while we proceeded to the sanctuary.
If that didn’t warn my parents of the wildness that lived within me I’m not sure what else could have! (Sorry Deon and Sherri, it’s not my fault God gave me this fire. That’s a conversation for you two to have with Him! haha)
My favorite part of the sanctuary was the massive stain glass window at the back of the church. Its colors blended together in beautiful patterns that made you feel God’s presence in the building every time the sun would shine through it. I remember standing in front of that window, curious as to how it was made and put up there in that way. Admiring in awe at how something so cold like glass could feel so warm standing in front of it as the gleams of light pushed through. The thoughts of a curious but innocent child as I looked up and wondered, as I felt and heard those whispers for the first time from God.
I remember spending time learning Bible songs and memorizing The Ten Commandments. Practicing Bible verses and The Lords Prayer. Sitting around the round tables doing crafts and hearing stories that were simplified from the Bible, making them easier to grasp for us young and eager learners.
I would talk among my Sunday school classmates about “good and bad” or “right and wrong”. About what it would mean to be a good person and how to make good choices.
I remember the Easter egg hunts that my grandparents would watch and the week of Bible school that I would attend every summer.
It was joyful, it was exciting, it was routine.
We sat in the same pew of the sanctuary every week, the white foam seats crafted together by beautiful oak wood. Red carpet covering the floors that I would walk down on my assigned Sunday to collect offerings or to light the candles upon the alter. The piano player would play Hymns I knew so well that I can still sing along if I hear them today.
The Pastor would stand in front of his mic and teach, talk and remind us that we must be good to find salvation. We must follow the way, the path and the light to lead the life God wanted us to lead.
I was little, but I believed. I was baptized and I promised myself I would always be “good.”
Then I grew up.
Life wasn’t as simple as it had been as a small child. Living life on the edge seemed to be the better way to make friends, seem cool and most importantly fit in.
Fully immersed in the mind of a teenager I thought I had all the answers.
Throughout those years things got harder, temptation grew stronger, opinions of others and the voices around me became louder.
I got scared.
I wanted to feel accepted, I didn’t want to feel judged. I wanted to prove that I could be good in my own way, I could say I believed but not actively live that way. I mean, if I’m a good person, that’s good enough…right?
I’ll be fine. Everything is fine. I’m in control. I can do this.
I don’t need church, or someone to tell me how to live. I don’t need to feel judged or constantly told I’m doing things wrong, the voices in my head do that enough.
As a teen I still came to that church when my parents could convince me to, usually half asleep or trying to hide the beer on my breath from the party I snuck off to the night before. I wouldn’t sit in that second pew anymore but I would hide in the back among the other few teenagers that were also hiding from their parents.
We began mocking our church, complaining about having to be there and eventually grew into young adults not caring what their parents thought and just didn’t show up at all.
I questioned my faith. I questioned if what I had been taught all of those years was real or worth it. I didn’t want to hear when I was wrong or what choices I could of made to avoid some of the troubles I found. I didn’t want to feel the judgement because all of those teachings were telling me that all this wildness inside of me was “bad” that I was no longer “good”, I was tarnished and stained with sin. Wasn’t it?
All of the looks the people gave me in my church and other congregations that I had attended over my young adult years were just looks of disappointment. The whispers that I was damaged goods, a pretty girl with a bad reputation.
I got pregnant out of wedlock, married and divorced. I was a drinker, too wild or just a “black sheep”.
I could believe in God, but I surely did NOT under any circumstances have to go to church to face all of that negativity, to stand face to face with those people that were just going to be kind to my face and talk poorly behind my back. I did NOT need to put on a pretty smile and play the part so well like they did. I was an adult and I still had all the answers. I could figure it out by myself.
Marked by choices of a young child, a confused child, a lost child I ran away, not only from church but from my faith as well.
Running from my faith led me down the emotional and spiritual path of least resistance. Along that road I internally felt things like anxiety, fear, shame, emptiness, and self doubt. I tried harder than imaginable to fill each and every void with a cocktail and a heavy dose of sarcasm. I had moments of extreme guilt, pride, envy and hopelessness.
These feelings would creep their way into my mind and then into my heart. Convincing me that wasn’t just how I felt but that was who I was. Bleeding out all of those reminders that I had learned as a child that no matter what I was never alone…but I felt alone.
Scary right? All these big emotions and strong feelings that I didn’t know how to handle. I didn’t know where to put them so I just shoved them down further and pretended like they didn’t exist. A vicious cycle I repeated over and over.
Over time I became obsessed with correcting wrongs and the idea of perfection. I thought that if I could make everything look perfect on the outside the inside was sure to follow. I quickly learned that perfection wasn’t going to be the answer to solving my emotional uneasiness. So, I flipped the script and decided to just embrace my crazy, and tell myself that this chaos living within me was just meant to be the world I existed in.
Fast forward to the present, after being presented with a challenge at the beginning of the year I decided it was time to try something different. I have exchanged my typical coping mechanisms for healthier ones. I slowly began learning about the person within this body I have been living in and discovered a relatable explanation for my emotional, physical and spiritual rollercoaster of the last 15 years.
Glennon Doyle writes it perfectly in her book Untamed when she tells us that she spent years obtaining the idea of this perfect woman, then spent years in rebellion of her. Claiming the hot mess title with a hair flip to the other. I cried when I read it the first time.
Finally, someone who understands how this feels ?!
She explains that the problem with both of those things is that it’s a reaction to the idea that the “perfect woman” or “perfect human” exists. That out there somewhere in the world someone actually has it all together, without any emotional baggage or trauma they have experienced hiding underneath their surfaces.
Continuing her idea she shows us that the satisfaction we must find is in the truth that perfection isn’t real and completely unattainable.
It’s only when we realize that entirely, is when we will become free and freedom is the only way to obtain the person that you truly are. Not the perfect version or the rebellious version, the version of you that is your truest self. The one who can decide who she wants to be or what she wants to believe.
In learning about this so called “freedom” I decided to give church another chance as an adult with a clear mind. I decided to dust off my Bible to take a peek inside. Bracing myself for whatever judgements await.
Then I discovered the truth.
I discovered that it wasn’t the Bible’s or Gods judgement I had been receiving it was from other humans like myself. The looks or the words of my fellow people were the ones that had pushed me away from the idea of Christianity, not what was actually written in the words of the Bible.
I have always been a person that wears her struggles on her sleeve. I’m not ashamed to tell my story or to share with others the things that I have felt or been through. I share it because it’s part of who I am and without it I wouldn’t have my two beautiful daughters, something that I would never, ever change. In sharing my story as a teen or as an adult, being honest or loud I think I was searching for compassion even in the moments that I didn’t realize it. Instead of compassion most of the time it felt like the response that I got came packaged as criticism or judgement instead of love and understanding. Which can be very confusing for a young girl with a big heart.
Looking back now I think what had happened though wasn’t intentional. Most people, not all, but most don’t intend to make you feel judged. They want to show compassion and love but truth is scary, real feelings and hard feelings are scary so rather than dealing with them or dealing with you it’s better to keep you at arms length. To whisper to their neighbor about your struggle or glance in your direction rather than reaching out for that hug. Because just maybe their truth that is living within them might escape if they get too close to yours. It’s become a lot easier for us as humans to point the finger at someone else than risk people taking a look at us. We seek out the vulnerable to transfer the focus to so that we can keep running from our own skeletons. I’ve done it too, many many times.
That’s where things start to get blurry, because we are taught as children in the church by religious practices or religious people. People like us that claim and seem to have it all together or more together than you, so it gives this illusion that they have the right to shake their heads when you make a mistake. The problem with that is that the truth of Jesus isn’t in those actions. The love of God isn’t behind those whispers. It’s the egos of people that push to the surface to make you feel inferior.
The truth of Christianity is that beyond religious practices humans have adapted to their liking, we are not the ones that are meant to judge. We aren’t the ones who are supposed to determine what sin is more severe than others. We aren’t meant to take away the peace of another because of our opinions.
The things that we ARE meant to do are beautiful things, Godly things, divine things.
We are meant to show LOVE, show COMPASSION, show MERCY, and SHINE OUR LIGHT so that it brightens the darkness in the world.
It’s hard to fear the judgements of others especially with subjects such as these but the beauty of what I have discovered is that it should be okay for someone to stand up and say that they’re a Christian. I’m not here to argue about whose beliefs are right and whose are wrong. So don’t come at me…haha, this is just me bravely sharing my perspective.
Those who love them may not agree but they can have open conversations about all kinds of spiritual entities that they encounter. It may just be the case that those who don’t agree haven’t actually been listening to God’s word but religious practices and people claiming to be a Christian and not actually living the life of one.
We should be willing to respectfully have differences but not feel pressured to hide those parts of ourselves. I want to love the world in the way the My God loves me.
Without reservation, without resentment and without my ego deciding who is worthy of that compassion. Every human deserves that compassion.
We all deserve to have our own thoughts and beliefs without being in fear of judgments of fellow humans. We should be able to attend church and not feel side eyes or whispers about whatever latest event may have occurred in our lives. We should have the ability to talk about the things we have faith in or bring us joy no matter what they may be. We all should be able to grow spiritually without being drug through the mud. We should always be willing to listen and to learn. I’m still learning every single day.
So I went back to church.
I made that choice to give it another shot. I’m not sure if it’s the honesty in Pastor Mark’s messages, the confidence I’m very slowly growing in myself or the fact that maybe not all of those people I stereotyped as judging me were actually doing that. Was it just something I had created in my mind, reflecting the judgment I carried towards myself in their eyes so I had somewhere to place the blame? I’m truthfully not sure but what I am sure of is that every moment I spend back in that church is a moment I feel more and more like my true self.
I see God in different places everyday. I receive messages from the universe he created through oracle cards, my devotional, a song on the radio, quality conversations, or in the sounds of my children’s laughter. It’s in those moments of my day that I feel peace, I feel lighter and I feel His presence around me in a world full of hate.
I ran away from my faith for a very long time. I ran fast, and justified it quickly.
This year I took my running shoes off and decided it was time for me to Be Still.
It was time for me to find myself and the God living within me, to discover the truths I believe in through salvation and forgiveness for myself and for others.
To live the way we were meant to.
Shine your light.
Never stop learning.
Remember the truth and forget the ego.
Share your story and struggle.
Don’t run afraid but sit and be still for awhile.
Sometimes it’s uncomfortable but the peace that you experience in those moments are worth all the pieces of discomfort.
With love and a great big hug,
Places I find light when the darkness creeps in…
- Wolcott United Methodist Church, I respect Pastor Marks messages so much
- Weekly sessions with my Intuitive Guidance Healer, Elaine
- My Life Application Study Bible
- The song, Power by Chris Tomlin and Bear Rinehart
- Taking a moment to be still…in silence or walking outside
“Be still and know that I am God…” – Psalm 46:10