We were discussing faith and prayer. I was sharing my belief in God and my relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ just as I had shared with her on so many occasions in the past.
Suddenly she looked at me and said "I don't believe in organized religion". Now I don't know if she was trying to get me to shut up (because quite frankly I do tend to talk a lot) or if she was just in the mood to start an argument. But I am fairly certain the answer I gave her was not quite what she expected.
My response was quick and simple. "Good - neither do I"
I am a child of God. A born again Christian faithful to the word of God.
Yet I despise "organized religion". Okay. Maybe "despise" is too harsh a term but you get my point.
"Organized religion" is what gives Christians a bad name.
"Organized religion" has divided more people than it has brought together.
And more wars have been started in the name of "Organized religion" than I care to count.
Now before any religious zealots begin to call me blasphemous - allow me to explain.
I believe the Bible to be true. I believe that Jesus walked this Earth in human form and I believe there is a God in Heaven who we will all answer to when we die.
But I also believe there are individuals on this Earth who seek their own gratification in the name of Jesus Christ and this is especially true when we discuss women in the church (oh, yes, we are going there).
I find it interesting that some churches still to this day do not allow women to preach. Some do not even allow them to speak at all. Yet if those same church leaders studied the Bible at all (as they profess to do) they would read countless accounts where Jesus used ......what for it.......WOMEN.... to help spread the gospel.
Since the dawn of time and certainly since the Bible was written, individuals have twisted the word of God to suit their own greedy ambitions. Jesus walked among lepers and prostitutes yet churches shut their doors to those individuals truly in need. Jesus treated men and women EQUALLY yet churches still shut out women who have been anointed to preach the Gospel.
I. Do. Not. Care. About. Religion.
But I do care about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Can we just set aside the whole "religiousity" thing for a minute and just talk about Jesus? Can we talk about being in the depths of depression and feeling His loving arms wrapped around me during my darkest hours? Can we talk about being a young girl of 13 who had just been molested by my great-grandfather and seeing the presence of Jesus at my bedside as I begged to die?
Those aren't images of religion. Religion didn't stop me from committing suicide (twice). Religion didn't save my life. But my personal relationship with Jesus Christ did.
Can I just tell you right now that if you are struggling with "religion" - it's okay. Know what else? It's even okay to question God and the Bible. God has big shoulders (they span the entire universe) - He can handle your questions. In fact, I believe He welcomes your questions.
Don't let the sins of man stop you from having a relationship with Jesus Christ. He will find you exactly where you are. He has found me in my car. At my bedside. Even at my father's grave. And every single time - He has never asked what religion I practice. He just held me. And loved me. And let me know that everything was going to be okay.
There will always be people in this world who will let you down. Sometimes they are even the people closest to you. But Jesus will NEVER let you down.
So when I tell you that I am a Christian - please don't call me religious. Because "religion" is what got Jesus crucified in the first place.
I am a Child of God. A Lover of people. ALL PEOPLE.
We are all struggling with our faith right now and that is okay. God understands. He is a big God.
Take your doubts and struggles to Him. Scream at Him if you like. I know I have. I have questioned God's intentions so many times and convinced myself on numerous occasions that MY WAY was certainly the better way. (SPOILER ALERT - IT WAS NOT).
There is No perfect Christian. There is No perfect religion. There are just children of God working to do the best that we can. And sometimes the best we can do is simply pray. If you don't know how to pray - start by talking to God. He welcomes your thoughts and your fears. You don't even have to speak in complete sentences. There have been many times when my prayers sounded more like indistinct chatter but God knew my heart. And He knew what I needed.
If you are struggling in your faith right now, it's okay. God sees you. And He will be ready for you when you are. He will meet you right where you are. All you have to do is ask.