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Christian Living and the Purge

July 15, 2010

As is my tradition, while on vacation I did a bit of purging. I’m kind of an acquirer so making a point to get rid of things I don’t use, need or want anymore is a continual process for me. The big purge this time was the bookshelf.

Deciding which books to keep was hard. It always is. If I still have a book after 5 years and I haven’t read it should I get rid of it? If I’ve already read a book should I keep it? I mean I’m not likely to read it again. I just don’t do that very often. Purging the bookshelf is a difficult task for me to concur. But this time I was inspired.

A few weeks before vaca., I realized that my shelves were full of Christian living books, and I’m not really trying to live like a Christian anymore. Most of the books were frustrating reminders of the lack of answers or insight held within them. In fact, the majority of the books were incredibly rudimentary treatments of, or perspectives on, the Bible or modern protestant church doctrine.

For someone who went to a Christian college, minored in ministry and served as a pastor they were like kindergarten. (I’m pretty smart too, in case you haven’t noticed.) As I looked over the titles I was increasingly frustrated. One book after another had promised to answer some spiritual question, and one book after another just plied me with trite, Christian platitudes that felt like the equivalent of an aspirin for a gaping chest wound.

The painkiller might make it hurt less for a moment (big might here), but it doesn’t do anything to close up or heal the wound and ultimately thins the blood – which we all know is a bad idea if you’re bleeding. Even if you are just bleeding metaphorically.

So, I got rid of all of them. Well, almost all of them A couple of them that I haven’t read seemed to have the possibility of real truth and insight so I kept them. Hopefully, I won’t be brutally disappointed…again.

It was a pretty symbolic process for me. And I found myself asking questions like, “What if I decide Christianity is the only way after all? Will I want these books back then?” Or how about what to do with my Bibles – should I keep them?” I have five – all different translations or different types of study Bibles. What about my exhaustive concordance? What good is that going to do me on the path I’m on now? Or the topical Bible reference. Do I really care what the Bible says about premarital sex or drinking now?

And what was I going to do with the books that the second-hand bookstore wouldn’t take? I didn’t want to throw them away and I thought about giving them to my last church, but I didn’t want to have to talk to the pastors and either explain or avoid explaining why I didn’t want the books anymore. Maybe mom could take them to the church for me. But then I would have to explain to her why I didn’t want them anymore.

Crap.

I flipped through some of the books – I even read half of one that my mother had given me. I stopped when it finally infuriated me to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. Each chapter started with a promise of information and ended with a moot point at best. The writers didn’t even approach clarifying truth with their answers. They might has well have been saying, “Do this, because I said so.” The whole process eventually drove me to tears. (Of course. I hope it doesn’t irritate the rest of you that I cry at the drop of a hat.)

I almost frantically called Vikki – one of my current spiritual leaders – or even my counselor (who I guess could also be considered one of my current spiritual leaders). But while I was searching for their numbers I managed to calm down.

“This is okay Crystal, you just have to let these things go,” I heard myself say. “You can always buy more books.”

Of course I realize it isn’t all about the books. It’s in identity point. And letting go of an identity point is scary and not just for the sake of my own thoughts and feelings. How will people react to me with out my being associated with Christianity? What will they think of me? I can only imagine that my Christian friends will pray for me and try to get me back on the team. But even my non-Christian friends might be an issue. I can’t handle smug, I-told-you-so crap.

Just a few days before the big Christianity purge a friend of mine who is a pastor – and has specifically been my pastor several times in my life – called me because he has been missing me at church. I didn’t call him back.

I didn’t call him back because I don’t know what to say. This has been an emotional and confusing journey already. I think I’ve figured some things out but they are my things. I want to keep them to myself for the most part. Which is strange for me. I’m usually very out there with every element of myself and my life. It’s that whole not believing in secrets thing.

But this. I don’t want to debate it, I don’t want to defend it and I don’t want anyone treating me like it’s about time I figured it all out. I just want to be trusted to myself.

I want to assure everyone that I am seeking God and I am seeking truth. And for those of my friends who are scared by why I’ve been saying and who believe in an infinite, all-powerful God, I assure you that I will find him.

Which is what I was considering telling my pastor friend until he e-mailed me this morning. The last sentence of the e-mail was, “Keep seeking truth…it will win out.”

It’s nice to know that he trusts me to find the truth on my own – even if the truth he’s talking about is Christianity.

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