by Leah Clouse
I had a dream once that I was chasing Jesus down a dark street. He was dressed in a blue business suit and was bleeding from the side. Wall Street Jesus. It made me wonder if Jesus could be marketed like Barbie. It also made me think that he’d probably buy his kids “street-walker Jesus” before “Wall Street Jesus” because at least there’s a lesson in humanity and brokenness there, but that’s not really the point.
My feet felt heavy, like I was running in sand. It took everything I had to take a single step. Just as I had begun to catch up he ducked behind a corner. By the time I caught up… he was gone. In my dream I remember sitting down on that street and weeping. Truly, I’m not sure I ever got off that stoop.
I woke that night, years ago, knowing that if I had just caught him I would have plunged my hand into his side and known. I am, and always have been, a doubter. Back when I first met God I was too broken to doubt anything. I believed because it was an escape. Like a flash I took my band-aid Jesus and off I ran, pink bible in hand. I come from a broken home and the simple act of belonging was enough. A lot of good came from those years. I met some incredible people and learned more about God and his goodness through them than I did on Sunday mornings. For a time I devoured all things Christian. Buffet Jesus. I needed the wholeness that he promised. I was desperate for the purpose He could provide to my abused teenage shell.
But then, I got it.
As I healed and started taking steps toward healthy relationships and boundaries I started to taking less emphatic gulps of my Jesus kool-aid. By then I had moved 500 miles from home and had successfully trudged through a smattering of issues via a lovely therapist. The closer to a healthy me I got, the wider my eyes became to the world outside of that which I’d come to understand. Then one day, without much notice at all, the last frayed cord connecting me to my *Uncle Rick Jesus snapped and I was left completely alone with a bare bones Jesus that I barely knew. The ways He didn’t add up got the best of me and my doubtful peasant heart grew harder by the day.
I have spent the last year getting to know God again. I had been more or less avoiding him for the better part of a thousand days. More than ever I’ve found that nothing is as black and white as I’ve been led to believe. There are questions I may not ever find sufficient answers to. [Does God care if we’re happy, or just faithful?] I’m working on being okay with the not knowing. [Are we all worshiping the same god?] I am desperate for a way to marry my old bright eyes with my new calloused heart. [The world is not a lovely place, are you really good?]
My old faith was strict. Conservative. Cliche. Homophobic. Judgmental. Better than yours.
I have spent a large portion of my adult life running from, and making amends for, who that faith turned me into. Now I’m faced with the memory of the good parts and a vague desire to reconcile the past. I used to be so full of joy. I miss that part. I miss the consuming love I felt during worship. [Now I sit and journal instead, growing increasingly bitter at the nothing I feel]. I miss knowing deep in my bones that God was a great guy. I miss the over-inflated feeling in my heart. There’s a cognitive piece of me that won’t allow me to get there anymore. Worship feels manipulative, like a ruse to crescendo us into that “feel good” euphoria of Christian camp. I can’t let go without feeling tricked. Cognitive self-awareness or gun-shy terror from feeling nothing for far too long?
The simple act of articulating the stirrings of my soul has got to mean something.
*”Uncle Rick Jesus” denotes a time in my life when I believed everything my Uncle Rick (my youth minister and Uncle) taught me just because he said it to be true. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with these beliefs, just that I hadn’t ever taken the time to explore and decipher them on my own.