Legalism

Stop Talking About Legalism

Okay okay, I’ll fess up. Maybe that was clickbait.

But I know someone out there will probably read this and think, “man, she’s got to give this a rest.”

I really wanted to be done talking about legalism.

Thing is – legalism isn’t done with me. It runs deep. In the past, I’ve written posts like The Postpartum Legalist to share how anxiety revealed my faulty view of God and my legalism. I believed I was on the other side of the legalistic mentality. Those posts reveal a necessary turning point, but the healing continues.

After my own personal criticism of the name, I guess you could call me the “dreaded” recovering fundamentalist. (I was over it, remember?)

Legalism affects the wife, mother, and servant of Christ that I am. It is part of my story. Healing and growing in Christ is part of my sanctification. This is the journey I’m on.

I’m not done talking about it.

Going deeper than ever before with this, I went all the way back to the early days following my conversion. I asked myself this question, probably for the first time ever:

What if so much of what you believed protected you from worldliness and sin was the very thing infected you? What if the leaven that leaveneth the whole lump was zero discipleship, topical sermons, and a false doctrine of sanctification by works?

I opened my journal last night; the one I wrote in the year I got saved. In fact, the very first entry was from the night I accepted Christ. I had bought the journal to start the new year fresh, to “be” a better Christian. (Note: I came from a baptismal regeneration + just decide to follow Jesus belief.) The Lord rocked my world and with such conviction, I realized I had never truly asked Him to save me. I hadn’t ever turned from my self righteousness and unto His perfected work on the cross.

Guys, it was beautiful. The early entries are just beautiful. Sure, I didn’t understand everything, but I was so grateful to have been set free from perfection and trying to earn Heaven on my own. In one entry, I compared my life prior to being born again to that of Buddhists – all good works and good ideas, but false religion.

It was glorious.

It wasn’t long, however, before I began to see a pattern. I was constantly questioning whether or not I was truly saved because of feelings. I freaked when I couldn’t feel God. And I took a lot of sincere, convicted notes from sermons and Sunday school lessons like these –

“Are You A Spiritual Baby?” – a message loaded with insults toward people who complain and want to be the center of attention. The term “spiritual baby” was thrown around as an insult for people who couldn’t fall in line. If you’ve got a problem, suck it up and get over it. Grow up!

“Sticking to The Old Paths” – Jeremiah 6:16. Modern versions draw crowds, Christian rock aint Christian, “if it’s new it ain’t true”, obey your pastor even when he ain’t looking, rules you don’t like are there to protect you

“Worldliness and Godliness” – Sanctification is defined as set apart for God’s service. You get sanctified by throwing out music and movies that you shouldn’t have in your life. You get sanctified by doing and being.

Oh, but the messages written down in journals have nothing on the ones written in my heart. Every time I or my husband was passive aggressively called out from the pulpit, being told God would get his money somehow if we didn’t tithe, holes being poked into my salvation, every bad thing was a consequence for my sin, I’m probably not saved if I can’t understand the KJV, I have to try harder, I need to push harder, I’m not surrendered enough, I need to throw something else out of my life, I’m the reason someone doesn’t get saved …

As I continued to read these notes and my heartfelt prayers in response, my heart broke. I truly desired to do what God wanted in my life, to see Him transform me. Sadly, I was handed a cheap imitation of sanctification. I was handed a lazy approach to discipleship. I was given feelings from an emotional song rather than a true understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and true revival.

I was given legalism – doing the work only God can do through the works of the flesh.

I have often carried the blame, despising myself for getting caught up in something so disgusting in the sight of God. But I have to remember how I was exposed to this in my spiritual infancy. I truly knew no better and wholly believed the independent fundamental baptist church (as I knew it) was the only true church. Sure, nondenominational folk and Southern Baptists might be saved. They just weren’t right. (They also needed to be marked, feared, and avoided.)

I wanted to please God. I believed every word from my mature pastor and teachers. I trusted their advice and wisdom. I believed they had special insight into the mind of God. I believed questioning that was dangerous, as we should never touch God’s anointed.

Looking back, I grieve.

I grieve the time I lost. I grieve the works that will be burned at the judgment seat – each time I served to be seen, obeyed to be praised of men, got puffed up in my obedience, treated people poorly because of our differences. Even recently, because, guys, this stuff springs up from the sinful pride in our flesh.

Sure, I regret the mistakes of my lost teenage years. But I was dead in sin then. I knew no better.

However, here I was playing piano, playing the preacher’s wife, playing the perfect Christian in the name of Jesus. I wasn’t doing it for Jesus. I was doing it for me, for them. To elevate myself above anyone who didn’t behave just like me.

To me, my offering of my goodness to Christ is even more offensive than my promiscuous teen years.

Can you imagine? I’ve been saved 11 years and this is what I look back to. So many decisions were made based on gut feelings and not backing from the Word. Other decisions were made with the pastor and other friends in mind.

I’ve questioned so many times if my conversion was even real. But I know I never trusted in those works to save me. I knew that was impossible. I knew Jesus was the only way. Before I could have even understood legalism, I knew I was a lost sinner and unable to earn salvation in my own righteousness. I knew that much.

Sadly, I did trust that standards + extra Biblical laws would make me more surrendered, Spirit filled, sanctified, holy, and mature.

That was all I knew. It often conflicted with my spirit, as I never could seem to gain any traction in spiritual growth or overcome doubt. I believe I knew something wasn’t right, but everyone told me I was growing and becoming more committed to God. The gratification from pats on the back was addicting. Anything or anyone that contradicted the narrative was to be feared. But I could tow the line. (Or at least I gave it my best.) I just kept trucking along, not becoming “weary in well doing”, and “faking it til I made it.”

Someone will read this and say I’m bitter toward former pastors or poor leaders. No. I’m really not. I’m simply broken for the girl who Jesus gloriously saved from perfectionism and then was led back into it.

And yes, I am angry/sad there are still pastors out there today who do this to sincere and willing baby Christians. Paul was pretty angry with the Judaizers of his day who did the same. He wrote that they would bear judgment, as well as wishing they’d be cut off. I first read that as him saying they need to get lost. Further study will reveal he meant to be physically “cut off.” Ahem, emasculated.

When I read that chapter in Galatians, I felt as though I had my big brother, the Apostle Paul, just hugging me and saying, “I’m sorry this happened.”

But I’m not bitter. I’m broken for those still in it. I’m broken for those who feel trapped. I’m broken for the girl I once was. I’m broken for each person I hurt. I’m broken for the time lost.

And now I look to Christ, abandoning my self effort and every work I believed was doing Him a favor. I look to His holiness and righteousness. I pray that He grows me from the inside out, not by my own works, but by His sanctifying work.

In this messy process, I unlearn the insanity and pursue the Truth. I unleash myself of the pride that says I have experience or I’ve been at this a while. (Sadly, so much of that “experience” was just – wrong. And I have to accept that.) I understand my pride and selfishness is the root of why legalism is so appealing. It can still be an issue today if I don’t keep it in check.

I pray God gets the glory. I pray I am truly hidden behind the cross and that He is magnified through every broken piece, even the very experiences which alienated me from Him. I pray that the legalistic mentality that I still carry (more on that another day) will be something that repulses me more as I draw closer to Christ.

I pray that perhaps I can be the voice to someone that I needed to hear years ago.

You know who you are – sitting in the pew and thinking, “either this isn’t right or something is really wrong with me.”

If you’re that person, I see you. God sees you. You’re not alone.

And even though they say legalism isn’t real, it is. It’s okay to talk about it as long as you need to.

I’ll continue to for as long as I need to. ❤️

life lessons · Writing

Stepping Back + Other Thoughts

I’ve been blogging since the days of xanga and livejournal. I’ve written in a diary since I was in the second grade. Documenting my life and expressing my thoughts has always been a part of me. Fleshing out my feelings through a journal entry has gotten me through many hard roads. I love going through old journals from my early years in marriage/motherhood and seeing how God worked in my life!

I really wish I still had access to my old blogs from my preteen – high school years, but then again, maybe not! Because blogging was still reserved for a community of only a few people who I had chosen to read my stuff, I was often very candid and detailed in my experiences.

Simply put, some things aren’t worth re living.

Anyway, I say all of that to say this – I see nothing wrong with blogging. Or social media. Or even vlogging. (Although I do think it’s a bit goofy to film and edit our lives for likes and shares. But there’s money in it, I guess.) I appreciate blogs dedicated to giving advice, as they’ve been a huge help to me. Or even ones which document real life in order to show the rest of us we aren’t the only crazy ones. There’s definitely a lot of good out there.

But one day, the idea of documenting my life began to feel ridiculous. Does anyone care what I ate for dinner? Aside from grandparents + aunts and uncles, does anyone really need to see what my kids are doing? Do I really need to share my opinion on everything? Do I need to update you through stories and posts on every detail of my life? And do I need to spend hours of my life reading + watching yours? Why do you need to know that I worked out? Is it even safe?!

I like to blog to share a thought. With much discretion and discernment, I want to write things which would edify and strengthen another in Christ. Or share the frank, humorous reality of being a mom and wife. Beyond that, I’m not interested in opening my life up to the world. I don’t want to live in a false illusion of the highlight reel. Really, I want to have a joyful, abundant life well lived. And then perhaps I’ll write about it, because that’s what I do.

If another person enjoys more than that, cool! But for me, I feel I miss out on the present when I’m thinking of a clever Facebook post or photo. It cheapens the value of the moments I truly live in with my family. Hiding behind a screen removes the need to personally invest time in people and see how they’re doing, because we can just see it on social and let them know we care with a heart.

I don’t know. I guess I just want more than that. I suppose I feel as though I’m missing real life while getting lost in the virtual.

I’m not dogmatic about this. I do not believe social media is a sin or that blogging our lives is wrong. I DO enjoy seeing the positive things about my friends and family as well as staying connected. I like watching funny videos or reading encouraging posts. But couldn’t I just do a little better about making the effort to see how they’re doing in another way?

I don’t know. I’m rambling a lot here. I just think it’s goofy to document every waking moment and then spending time reading everyone else’s rather than just living. Think about how much our conversations with one another would be enriched and how we would personally draw closer if we weren’t so connected on social. (Or if we didn’t depend on it so much to stay connected!)

I also know how vain I can be. I know how I can get a false gratification from likes and hearts. Let’s get real! We can not accurately gauge the success and health of our lives by how we’re perceived through a post!

Anyway, I don’t want to stop blogging. I enjoy this community. But I’m stepping way back. I want to write meaningful things, not just little snippets with trendy catchphrases and hashtags on Instagram. I just want to live life. I want to serve Jesus, my husband, my kids, and the ones I love.

And then I’ll write. Rather than creating experiences to write about or living for content, I’ll create from the outflow of what God is doing in my life.

❤️

Christian living · pregnancy

Life Updates

I love to write, but lately I’ve been holding back a ton. I suppose writing for me is letting my hair down, cutting loose, whatever. And with everything that’s been going on this last year, I suppose I’ve been a bit pent up. Does that make any sense?

Mom received her cancer diagnosis in November and from that moment, life got crazy. She is now cancer free, back to work, and doing amazing! But I will say – it shook up our world a bit. I found out I was pregnant in January, which has been a unique experience to say the least. I think I was seven weeks pregnant for a month straight … that first trimester seemed like it would never end.

And school? Well, by the grace of God we have hung in there. Between many dentist appointments, OB visits, mom’s surgeries and days where morning sickness had me curled on the couch … we managed to only get slightly behind. We should complete our school year by the end of the month, just in time for vacation!

So, it’s been a crazy year. And I suppose I have allowed fear and worry to keep me from stopping to smell the roses too many times. I have a book which SERIOUSLY needs revising and editing, but for whatever reason, I’ve thought that if I just let go of my worries and get sucked into that … one more crazy or bad thing might happen. I have had several blog post ideas, specifically talking about pregnancy and pregnancy after loss. But in the shadows of my mind, I think I’m just jinxing myself and something tragic will happen by my acknowledging that this pregnancy is really happening. Like I need to spend my free time with a firm grasp on my fear rather than living life and doing what I love.

The Lord has really been growing my faith through all of this, proving to me that I’m never alone, that He can handle it. And at that scary stinkin’ anatomy scan for the baby last week, He reminded me of His power and control. He held out His hand and simply asked me to hold it.

Oh, it’s not always that easy. I have to do my part through prayer and Bible reading, through casting down my crazzzyyy imaginations. But for the first time in a while, I was able to breathe, look at my fears and say, “so what?”

Sometimes I think we go through these patches of life simply for God to reveal His glory. Pregnancy in itself is a trying of a woman’s faith! I sang a song at revival last week that has the line, “I have peace when it doesn’t make sense.” And indeed, in a world full of trouble and a crazy, unpredictable life, I have peace. It doesn’t make sense. But it’s not supposed to. I am simply supposed to trust my Lord.

That’s what I have to do. No amount of holding tight to what ifs will change the future and it certainly drains me of today’s strength. I simply have to surrender every bit of fear and my future to Him.

That’s been life lately. I’m a bit neurotic and sometimes get a little too stuck in my head, but God is good.

And thank you Jesus! I’m back to drinking coffee after two long months of feeling like the smell would make me vomit.

God’s been good.