God in bursting color
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life thinking my theology had withstood the messy deconstruction that so many around me had gone through.
You’re okay to laugh here.
I like so many went to college and lost my faith for a time. When I started feeling the tugs back to the church and ultimately back to Jesus I knew some things were bound to change. I was going to see God differently.
And I did, but I also didn’t.
I grew up in a mixed background—we attended baptist, non-denominational, and pseudo charismatic churches in my time growing up. I always felt at home in more expressive circles since I loved singing and you’d be hard pressed to stop me from moving to the music. Baptists just didn’t have a place for me, but I wasn’t all in on the charismatic theology. My husband had a more rigid background, mostly attending contemporary baptist churches. Ironically, he learned more expressive and diverse theology playing jazz in the deep south than he ever did in his home church.
As a side note, this is not me trying to dump on denominations, just giving you a lens to see how my life played out alongside my religion.
In college I stereotypically had what you might call my “flee from the faith”. I need you to picture me eye rolling here.
I went like most—life suddenly got messy and hard and the happy-go-lucky Jesus wasn’t fixing my junk. Platitude after platitude was heaped on me and though I prayed and cried out, I felt nothing. I went through the deepest depression I had ever known. I was on 3 different medications to try and function like a “normal” human.
When I looked inward, and I was met with an insatiable darkness.
Those of you who’ve known depression understand this. It’s not like the movies. It’s not big outbursts or sad music or even being in bed all the time (though all of those things happened). It’s the complete and utter emptiness you can’t explain. It’s a vacuous black hole that sucks up everything you throw at it.
And it swallowed my shallow theology right up.
It was during this that I met people who didn’t believe in God and people who had been deeply wounded by the church for what felt like the first time. I recognized that these were good people. They served the destitute and marginalized, fought for justice, loved deeply and fully. The idea of people being “good” away from God was a thought I’d never pursued. Having a crisis of faith was suddenly the nail in the coffin of a crisis of personality.
Had I gotten it all wrong all this time? Was I a brainwashed nut job? Who even was I?
To add insult to injury, I had no idea why I was even in college except it was the “right” thing to do. Not going to college was “wrong”. And I wanted, nay, needed to be seen as good, right and admired. Looking back, I should have noticed the pattern here.
So, I swore off God. It worked for a while. I let the self imposed pressure of perfection and sinlessness slide off my shoulders. I didn’t go wild or anything, I just didn’t take any time to question any decisions I made.
Between the parties and anti-depressants, I was getting along alright to everyone on the outside.
But I felt the hole getting deeper. Some part of my soul was still there underneath the pain, and in an inexplicable sense, I registered a new emptiness somehow adding onto what already felt like infinite nothing.
I wound up back in church. Weeping. Begging. Pleading.
I registered that I still longed for God. Even in my “swearing off” I was looking for a connection to the divine.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this I met my husband, and he alongside a few friends just knew for once how to listen.
They didn’t try to fix me or convert me. They just listened. They let me rage in anger and cry in a heaping mess on the floor.
They held my hand while I wept in church. They didn’t try to dissect any of it, they just sat in proximity and let God do what He needed to. They weren’t concerned with rushing me through my process or forcing my reconciliation.
I’ll never forget the moment I felt God again. In the pews of a Methodist Church, listening to my husband play, my friend Katie letting me lean on her shoulder. I cried hard that night, because I registered finally the presence of God within the presence of those around me.
I didn’t have the answers I hoped for, but somehow I just knew.
I spent two years really coming back to Jesus. The process was slowed by shame and some bad theology that just needed to die. Eventually, new roots began and the old systems were either washed away or redeemed through new growth. It wasn’t easy.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what I really believe to be true about God.
I picked apart theology, deciding what felt right or wrong to me. I kept it cerebral for a good portion of the time, but I can’t help it—I’m charismatic at heart. So often when the thoughts and considerations got to be too much, I’d revert back to the safety of the spirit.
I’d ask the spirit for guidance, I’d pray in tongues (*gasp*), and mostly, I’d give up trying to figure it all out.
But what came was the realization that I needed to have God figured out. I needed to know where his boundaries were. What box to put Him in when things got messy.
I needed Him to be black and white.
Soon I realized that the God I “needed” was really the me I hoped to be. All knowing, black and white, always right, and always clear.
It took me some time to realize that God was never going to be completely understood, and in that vein neither was I.
Trying to make a God out of myself was a foolish venture, but one I think so many of us do. We shape him after our fathers, our mothers, even our own likeness instead of the other way around.
I wanted God to be black and white, but through my whole story He shows up in bursting color.
He met me in the bruises and pain of my blues and blacks. The soft pinks of new love, the violent reds of heartbreak. The green of life bursting at the seams. He met me in the palest colors and the most vibrant. He showed up differently every time, because He knew what I needed every time.
But He always showed up.
Even in the black hole, He was already there. Holding space and time in place for me.
In every color imaginable.