The following is from Heidi Daniels.
(photo on the right)
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I am the girl formerly known as as a “normal Christian.”
You may know me as a violinist, as a teacher, as a sister, daughter, wife, and friend. You may have noticed that I don’t attend a church building anymore and worried about me, maybe thinking that I have really fallen off the deep end theologically. Maybe you haven’t talked to me in a long time because you are convinced of this. Maybe you’ve thought I’m turning away from God, or away from the Bible, or at least away from the Body of Christ. The truth is…
I’m a girl who deeply desires God. I believe I’m his image-bearer, though I’m still learning what that means. There are many like me, many who for years fit inside status quo Christianity. Many who, like me, find that the old boxes no longer contain the expansive life that Christ has filled us with. Many who have quietly and sometimes not-so-quietly found new ways to live out our lives as Christ followers.
I am the girl who, as a child, would wake up her parents late at night to confess some little act or thought that I perceived to be sinful – because I couldn’t sleep, my conscience was keeping me awake. I am the girl who couldn’t lie because it made me sick to my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think these things reflect my “godliness from a young age”, but rather my tender conscience combined with the overwhelming fear that I had, even as a child, of being “wrong.”
I am the girl who read her first theology book when she was 13. I ate it up. By the time I was 18, I felt like I knew it all. I had systematic theology “down.” I began to study philosophy in high school. I could use words like “pelagian” and “gnostic heresy” and “synchronistic” and “dialectic” intelligently in conversation. I read everything that existed by Piper, Packer, and Bridges. Then, being that it wasn’t enough to read “about” the works of people like John Owen, I went back and read the originals, like “Mortification of Sin.”
I am the girl formerly known as a normal Christian. I read my Bible daily and highlighted, underlined, and wrote notes in the margin. I led my first Bible study when I was 16. I am the girl who attended not one church during my high school years, but two. I was the faithful church attendee every Sunday, and then a faithful youth group member at a different church – always showing up early to Bible studies and Sunday evening events.
I am the girl who was promised the world by church leaders and famous authors, if only I would read my Bible and pray every day and submit myself to Christ. If I listened closely to the voices of “authority” in Christendom, I’d hear messages about how to secure God’s blessing – how to avoid being hurt in romantic relationships – how to live a victorious or successful or wealthy life. When suffering was talked about, no one ever mentioned how dark it could be, how sometimes it felt as if God had left you all alone. Somehow even suffering was victorious, if you could be cheerful and stoic through it.
I am the girl whose world was shattered when a tale of unrequited love broke my heart, shattered my reputation, and for a while convinced me that God was holding out on me. Then I discovered that what I’d been taught was wrong. God wasn’t a vending machine…I couldn’t do the right thing and guarantee his response. God was wild, but good. He didn’t always do what you’d expect, but he always did what was best.
I am the girl formerly known as a normal Christian…who came to see that much of Christendom in the modern era was about control. We couldn’t control God, but we tried, by writing up our ideas about him and then freeze-drying them, shrink-wrapping them, and having them nailed down forever. “Sola Scriptura” became, instead of the liberating mantra of the Reformation, a way to climb into a box where we could close the lid and say that everyone on the outside “just didn’t get it.”
I am the girl who sat in a pastor’s office with two pastors and a very hurting girl and watched as they “shoulded” on her, loading her down with burdens too heavy to carry. What was it that Jesus said about not breaking a bruised reed? It began to seem to me that the opposite was true of church leaders dealing with women who had been victimized by domestic violence and emotional assault.
I am the girl who slowly but surely moved away from being an attendee at a church and being to realize that the passion God had given me for his church wasn’t about buildings, or programs, or budgets, or attendance. It was about his people – his body – his bride, the people he died to save.
I am the girl formerly known as a normal Christian who sacrificed her reputation as “one of the mature ones” – one of the ones you’d WANT in leadership, leading Bible studies, “ministering” – to instead become a person solely dependent on Christ….not pastors, not elders, not authors, not caregroup leaders. It’s not that I think pastors, elders, authors, or caregroup leaders are bad people…many of them truly love God and are serving him as best they know how. It’s just that I no longer accept that any of them are in a position to mediate my relationship with God, or are given any authority by him in my life. There are those that I respect and look to for an example, for guidance, for advice – like my parents, or Paul Morgan, or others who have walked with God longer than I and have much to offer me. But these people are not my authority, nor are they a mediator between God and me. They are friends, they are the community of Christ with me on the journey…but I do not bow to them.
Indeed, I do not bow to anyone except my Lord. I do not bow to church history, though there are many people that have come before, and I am grateful for their writiings, their example, their bravery. I do not bow to any organized expression of church, though they have done much good, I have come to see that there are other ways and sometimes better ways of being a living expression of the Body of Christ.
I am the girl formerly known as a normal Christian. I’m not normal anymore, I certainly don’t stick with the status quo, I don’t have much reverence for sacred cows, and I’m not afraid to disagree with the majority. But I haven’t stopped loving the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and I’m passionate about loving his body – the church. I might not agree with you about how best to do that, but I haven’t forsaken fellowship. I meet with the body of Christ in my home and the homes of others, in coffee shops, across fried rice at Thai restaurants, participating in redemptive conversations and living, loving, crying, and praying together. This, I believe, is Church – and it is something I will love and serve until my dying day.
You may disagree with me and you may think that what I’m saying is wrong…but all I ask is this…
Did Christ call us to be normal Christians? Or normal anything, for that matter? Or did he open up the possibility for so much more than getting along with Pharisees and not upsetting the status quo? As I recall, he wasn’t afraid to cause a ruckus in the temple of his day. Wherever you are and wherever you serve – whether inside traditional church or outside – don’t settle for normal. He has given us so much more than that.
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Thank you, Heidi. I hope many people hear you.
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