“Who put up a Christmas tree in the fellowship hall? The church board did not approve of it! We need to schedule a meeting to address this immediately!”
Group chats with church people are hilarious.
This one was brought to you by an angry member who does not celebrate Christmas and doesn’t think anyone else should either.
Every year, a certain group of saints decides to start a Christmas is pagan discussion. If alive during Bible times, they would have been the ones to send the Magi a bunch of YouTube videos about the dangers of astrology. Meanwhile, God gave them a star that led them right to Jesus.
That’s a whole other blog right there.
Anyway, while the saints were busy fussing about what is and isn’t pagan, I was wondering if angry texts about a fake plant were really what I had signed up for.
There was a time when that message would have really bothered me. It symbolizes everything that frustrates me about church.
Legalism. Politics. Limitations. The need to control through fear and condemnation.
This year marked the completion of a journey that answered some fundamental questions I had been asking about my Christian identity.
What do I believe? Am I spiritual or religious? Can I claim to be an Adventist even though I have purple hair, pierced ears, and eat an occasional side of bacon?
I was seeking to find my place in a type of Christianity that is full of absolutes, makes very little room for compromise, and strips people of their identity. Could I be part of a community where parts of who I am and what I believe are not accepted or understood?
The journey was lonely, difficult, and messy, and the questions were endless.
In a spiritual environment obsessed with pleasing, uniformity, and perfection, I had to decide if I would fight who I am to fit in, or embrace my true self and dare to be different. Would I be a hypocrite just to belong, or be my authentic self understanding that sometimes I would stand alone?
I was recently blessed by this quote from Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness:
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”
I had latched on to conforming to certain behaviors, forgetting that they had nothing to do with my spirituality or righteousness. Looking, acting, or eating a certain way is not what makes me a Christian or even an Adventist. First and foremost, I am human and my humanity is so much more complex than what I eat, drink, and wear.
I have learned to stop thinking about who I was supposed to be and instead start embracing who God called me to be.
Will I be criticized for not fitting into the mold? Absolutely. However, I have discovered that it is possible to be part of a community that I sometimes disagree with and still be true to who I am.
Yes, there will be times when it will be uncomfortable but being comfortable is overrated. Besides, somebody has to stir the pot.
So yes, I’m Seventh-day Adventist.
No, I don’t read my Sabbath School Lesson but I bet I can teach it better than you on any given Sabbath. I observe the Sabbath and I have a love/hate relationship with Ellen White. But that’s okay, she’s dead.
Now when the saints tell me about the pagan roots of Christmas I can laugh and say, “That’s great, but I still think we should put a Christmas tree in the sanctuary.”
Speaking up about tough topics when no one else will is part of who I am, and the freedom of doing just that is beautiful. As this new year begins, I am relishing the fact that it’s okay to be me.
Adventist. Christian. Human.
Happy New Year!