Losing My Religion: What It Means

Losing my religion.  Nothing better describes my journey of switching churches quite as well as the title of R.E.M.’s famous song.

losing my religion

Losing My Religion.

This song has always stood out to me.  It is a bit shocking, for me, it is sad too.

I have never been one to pretend that I “get” music, and I always look up lyrics to try and make sense of what I hear (and sing while driving down the road). I won’t pretend to have the understanding of the writers,  the title inspires me more than the lyrics. Losing my religion

I battled using this title, because it sounds shocking and sad.  Changing churches was shocking and sad.

Now, let’s switch over to me

All of my years serving Christ have been in the church, I attended the same church from 1984 – 2013, and when I was in college, I went to one church for all 5 years.  I immediately found churches to attend in Hawai’i and Sweden.  I have always taken being connected to the church very seriously. Even at our new church, I take being connected to the body very seriously.

Changing churches was a quick decision, and although some of the impetus was not deeply thought out  the decision was made very carefully and very prayerfully.

I knew it would be hard to “start over” at a new church and I knew it would be painful to “say goodbye” to relationships (simply due to proximity).  I had NO IDEA my heart would change, I wasn’t even aware it needed changing.

The past nearly 3 years have been sad and shocking, much like my reaction to R.E.M’s song.

I’ve been shocked to find that the relationship with Christ that I prided myself in was deeply intertwined in religious behavior, making it worthless to Christ.

My church was Everything

When our income troubles continued, we decided to sell our car before our second baby was born. It would not always be possible to ride to church with someone else.  We were, after all,  2 adults with precious cargo in very bulky seats.  I was unwilling to take two buses with a toddler and baby and then walk a mile in Wisconsin winter weather.

We connected with the pastors under whom we ministered and let them know that we would make every attempt to keep our commitment. If we ever couldn’t arrange transportation, we would let them know the night before. I understand how deeply frustrating that must have been for them, I do.  They relied upon us.

For October, November and December there was only 1 day when we couldn’t make it.  My husband had a pre-arranged work day, I didn’t feel up to heading out with both kids on my own (a 4 week old and 23 month old).  I walked 8 blocks to the church we now call home. I loved it, I had some friends there and it was so convenient. This was the first time I remember thinking I wanted to change churches, but it was not real option in my mind.

We continued to pray.

We prayed for God’s will and expected that to be full-time employment. We asked God to close doors he wanted shut and open doors he wanted open.  We prayed and waited.  The first Sunday we couldn’t make it to our “home” church we heard a sermon from the series “Regarding Joy: A Study in Philippians” and we were so deeply convicted.

We walked home both believing God was calling us to the new church.  Our hearts were touched, not in the emotional, blissful way I was accustomed to.  We were convicted and yet surrounded by God’s love and presence, completely aware of our sin and in awe of God’s mercy and grace.  We felt so humbled, not encouraged or inspired.

I didn’t want to let go.

A week after we decided to stay at our new church, we met with some church planters.  I imagined we would leave that meeting and become leaders in their new church.  The pastor said to my husband  “If God calls you, you follow and you know that means you will never achieve success, would you still say yes?”

My heart I screamed “NO!”   Immediately I was convicted and knew that following Jesus meant my answer was “Yes.”  The thought still made me sick.  I’ve never imagined being wealthy, famous or even having an amazing business.  I envisioned myself as stay-at-home-mom, a pastor’s wife, maybe doing a little massage work on the side.  Looking back, I can see that this was a clear indication that I was frustrated with God for not being faithful to me, after all I had been faithful to him.

All the good deeds for nothing.

I did (just about) everything right.  I went to Christian high school, I never really dated, I went to Bible college, I felt called to ministry, my husband is the only man I’ve kissed, I was a virgin when we got married.  I never smoked, partied or did drugs.  I followed Jesus in those actions, I did them because I thought that was what he asked of me, and I didn’t do them to “look good” I did them to “be good.”  Oh, how wrong I was.  I thought my motivation of “being good” versus “looking good” mean that my heart had things right.

The story of my relationship with my husband is beautiful and miraculous.  Our inability to be successful (financially or by being employed in ministry) made no sense to me.  If we were following Christ, why were things not getting better?  It had been two years of underemployment or unemployment. I began wondering if I had made a mistake marrying him.  The hurt and disappointment of our poverty was growing into bitterness.  I thought that if I just kept it up, without growing weary things would turn around.

Never be successful?  Ouch.

Church lady hooked on success.

How did I get to this place?  How did I become a person hooked on success?

It’s engrained in our culture, and some how it permeated church culture.

I thought I was pursuing Jesus, but it was really Jesus + American Dream.

I thought my last service at my former church was going to be significant.  I thought there would be bells, whistles and cupcakes.  I imagined a typical “missionary send off” service with fellowship afterward.

I can’t even remember my last service at my old church. I am sure no one else remembers it either.

Losing My Religion

One day, I started writing out my experience and I titled it “Losing My Religion”, the words have never seen the light of day, but the title has been in my heart all this time.

My series is sad and shocking because for me, leaving my church for a new one has been filled with shock and sadness.  I have LOST SO MUCH in this process.  It hurts, oh it hurts.

I welcome you, to my experience.  I don’t know *exactly* where this series will go, but I will take you through the series “Regarding Joy” because it has reshaped my heart, my heart has been changed by the words of the book of Phillippians, and I want to share it. Phillippians will take about three weeks, I’m still working on an outline for the final stretch of this 31-day series

Your experience will be different, as you read, I pray that God’ word will illuminate your heart, every corner, and reveal who Christ is, and how you need to be more like him.

Although I lost my religion, I can say it was the best thing that happened to me.  It has opened my heart up to pursue Christ, to be honest about my sin and be changed by his holiness.

And You?

How did you feel when you first heard REM’s song?  How does my title make you feel?

 

 

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Comments

  1. Ha, we are very different in this regard….for the longest time, when I “listened” to music and sang the lyrics, I didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics much, I was more focused on the musicality. Now I’ll have to go look up the lyrics to Losing My Religion! Thanks for sharing your heart on changing your church home. Selecting a church as our church home should be a very significant decision when we consider what our commitment to our church family should be like. I look forward to reading the rest in your series.

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