Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Wish-I-Hadn'ts

I have, over the course of years that I've been a Christian, changed the way I think about a large number of things.  Some of the beliefs I used to hold caused me to treat people (or even myself) in ways that I'm sure now were not what Jesus wanted.  Though I'm sure I have His grace and forgiveness for these things, that doesn't change the harm I now believe I did.  So here are some of my regrets.  Some of them, as I look back, make me laugh or shake my head; others make me very sad.  If anyone who reads this was affected by any of these things, I hope you already know how truly sorry I am. 

So here, in no particular order, are my Wish-I-Hadn'ts:

I wish I hadn't kept bothering my Catholic co-worker with invitations to my church's events, even though she had told me she had her own faith.  I thought I was trying to get her away from a false religion.  She thought I was just plain annoying.

I wish I hadn't had my pastor preach a how-to-get-saved sermon at my wedding, to the captive audience of relatives and friends who had only come to see me get married.

I wish I hadn't told my non-Christian co-worker that all men liked to be the leaders in relationships, and it took a strong woman to let them.  She didn't say anything, just gave me a funny look.

I wish I hadn't told a good friend who was engaged to be married, that she shouldn't marry the man because he'd been divorced.  We were never good friends again after that.

I wish I hadn't made friends with a girl in college for no other reason than that I wanted to convert her.  I'm glad she never found out.  (She also never converted.)

I wish I hadn't bought into the idea that any music with a rock beat-- even Christian rock-- was of the devil.  I wish I hadn't thrown away my Neil Diamond records, my Simon and Garfunkel , and even my Imperials gospel albums.

I wish I hadn't participated with the rest of the Christian audience at a creation vs. evolution debate, in jeering, booing and hissing the evolutionary scientist, so that he went away knowing Christian audiences had no kindness, no manners and no willingness to listen to points of view other than their own.

I wish I hadn't listened to my pastor when he told me it could damage me spiritually to go see The Return of the Jedi-- so that I didn't find out until years after the final movie appeared in the theatres, how the Star War series ended.

I wish I hadn't given my dad the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict for his birthday, instead of giving him a present he would have really enjoyed.

I wish I hadn't written my Christian friend who came out as gay, a letter that he never forgave me for-- a letter so judgmental and so ignorant of what he was going through, that we never spoke again.

I wish I hadn't rejected a nice shirt my mom gave me as a gift, because the picture on it looked a little "New Age" to me.   I wish I hadn't conveyed my judgment against this shirt and my lack of gratitude to my poor mom so very plainly.

I wish I hadn't treated Christians who went to other churches-- including my own sister!-- as if they just weren't as spiritual or enlightened as we were.

I wish I hadn't been so conscientious in my duties towards younger members of my church that I was supposed to be "discipling"-- but had just let them know that I'd be there for them if they needed anything, and otherwise had just let them live their lives without my oversight or interference.

I wish I hadn't joined the others in my church in shunning those who decided to leave.



So there it is.

I don't think I'm the only one who has regrets like this-- in fact, certain segments of Christianity still strongly encourage their members to act just like I acted.  So I have to ask the question-- if a form of Christianity actually leads people like me to do unloving, inconsiderate, Pharisee-like things that Jesus would not want us to do-- how well is that kind of Christianity actually following its Lord?

Perhaps we all ought to let that be our litmus test.






15 comments:

Sandy said...

There are a few things I wish I hadn't done either. Like you said, in many cases, we were taught to do these things. I can't go back now and change them and that does make me sad. You're not alone.

The Blog bites better than the Bullet. said...

I know- I know... I, too, have regrets.

I hurt friendships because of beliefs rather than building relationships because of love.

I thought because I got someone to pray a prayer that they believed, but really I put friends in positions of praying something to get rid of me. That didn't show them Christ, it only showed them my ignorance.

Grace is for me, too, that's what comforts me, because I sure need forgiveness for valuing beliefs over love.

JBsptfn said...

Kristen,

It is interesting that you brought up the Return of the Jedi movie. I was 10 when that came out. Me and my friends used to play with the little action figures at his house that summer all the time.

I remember getting one of the Ewok action figures at K-Mart, and my mom was upset at me because she thought that movie was of the devil.

As for divorcees, Arnold Murray of Shepherd's Chapel talks on his show in his question and answer section about how a lot of them get treated as second-class citizens in churches. That is ashame. If we can't forgive, how will God forgive us?

As for me, a regret I have was going to see my pastor too many times in the 90's and early-00's. I started to counsel with him because of some problems, but I should have stopped it a lot earlier than I did because I feel that I wasted his time.

Mara Reid said...

A hard list to read because I resemble a few of those.

Anonymous said...

Mixing the idealism and black and world view of youth with a noxious, controlling church, or any controlling movement for that matter, is so destructive. I'm glad we're back together after having been driven apart by that church. And I'm glad we are no longer young, though I'm very happy that you have not lost the special idealism that makes you -- you.

If you find the title of that movie you told me about yesterday about some people who went back to being young, please share.

Loved your post "Don't Talk About It." That's something that definitely needs to be talked about.

Love from your Sis

Kristen said...

Thanks, Sis. I'm so glad we both found our way back to one another. The name of the movie is Monkey Business, with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers (not to be confused with Monkey Business by the Marx Brothers!) It's a screwball comedy set in the 1940s, in which the main characters discover that actually being young in mentality again isn't all that great after all...

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I can so relate to this post. How did we ever end up being so legalistic and rigid in our views? I certainly didn't start out that way!

I loaned one of my copies of Evidence That Demands a Verdict to my Dad, I didn't buy him a copy, but I know the feeling.

Thank you for sharing.

Kristen said...

Mike, I think this article explains how we got into all that legalism rather well.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2010/03/nlq-faq-how-did-you-get-yourself-into-this-mess/

GRACE PETERSON said...

Beautiful post! I can SO relate!

I think the only good that came out of all my misplaced zealotry is that I developed compassion and understanding for those who are in the throes of it now.

If I judge those people, I really haven't learned anything.

This is why I like your post. You aren't casting blame on the people who may have influenced you to do the things you did. Instead you're taking responsibility for your actions. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Mike,

Why people get drawn into destructive movements, where an authority figure is trusted above all reason, is well documented in human history. Christian or not, we are susceptible. In todays NYT columnist Frank Bruni has an intersting piece about why people tend to blindly follow authority, as seen by a new Sundance Film festival movie. I will not see the movie -- it sounds too disturbing, though it brings up some points. The question for all of us is how we can question assertations and authority, rather than blindly following.It's every bit as valuable for us to think about this question as Christians. Blaming ourselves for following that authority, won't help, but in our current lives, digging a deeper and asking questions is something I vowed to do once I left my own destructive church. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/bruni-gullibility-in-politics-and-in-film.html?ref=opinion

Ginklestinker said...

We can all probably hang our heads in shame at some of the foolish things we said and did in during those early days of our 'first love' for Christ. Even more so the things left undone that we aught to have done. But our motives were good and God looks on the heart. We may have more wisdom and grace now, but did we not perhaps love Him more then than we do now ? Was there a time when we were had no fear of being unpopular or hurt or poor for the Gospel's sake, ready to take up our cross and follow Him ? Lord, renew, revive and re-make my heart to identify more closely with you in your service, suffering and sacrifice.

Kristen said...

Ginklestinker, I agree, but I don't think there was (and is) more than "foolishness" going on when a young person in love with Christ is led to believe that the way to serve Him best is to do cruel and heartless things. There is something entirely wrong with certain ways of practicing Christianity, and those who lead those groups are accountable for the way the "little ones" are caused to stumble.

Mel said...

Kristen, I found your blog when RHE mentioned it the other day, and now I am catching up on some things!----- I have a nearly identical list. Too young for the Return of the Jedi issue though:)But I really wish I had my Smashing Pumpkins album back. Like you, I have spent lots of time and energy purposefully unlearning about the Bible and spirituality, and now I am in a different place from so many friends and family. It is so hard for me to refrain from shoving books and ideas at them, hoping that they too will unlearn. I see the harm that is being done by their "Christian beliefs", but at the same time, I don't want to be that pushy person I once was. I don't want to treat them they way they treated me during that period when I coming into my own faith and unlearning (which was very hurtful). Patience patience patience, grace, and living by example I guess. (I don't mean to make it sound like I am now superior in my faith or anything like that, but a comment can only be so long....) How have you handled relationships with people that still exhibit some of the behaviors listed above, or maybe are stuck in legalistic/ or historically inappropriate interpretations of the Bible? On a side note, this topic makes me think of the show, My Name is Earl.

Kristen said...

Mel,

I don't really have any friends who still do these kinds of hurtful things in the name of God, but if someone did, I think I'd keep quiet about it unless they violated my boundaries, and then tell them as gently as I could that I can't allow that. When I simply get in a disagreement with one of my friends, I try to explain my point of view, and then suggest we agree to disagree, which usually works. It would be hard to stay friends with someone who insisted I agree with them all the time; in fact, that would be a violation of my boundaries and I think I'd have to stop spending time with them.

If the topic is something I'm emotional about, sometimes it's better to just try to avoid the conversation. "Let's not go there," usually works.

Kristen said...

PS. I loved My Name is Earl!