Confessions of a Bad Christian: Why crossing the lines could be the best thing that happens to you.

Have you ever been part of a group where you felt like you had to sacrifice who you really were to in order to belong?

Did you ever pretend you liked something, adapt your mode of dress or adjust your speech to fit in the club?

I'm embarrassed to say I did that for a really long time.

To be "in" I was supposed to like certain music. I was told which careers were more acceptable than others. There were rules about what to wear. I was told what not to drink. What to read. How to vote.

I learned it was exhausting trying to fit myself into a mold. (Maybe you've been there too? )

My big epiphany somewhere in my mid-30's was that the mold wasn't real. First of all, people couldn't even agree what the mold was supposed to look like, so I encountered multiple versions of it. And more importantly, there was something inside me that desperately wanted to break free and become who I was designed to be.

I didn't need to be a topiary. I could be a tree.

The problem was, I didn't want to be a tree by myself. I wanted to be part of a forest.

The reason it's painful to reject the mold

Rejection is painful. Psychology Today reports that fMRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. This is why—neurologically speaking—rejection stings. It hurts to be treated like we don't fit in.

Yet groups have rules about belonging. And they are enforced through rejection—everything from the side eye to blatant shunning. 

Those of us who survived adolescence have experience with this. We learn to adapt and conform or we find ourselves outside of the circle we want to be in. 

But what happens when the circle we find ourselves outside of is a religious one? 

It's one thing for mean teenagers to reject you as an adolescent. It's a different thing when the people who reject you are supposed to have God's endorsement.

The surprising thing I learned on my journey

As I wrestled with the gap between the mold I didn't fit into and the love and acceptance that I longed for, I learned something:

I wasn't the only person who had experienced this.

I kept encountering people with deep spiritual lives--—many who had grown up in the same ecosystem I did—who were tired of the subculture and went off-road to find the God who loved us.

One day at lunch, a friend shared that at church, he encountered the difference between love and appreciation. He said that as long as he was serving in the ways people needed him to, the church was full of appreciation. The problem was that there is a difference between appreciation and love. One is based on performance. The other is based on acceptance.

That conversation bounced around my head like a brain ninja for weeks.

Why? Because I had also experienced the difference between love and appreciation.  I wanted the love. The kudos didn't mean that much.

So, I sat down at my keyboard and started writing to get the thoughts out of my head.  And I wrote, and wrote and wrote.

I wound up with part memoir and part possibility map with a clear theme: In our Christianity, we've settled for so much less than what is possible.

Why it is scary to share this book. 

Have you ever shared what you authentically felt in a moment of raw honesty, and then were shot down? Where the person you opened up to told you why you shouldn't feel or think that way rather than hearing what you had to say?

Me too. 

As one friend who read a preview copy said, "This is raw and honest. You are being very vulnerable here. Are you ready for that? It can be dangerous."

I have a confession to make.  I'm not ready. I'm not that tough.

But here's the thing.

I don't have the option to not share this book.

There are too many of us who've been labeled "bad Christians," who are weary of the gap between the Jesus we love and the subculture we are supposed to fit into.

There is so much more to be discovered.

If you've ever felt the gap between who you really are and who everyone else thought you should be; or if you've ever wrestled with not fitting in the religion you grew up with, this book will resonate.

Bad Christian is available in paperback and Kindle format via Amazon. 

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall