Thoughts When Someone Is No Longer a Christian

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In recent weeks, I have had to grapple yet again with a myriad of thoughts and feelings when someone has announced publicly that they are no longer a Christian.

The other day I became aware of a post on Instagram from Jon Steingard, lead singer of Hawk Nelson. In that post, he said, “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life – I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.”

A few years ago I attended a Tenth Avenue North concert with my bestie. Hawk Nelson was one of the openers. Drops in the Ocean. Live Like You’re Loved. Man, those songs are incredible! I have greatly appreciated those songs many times over the years. And now Jon states that he “can no longer stand on stage and in good conscience sing songs like ‘Drops in the Ocean.'”

The comments and various discussions on Facebook have been interesting. Jon is far from the first to walk away from an evangelical Christian background. No matter who it is, there will always be the classic comments….

“Well, he must not have really been saved in the first place.”

“Well, he must just be trying to get attention. Why else would he say this publicly?”

“Well, he must not have read the Bible, because the Bible clearly says x, y, and z.”

Jon did receive many many kind and loving comments as well. To be honest, he received a lot more gracious comments than I would have expected, given the extreme backlash of others who have posted similarly. I commend people like Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North, who said, “Man I love that you shared this. You know I’m always around to talk about our belief in God or lack thereof. Love you and always will.”

I am impressed by Jon. So much of his posts resonated with me. So many of the questions he said he has wrestled with are questions I have wrestled with too. Big questions. Questions that are scary. In short, questions that freak out the church. The openness, honesty, and humility that it takes to publicly admit something like that is huge. He lived a Christian life publicly from stage, so after agonizing over the decision (his words), he publicly shared where he is now. That is huge. That takes a tremendous amount of courage, and I cannot help but applaud that.

In his initial post as well as in follow-up posts from today, Jon mentions how he has “spoken with so many people who feel the same things as me, but are terrified to speak up about it. Unspoken doubts and feelings like this are poisonous and corrosive to our hearts – and I hope this encourages people who are working up the courage to be more open and transparent about both their faith and their doubts.”

Why is it that church is a place where it is not safe to ask questions? Or have doubts? I hear the outcry, “Oh yes, church is a safe space! Ask anything!” But really…if certain questions are asked, pearls are clutched. “Well, now, that’s a slippery slope.” “The Bible clearly says…” “I’ll pray for you.” “If you really cared about the truth of Scripture, you would understand xyz.” And so the gatekeepers are out in full force. And people are forced to either stay quiet, or be put outside the camp because “the Christians” think that you don’t care about God. I wish I was exaggerating. This has happened to me and it has happened to many others.

Why is it that Jon (as he noted in one of his posts) and myself were bracing ourselves for such a strong backlash from Christians in his comments? Why is it that Christians, the ones who claim to follow Christ in love, are the first to condemn and speak harshly instead of giving love, grace, and support? Why is it that Christians think that a comment like “How dare you?” would possibly incline someone to reconsider their position and turn to God? (Thinking specifically about many of the comments given to Josh Harris after he posted in a similar vein as Jon.)

Why can we not applaud someone’s honesty and vulnerability? “Oh, but we can’t applaud someone who is giving up on God.” Would you rather he lie? Shove it under the rug? Why can we not embrace people, as image bearers of God, and come along side them for the journey and show the love of God who leaves the 99 to go after the 1?

It is emotional to read posts like his. Of course there are so many emotions. Sadness, grief, understanding, empathy, fear. But at the end of the day, I choose to stand alongside Jon. And Josh. And all the other people who are being real about their faith and their doubts.

Do Miscarried Babies Go to Heaven?

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After my first miscarriage, I came face to face with an awful question.  Did my child go to heaven or go to hell?  I have spent much time thinking and reading on this topic, trying to grasp the Biblical scene on this as best as I can.

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Of course, my immediate and emotional answer is….of course they went to heaven!!  It seriously breaks my heart like nothing else to think of my children in hell for all of eternity.

But I knew that I needed a better answer than just an emotional one.  So I went on a search.

I did end up arriving at the same conclusion…yes, they are in heaven.  Here are a few things that make me believe that this is so.

  1.  Unborn babies do not know good or bad.  Deuteronomy 1:39 talks about children who “have no knowledge of good or evil.”  Babies are unaware of right and wrong, and thus do not have the ability yet to accept or reject God.
  2. In a similar vein, we see throughout the Bible that people are under condemnation and receive punishment for choosing to reject God and for making deliberate choices to sin.  (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 20:11-12).  Unborn babies are not capable of that.
  3. I am not saying that I believe that babies are not conceived under sin and under the curse.  The Bible is clear that all people are sinners from the womb (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3).  But, in the same way that adults are saved by grace through faith, I believe that it is by God’s grace that He saves unborn babies who are unable to consciously understand salvation.
  4. R.A. Webb, in a book on infants and salvation, wrote this, “If a dead infant were sent to hell on no other account than that of original sin, there would be a good reason to the divine mind for the judgment because sin is a reality. But the child’s mind would be a perfect blank as to the reason of its suffering. Under such circumstances it would know suffering but it would have no understanding of the reason for its suffering. It could not tell itself why it was so awfully smitten and consequently the whole meaning and significance of its sufferings being to it a conscious enigma, the very essence of the penalty would be absent and justice would be disappointed, cheated of its validation.”

It is a difficult and painful question to address.  But at this point, this is where I have ended up.

A year or so ago I found this song.  It is one of my favorite songs about losing a child in the womb.  You might need a tissue…I always cry buckets when I hear this one!

 

There’s Nothing to See Here (Or – How I’ve Changed)

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I have been really wanting to get back into blogging.  I frequently have ideas for topics to explore in a post and I have a huge file with such a list.

Every time I sit down to write though, something stops me.  I think it’s mostly fear.

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Fear of what people will think.  Fear that I will disappoint people or shock people or hurt people.  Fear that people will think that I am a different person on my blog than I am in real life.  Fear that people will think I’m too vulnerable.  Fear that people will think that I am sinfully stuck in grief.  Fear that people will assume rude or untrue things about my parents or upbringing.

It’s a hard bondage to be in.  But I’m tired of being in that bondage to fear.  I just want to be me, a twenty something woman who is pursuing the Lord, and who doesn’t shy away from the bumps, bruises, questions, and doubts along the way.

So here is an attempt to do that.

I came across this blog post recently and loved it.  I was somewhat a follower of hers back in the day and I was excited to discover her current blog.  The part that stood out to me the most though was when she said, “There’s nothing to see here.”

I have changed a lot over the years.  It’s true.  I have asked questions and re-evaluated what I believe on so many issues….how I dress, the music I listen to, parenting, marriage, divorce, gender, tattoos, vaccinations, healthy living, legalism, 4 letter words, homeschooling, hair color, body piercings, body image, the Bible itself, the character of God, homosexuality, dating/courting, etc.

On some of those issues, I have changed completely from what I used to believe.  On some I have changed slightly.  On some I haven’t changed at all.  I think you would be hard pressed to find any person who has not changed quite a bit over the last decade or more.

I know some probably look at me and see a completely different person than I was 10, 15 years ago.  And I have a lot of fear of man there.  I fear that people will think I’m just running as far away as I can from what I used to believe.  I fear that people will think that I am discarding the Bible and cherry-picking Bible verses to fit what I want to believe.

What people can’t see, though, is the years and years that literally went into each one of those issues.  I can’t think of a single issue that I didn’t pour hours and hours and years and years of thought, prayer, tears, and Bible searching into.  I haven’t changed willy-nilly.  I am not discarding the Bible, and I am taking care to hold my questions and beliefs (changing or unchanging) up to the light of God’s word.  I read from scholars, authors, and bloggers, on both sides of issues, to make sure I am grasping fully different “sides.”

There’s nothing to see here.  I am just a person who is trying to follow hard after God.  I am just a person who has learned that I would much rather be someone who has doubts and questions and takes them to God than a person who is comfortable with her beliefs and doesn’t continually hold them to Scripture. I am learning to hold many of my beliefs lightly, willing to see if I am in error.

And I feel awake!  Awake to God’s grace, His glory, His joy, His fullness.  I didn’t know if the light would ever shine this way again and I am continually thankful for the work He has done in my life.

I am currently going through Beth Moore’s Children of the Day devotional with a friend, and one of the sections this week was on the topic of being awake.  She was discussing 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6, and the part about being awake as children of the day.  She proceeded to describe what being awake is like.

“Then, blessed be the Name of the Lord, something wakes us up.  Maybe we’ll never be thankful for what shook us out of our slumber, but we can be thankful at least to feel wide-awake.

“Awake to the activity of God around us.

“Awake to His Word on the surface of that page.

“Awake to the lightning before before we hear the thunder.

“Awake to our present season.  Awake to our people.  Awake even to our pain lest it end up meaning nothing…..

“To be awake is to still have questions and not just tidy summations….

“To be awake is to still grapple with mystery….This is the paradox of the crucified life: to lose ourselves in Christ is to find our very lives.”

It is an incredible thing to be awake.  To be alive.  To be walking in dynamic movement in the power of God.  It is sobering.  And humbling.  And sometimes scary.  But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So there’s no crazy story here.  The only thing here to see is the working of God and that is a pretty powerful thing to see.

 

Every Day Is a Step of Faith

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The past few months have taught me about faith in ways that I never understood before.

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Faith is not always big and bold.  Faith is not necessarily unwavering.  Faith is not an absence of emotions in the presence of trust.

Wayne Grudem defines faith as follows…

“Trust or dependence on God based on the fact that we take him at his word and believe what he has said.”

I always had a picture in my mind of what faith looked like.  And that picture was always of a bold confidence, an unwavering peace, a complete and total trust.

Lately my faith has looked quite different.

Every day in life is a step of faith.  And for me that has become even more true since losing my two children in miscarriages.

I have struggled with a lot of crazy anxiety issues since my losses.

I could lose another pregnancy.

I could lose the Wingman.  Something could happen to him.  I have had very vivid images of terrible things happening to him that tear my heart in two and cause my chest to tighten.

It is almost paralyzing.  And you know what can sometimes make me even more scared?  The thought that if I follow God, He might lead me through that.  Of course, the reality is that even if I don’t follow God, these things could happen.

But that thought of releasing control to God can be hard.  It takes faith.  Faith to wake up each day and say, “I am in Your hands.  The Wingman is in Your hands.”

Faith is stepping out and following Him, even when your steps are small and faltering.

Faith is being bold enough to step foot out of the door, knowing that a car crash could take the people you hold most dear.

Faith is allowing someone to babysit the Wingman, knowing that he could have a terrible accident while I’m gone.

Faith is getting out of bed to face each day.

Because all of those things require me leaning on the Shepherd’s staff.  It requires me to say, “God You are the One who is holding us in Your hands.”  I barely have strength to lift my head and look at the path.  Sometimes I am scared to look at the path.  But I cling to His staff and I say, “I don’t know if we’re going the right way, but I know You can see this entire path, with all its twists and turns.”

Sometimes I think that means that my faith must be the size of a mustard seed, because it isn’t that bold, unwavering confidence.

And sometimes I wonder if that means my faith is strong, because I have experienced some of the deepest pain of my life and yet I am still choosing to say, “God You are good.  Your ways are good.  Lead me.”

Whether it is mustard seed faith or mountain moving faith, it is some sort of deep.  A depth that I have not experienced quite like this before.

So this is me….embracing my mustard seed.  This is me getting up each morning.  This is me allowing my son to still be a 2 year old and not stifling him in the name of protecting him.  This is me continuing to plan outings and ways for my son to thrive.  This is me pursuing fertility health so that I can hopefully get pregnant again.  This is me, in all my vulnerability, handing God what is most precious to me.  My family.  My husband. My children.  My son who I have here every day….my babies in heaven….and my future babies.

-Bonnie