Chapter 2 - How to know if You are Smack Dab in the Midst of Religious Fog.
Hiya! If you read my last post, you know that we are in the midst of a mini-series if you will. The topic is something my heart is very passionate about. It’s in part, much of my own life experience and how I have seen it affect people I love, friends and clients. If you missed the last post you can check it out here.
Grab yourself a drink and sit with me for a little while.
So how do you know if you are in the midst of religious fog? You may be asking yourself, “Who says that I (Pam) am the expert on this? Thus, I am bringing out the disclaimer from my last post once again.
Disclaimer: You may find yourself feeling offended with some of the things I have to say. I am not placing blame on anyone or any situation. Many of you will not share my passion or my viewpoint. That is okay, we do not have to agree. However, if you are willing, I encourage you to hear me out with an open mind. I am by far not an expert on this subject. I only have my experience and my story and feel led to share it in hopes that it might encourage, inspire and empower you.
The fog started showing up in my life at an early age. I believe that the people in my life and the church leaders in the various churches we attended were also in a fog. Honestly I don’t think they even realized it. The fog that I’m referring to is labeled “legalism.”
For me, legalism is a long list of ridiculous rules in an attempt to control you. Legalism tends to make a person think (consciously or unconsciously) that they are better than everyone else because they are “fighting for the truth,” or “standing up for principle!”
Legalism gives you something to focus on, they call this “works” in the bible. Every heard of it? It is the act of working (following the rules) to attempt to rectify or redeem our past, our demons and our hurts. Maybe that something for you is called acceptance. Maybe it’s called trying to be good enough because you were told all your life you were bad. Maybe it’s called trying to make amends for something you did wrong way back when, or just today.
Guess what, this is never going to work so you might as well give it up. There is only one Person who can rectify and redeem us.
The thing is, all these work based tactics are the perfect set up to"fall for the oldest trick in the book," (I’m using my best Dark Helmet, Space Balls voice here) :) the sin of pride and arrogance.
These work based tactics shroud you with an invisible cloak of guilt and subtly messes with who you are truly created to be. Your reality in life is manifested by how you see yourself through the legalism filter.
Sadly, as we live our life year after year through this filter, it begins to become part of us and begins to show up in all areas of our life mentally, physically and Spiritually. It feels good at the beginning, but after awhile it, as they say in the south, “goes to the bad.”
At it’s worst it will make you believe that who you authentically are, at the core, really has not a chance in hell to be loved by God. Because you are not good enough. You can never do enough work or follow enough rules. You can never be perfect enough.
And guess what? The most horrific of all is that it turns your perspective of life all upside down. It begins to paint God out to be some sort of monster dictator and someone who could never relate to a person like you.
Some of the rules that I experienced sound like this, that is if you were to write them out on the stone tablets next to the Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt not miss church or any church activity.
Thou shalt always choose a church event over a non-church event.
Thou shalt not hang out with those outside your “church family”, especially “non-christians.”
Thou shalt not talk about your problems. Always act like everything is great even if you are dying inside.
Thou shalt not question the leadership of church.
Thou shalt always look, speak and act like your life is perfect. Always be worried what other people might say or think about you.
Thou shalt always be fearful that you might go to hell if your life isn’t perfect.
Thou shalt not believe that God speaks or works outside the prescribed plans the leaders of the church order.
Thou shalt always belief that you are bad, worthless & will never be good enough…
Thou shalt always be fearful to hear other people’s beliefs.
Thou shalt always defend your beliefs to the point that the need to be right trumps the need for relationships.
Does legalism really help us cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus and with each other? Is this really why He came to earth, so we could learn how to live under a bunch of rules? Absolutely not. We do a good enough job making up rules and regulations all by ourselves.
Legalism is meant to control others and I bought into it hook line and sinker. I internally made an agreement with it’s teaching and allowed it to run my life for a long, long time. I believed that this was the person I should be if I were someone whom God loved. I allowed the rules to control me to the point of losing who I was and who God wanted me to be.
Then came the day that I hit bottom and my very small, controlled, limited world came crashing down around me. I had made some really bad choices. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I wanted to die. I was lost in a sea of darkness and didn’t know how to get out.
That was when the lighthouse appeared. At first it was a dim light over a very dark sea. But as I rowed closer, the light became brighter and brighter. I began to break the agreements I had made and I began to find who I was. Thank God for my therapists and life coaches! I began to see myself the way Jesus had always intended, minus all the fog.
Do you recognize if you are in midst of the religious fog? If so, close your eyes and picture a lighthouse. Now picture yourself in a boat in the cold, damp, dark, fog. You see a bright light in the distance, it’s the lighthouse. It’s God and He is flooding the way with His brilliant light to show you the way to freedom. If you are willing to change and let go of the fear, the control and the rules that have shackled you for so long, He will give you a life that is illuminated and free.
Next time - Chapter 3 - What Matters Most When You are Stuck in the Midst of the Religious Fog.
If you have a story about how legalism has messed with your life, we would love to hear it. Write your thoughts in the comments below.
Till next time,