Love is not rare. Unconditional love is rare.
My greatest rebellion was going to church. If I hadn't gone, I did fear I'd dive into alcoholism, drug addiction, promiscuity and more. I figure I'd have wound up always discontent or dead. So I biked to the Methodist church down the road while family and our party guests passed out in the living room and our full basement bar.
What pulled me towards God? I would tiptoe down the stairs and out the house where guests had passed out by alcohol before the television projecting porn videos. I walked to the backyard to see the handmade metal skeleton burnt and standing by its post in the center of the previous night's large bonfire. I'd crawl my way up to the rooftop of the swingset and looked at my favorite scene: blue skies with white fluffy clouds.
I was about 9-years-old when I started to do this. I began talking out loud to myself, wondering about the ways of my family and the world. I had this notion that I didn't want to grow in the way I was being led. Time passed and surely something or someone influenced the idea to quit talking to myself and pass my thoughts onto an invisible King in the sky, so I did. Having not learned how to pray, I would ask God to show me where to go next and to protect my family and neighborhood.
My mind has always been so curious. I was on a hunt toward finding a healthy and unconditional version of love. I had learned in Sunday School that God is famous for unconditional love. As we studied it, I couldn't quite find that example of unconditional love in even people in the church. As I grew older and gained more life experiences, I hopped from one church to the next on my journey to experience this unconditional love on earth.
I went from a Methodist Sunday school to seldom Mass services with my Grandparents. I found non-denominational churches more appealing than the Lutheran Church I was confirmed in. An Assembly of God church hosted many of my friends during their youth group services and I couldn't get enough of how much fun we all had; the variety of us! This was my first taste of unconditional love in the church. I saw jocks, creatives, nerds, extroverts and introverts and every high school stereotype praying together, loving and including one another in all things.
In respects to my Mom, I later attended and became the youngest on the board of members driving the worship and ministry teams at a Lutheran church. I always reminded her I'd be leaving once I gained my license to drive. I'd then take myself to the local (non-denominational) Vineyard church rather.
I heard the teachings well but didn't always see the manifestation of unconditional love their either. Especially when a friend came out as gay. That was not the picture of love I was seeking after. So I carried on with this other small church in rural Minnesota. I stayed there for about 2.5 years before they shunned me then many others for believing against or going against the cult-like church's 20 commandments.
Next: To the mega church! In this mega church, there was the variety, there was large diversity, there was peace amongst the dance of struggle and growing. There was 24/7 prayer for people, nations, cities, schools; everyone and everywhere. This, to me, was beautiful. I was getting closer!
Then I opened my mind a bit more. What if people's convictions are different from mine? What if conversion therapy is evil? What if God is even bigger than made to be by a structured vision? What if I didn't practice 8 hours of prayer per week? What if I didn't talk about God with every breath? What if I didn't evangelize? I believed God would love me, but what about His people? Could they still love me? I wasn't convinced. For throughout my life, the love people have displayed for me has been the most conditional.
I picked up a Major in Psychology and joined the campus ministry team. I moonwalked away from the campus ministry because the balancing act from being open-minded then to praying with a structured, black and white, set-in-stone believe system and world view; well it blocked me from that love I could give anyone. The empathy was blocked by prayers that sounded like,
"Lord, I pray you make this person like me so that I feel comfortable. Amen!"
My relationship with God is relentless. I've tried to take breaks from this relationship but by His unconditional love, I never could. After being shunned from the cult-like ministry, I fed my eating disorder, Anorexia, with Bulimia as well. I then said yes to parties, drinking and alcohol, sex and anything that pulled me back to who I may have been and what I would have done have it I never went to the Methodist church in the first place.
At each event, God's voice was louder. He was protective. Spiritual mentors, without a clue of what I was up to, left voicemails praying for my safety and for wisdom. People at the party would come to me, a lightweight and drunken skinny girl, and pour their heart open to me. I'd sober up quickly, give advise and hear this voice of God whispering, "Now, take your own advice."
I did not feel shame nor punishment. I felt I had space and free will to choose how to use my time and channel my pain. I did not feel this time clock ticking before I'd officially be condemned to Hell. I felt peace, His patience, reckless and unrelenting love. This was unconditional love.
In this state of mind, I study Psychology. In my studies I am conditioning myself with classmates and instructors, to keep an open mind. The goal, after all, is to help and love people well. Despite my comfort, despite my agenda or hopes for them, my goal is that they would find contentment, peace, healing and freedom from the shackles that brought them to depression, confusion, toxic relationships and more. This is my goal. Not to preach my convictions down people's throats but to be an example of love by abiding by my personal convictions and beliefs. My relationship with God is for me. What is for me will be like a boomerang spreading love and authentic happiness to others. I truly believe that.
I've been called things. I've been called Jezebel twice: a seductress, manipulative, controlling wicked woman out to steal men's strength and relationship with God. I've been told I am compromising my relationship with God by how I think, open myself to new perspectives or boundaries. My convictions shift, my mind grows and that is something I believe is healthy.
With this, I've been able to love a friend who felt so distraught by how the church responded to his coming out. With this, I have avoided playing God while another friend was attending a church I felt was a bit culty. I gave her space to ask me questions, grow, make choices as she wished and find God where she would, even if it was not where or how I'd connect with God.
What if we treated each other like God was as big as He is? What if He is SO big that we don't have to give people tough love in His name? What if He is SO big that he is actually Buddah, connecting with people there with truth, love, peace, happiness and a way of life meant to overflow that love? What if God is so kind, just and true to His word that the church is not actually segregated in His eyes? What if people see split Christian groups, (Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Science, the Gospel Church, the Mega Church, etc) and God sees many communities where people can choose the space where they connect with Him most and at best?
I feel that people pull away/turn away/fall away from God because they experience misinterpretations of Him. He looks this way, is this gender, is only here and loves and hates these things and you must do beyond the 10 commandments and love within your group in order to go to Heaven.
What if it truly isn't our job to save people? What if, above all things, we are meant to love and love well? What does look like? Subtract the additional 10 commandments and learn to love, to empathize, to abide by your convictions for yourself and love people where they are at. As God does relentlessly and with such patience.
Maybe people pull away from God because those trying to example God are making His love appear so conditional, impatient and scary. That's not the God I know. So while I attend Sunday church seldomly, while I connect with God privately and in a local 24/7 prayer room as I desire, perhaps never committing to 8 hours a week in the prayer room anymore; do not pray for my salvation or that I would quit compromising my relationship with God. I have not fallen from Him and will not. I am only deeper in His arms, loving as I believe He meant for us to love.
Unconditionally. My convictions are my own, my relationship with God is for me and not against me, my love I'll give will overflow from the example of Jesus Christ. How I connect with God and when I connect with God, how often my mind changes and I age and experience and learn more is my business. I do not owe defenses or explanation to any one person. I am His, He is mine and I wouldn't choose life without God. I am a Christian and my world views, belief systems, political views, holy spirit connections and prayer life is blooming where it's planted in prayer and the overflow of what I've been purposed to do with transparency, Birdie's Travel Spa, an autobiography, coaching and more.
I practice unconditional love as a Christian.