A shaming guilt once reached into the depths of my conscience as I was trying so hard to please the Lord. A new-found faith in the God I had known very little about was the beginning of a shaming, self-reproaching, wounding and grievous series of events.
God of love was not a good description for Him. Control over an existence, one that He had created, seemed to be a very conditional love. Far from the loving, unconditional relationship I had heard about. Was I nothing more than a created being, made in His image, that would now be thrown into the fiery pits of hell for all of eternity? Why did I even need to exist if my eternity would be spent separated from the One who, supposedly, loves me? I had to find out what God was truly about so I could better understand the God of wrath somehow being able to love me unconditionally, simultaneously. I entered the Pentecostal church to find some answers and to get my life right with God.
I remember the instant shaming within that first church experience. The card handed to me, asking whether or not I was a “member” of a church. That was the first uncomfortable feeling of not being capable of fitting the bill. I had already been singled out as a downtrodden outcast as soon as I sat down. Not a familiar face, so I had to be questioned, first and foremost. It was also my first notion of not being worthy of God and His position for me in the world. It was that first day within a little building on a Sunday morning that began a very long, frustrating, disheartening, frightening, and discerning journey. That event began the quest to understand exactly what the Lord wanted from me.
The first few years of church life were built upon fear. I had fear of breaking a law, whether it was Biblical or moral. Fear of failing to conform to a specific command within a church. Feeling like a failure because I couldn’t instantly give up a sin. Fear of not being seen as a good man if I had failed to acquire praise for my meritorious conduct. I feared all of those things. I feared going to hell above all of it, and it was fear which kept me within the tight grip of the guilt I would experience within those many dimensions of church life.
Fear was a basis of the life I had lived up until this point of desiring His presence. There had already been a constant fear of nearly everything that entered my life. A cautious man who comes from a life of scrutiny has no tolerance for being picked apart, so I realized that my walk with the Lord was probably going to be a very short one as I was just beginning to attend His house.
I almost walked away from God.
Not only was I disappointed with myself, in new and disparaging ways, but I was also mad at God for His way to know Him. Fear. Shame. Guilt. Conformity. Giving money to a man who would take vacations and buy nice suits while my family and I tried to make ends meet.
The same love that had broken me into small pieces of worthlessness throughout my whole life prior was now supposed to be a great, joyous love found within His presence? Within a militant establishment, where a small group of men justify their control over others on the basis of self-proclaimed qualification to lead? Where these men were paid, like being employed, to be mediators for God? I just couldn’t and wouldn’t accept that. This was just another extension of control. The same type of control so deeply rooted within our society. Another cultural pattern. I saw the opposite of a loving God. I saw pride within men.
Scaremongering, self-proclaimed men of God should be ashamed of themselves. They take the ignorance of others and use it to their advantage within their game of control and gain. They take the money of the poor and live off of it. They do whatever it takes to lure people into their establishments. They rob people of the truth and feed them lies. A false example of the love of God is found within their four walls of numerous conditions! They divide the body into thousands of denominations. They tell the ones who follow them what they should be doing, and speak right over the voice of Holy Spirit. No one has a chance to hear from God because one, and usually a select other few, are being paid to hear for them!
Woe to you, liars and thieves!
It was not until I left these houses of lies did I see the true nature of God. The true, unconditional love that Jesus provided with the atoning blood. The finished way to God. Praise the Lord for showing me the only way to know His love is not by seeking it within brick and mortar, but by knowing that He is with us, always. We are His temple. We are the Church. Praise God for sending Holy Spirit to show me the truth of His Word. Praise Him for showing me that He wants nothing more but for me to see myself as a lowly servant. He never wanted me to give into a prideful way that men have shaped into a business, with my God as their sales pitch and product. Praise God for the simplicity of faith in Christ alone. Praise Him for showing my the way to abide in a relationship with Him and His true Church! Praise Him for showing me the only mediator between man and the Father: Jesus Christ!