I think most of the time, faith is not easy for me. For some, being a Christian seems like the most obvious choice. Sunday mornings are refreshing and attending bible class other times during the week is worth the effort for how it makes them feel, the energy it gives them to face their lives outside of church. Church is definitely more palatable than it was before when I still attended a complementarian church, but going to church didn’t magically become easier. There are unspoken rules I’m not privy to and procedures and order that make no sense without context. It’s hard for me to worship freely, because I still don’t understand what worship is supposed to look like in my new church home. It’s not truly new either, given that I’m an acting elder. I’ve been at our new church long enough to become a member and then become an elder. This is evidence that being Presbyterian all of your life is not what is seen as central to being an elder, but instead a willingness to be a Christian and to do that within a Presbyterian congregation. In other words, it doesn’t really matter that I still don’t know all the ins and outs of the logistics and symbols and liturgical components. What matters is that I want to love people and to make our church a place where they can come and be loved, a place where we will go to them and love them, a place where we will remember that Jesus is our guide first and our customs secondary. None of this makes faith easy for me though, because going to church is work. I did hope that removing myself from my conservative background and on to a place that respected my intelligence and autonomy as a woman with more sincerity would make me one of those people that did feel like Sundays were like a big, comfy bowl of chicken pot pie, with all the assurance that I’m just going to feel better after I’ve eaten it. I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way, or maybe faith is hard for some and easier for others because God works in all of us differently. Maybe my faith is easy and maybe it’s just that I haven’t yet learned to see that my faith in God doesn’t necessarily have to be fully aligned with other believers. Maybe my faith is hard because relationships are hard and I’m trying to have one with God, and sometimes I don’t like what I think God is doing, just like I don’t like what my earthly friends sometimes do. Maybe I’m moving closer to the freedom I had hoped to find, gradually trusting that it is ok to let my faith be what it is, to trust that it’s good, and to not let it be defined by others who feel they know what my heart needs. I’m not unaware that church might always be work for me, but that’s ok. I think Jesus had some days that it was all work and maybe his faith felt a little out of reach too. His friends fell asleep when he needed them and God didn’t take the cup away when he cried out. James might have called all the trials and tribulations “joy”, but I’m not sure Jesus himself would have used those words. I think Jesus might have been a little bit more honest about life. Faith isn’t necessarily about viewing everything from a positive outlook, but more about waking up and trying. When I pray with my kids, I often include something about “help us to love you, to love others, and to love ourselves”. I think faith allows for the truth that loving is one of the most difficult things to do, that the very core of Christianity, of what Jesus asks of us, is incredibly hard. It’s not all chicken pot pie and suggesting it should be is closer to a lie we tell ourselves to make life seem more livable. James isn’t wholly right, nor is he wholly wrong. We can use his guidance, but we shouldn’t forget that if Jesus struggled, it’s ok for us to have trouble too.
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