Jesus is my homeboy

Jesustweet

I grew up going to church. I didn’t even realize attendance wasn’t mandatory until I was almost fifteen years old. This may partly be due to the fact that I’m a slow learner, but I’d also like to think it’s because I was an obedient child. When my mother beckoned me from the garage door to get in the damn car right now don’t make me come back into the house to find you stop putting more Sun-In in your hair it’s church not the beach you dummy, I followed her orders without hassle. Being such a pleasure to parent is probably the reason I gave birth to a good kid myself. I hear God doesn’t play favorites, but just look at how that all worked out. Suspicious, amirite?

After I became an unwed pregnant teenager, I stopped attending regularly because I feared judgment. Not from God, but from the other churchgoers. It wasn’t a sure thing that my situation was going to light up the gossip circuit, but people were still talking about how a certain family had moved from a five-bedroom home into a duplex. I was pretty sure an 18-year-old’s surprise pregnancy was almost as interesting as a real estate step-down. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being bigheaded.

Not going to church didn’t mean that I no longer believed in God. I still hollered at Him from time to time when I felt especially broken. My prayers became casual conversations. Not like a real-time chat where I would share an issue and He would respond immediately. It was more like a text exchange where I sent off a thought, knowing He would get back to me eventually. Sometimes, it would take weeks or months, but I have other friends who lag like that. I’ve learned to accept them for who they are.

Because I missed the sense of community, I started going to a different church when Cal was a toddler. The new place seemed legit, and I still know people from my brief stint there who I am proud to call my friends.

I stopped attending after the pastor’s wife pulled me aside to express her concern that bringing Cal to church might influence the youth group kids into believing that our church condoned teen parenthood. Just like I have a personal policy about not hitting other people’s kids, I also won’t hit a pastor’s wife. Or a pastor. We all need to set boundaries for ourselves and those are mine. (It may seem like I go around hitting people, but I want you to know that I haven’t gotten into a physical altercation in YEARS. I also don’t hit animals or old people.)

I still believe in God. I’ve never really talked about being religious before, and I was scared to do it today, but just because I don’t talk about something doesn’t make it less true.

I also still believe that not all religious people are narrow-minded or judgmental or that being a pillar of a church community exempts a person from making very human mistakes with their words and actions. I won’t blame that pastor’s wife as the reason I haven’t made an effort to attend church regularly for the past twelve years. It was a choice I made.

For years, I waved to Harv and Cal as they left for Sunday service. In the past few months, I’ve started joining them occasionally. I’m always nervous when I walk through the heavy wooden doors. The sheer amount of swearing I do each week makes me think I’m going to burst into flames. That’s probably not how God works, but I don’t put anything past that guy. Even if He is my homeboy.

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  • http://www.siebee.com/ Corin

    I’ve never really been religious or spiritual myself, but I’m pretty sure if God had a problem with cursing, he wouldn’t have made it so damn satisfying.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I totally agree that it’s damn satisfying. Sometimes, I wonder if that was Satan’s handiwork or God’s. Satan is definitely not my homeboy.

  • KK

    Take baby steps. You go as often as you feel comfortable. No one should be pushing you to go. At the same time, God’s doors are always open to you. He welcomes you with open arms. I can’t believe a pastor’s wife would tell you she doesn’t want you or Cal at church. A single mom could be due to many reasons, such as divorce or death. We are not the judge, God is. He loves all His children, regardless of our mistakes. You are an amazing mama!

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      She makes me think of a line in Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True: “Power, wrongly used, defeats the oppressor as well as the oppressed.”

      Not tryna say I was oppressed. But perhaps she wielded her influence poorly. I AIN’T MAD AT YOU, PASTOR’S WIFE.

      • http://www.puttingthefunindysfunctional.com/ Cyndy Bush

        I am mad at her. And that’s my favorite book ever.

  • Chelsi Leigh

    I’m so sorry that woman said that you to you. She was wrong, wrong, wrong. God’s homeboys (and homettes) in the bible were all imperfect people: David was a murderer and an adulterer, Jacob lied, Rahab was a prostitute, Isaiah preached naked… I could go on.

    Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing this. It’s hard. I know from personal experience; every time I’ve written a post about my faith I immediately want to delete it. Whether its Satan or my own insecurities getting in way, it’s tough to share.

    You’re an inspiring woman, and a damn good writer.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      God doesn’t judge….but judging by the company he keeps, he probably knew where all the best parties were at.

      i almost chickened out today and started writing a post about learning to use my GPS. Spiritual guidance is way more valuable than getting to a new Target on the first try though.

  • Jisun Kim

    Elizabeth, you are an inspiration to me. I love your honesty and genuineness. Please continue to shine. You are loved by God and by so many around you. Thanks for this post. Loved reading it. REfreshing!

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      J, you’ve watched my whole journey and never turned away. I certainly love you for it, and I know God is giving you mad fist bumps.

  • chemegirljaime

    I have a hard time with religion mostly because of my mums suicide … I’ve had people whisper that she’s in hell… and I just can’t believe that. I don’t think anyone has the right to judge anyone else for their decisions.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I’m so sorry to hear that people are making the loss of your mom even harder by saying such hurtful things.

      Clearly, those motherfuckers have never heard Tupac say “Only God can judge me.”

      *hugz*

      • chemegirljaime

        thanks!!!

  • erin_mommyonthespot

    My favorite line – “just because I don’t talk about something, doesn’t make it less true.”

    Also, after my on again/off again relationship with the Catholic religion, I have embraced yoga. Meditating, the whole non-judging thing, going to my edge and breathing through it has done wonders for me.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      My favorite line is “I also don’t hit animals or old people” because I feel like it shows my sensitive side.

      I am going to follow your path by giving yoga a try (prolly not the Catholicism though) because I’ve noticed that when I get tense, I hold my breath. Thank God I haven’t passed out or anything….yet.

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    Any church that doesn’t welcome you with open arms, regardless of your situation, is not the right church. Churches, at the very least, are supposed to lure you in before they brainwash you into judging others. ;)

    I hope the place you attend with Cal and Harv makes sense to you – or at the very least, provides a good avenue for communicating with God.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Like, seriously. Lemme get at a few church potlucks and retreats before you disown me or turn me against others. That’s all I ask.

      I like the church we’ve been going to lately. It’s a lot bigger than I am used to and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd, but sometimes, anonymity can be a blessing.

  • Lillian

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I found your blog a couple months ago and I have been reading your posts ever since. Your raw and honest writing is just so.. real.

    Like the many people below me, I want to express my disbelief and my apologies for what that pastor’s wife said to you.. and you are so big for acknowledging that religious people are flawed humans too. I have a hard time remembering that myself.

    I hope that you find a comfortable and wonderful church to call home soon. Thanks always for your honesty and your writing.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Yo, Lillian, thank YOU for keeping it real and keeping kindness king. I really appreciate you taking the time to holler and be so encouraging.

      I acknowledge things, but I often forget to incorporate that knowledge in the heat of the moment. I don’t always act right because I want to be a good person. I do it because I’m not suited for jail.

  • Grace

    ‘condoned teen parenthood’ what the fuck does that mean?! She should’ve pulled your ass aside to praise you for having the courage to have and raise a child on your own when you were so young. Unfortunately, A lot of young girls who grow up in that kind of ‘Christian’ environment and then find themselves pregnant, feel so stuck and shamed that they have an abortion or give up their baby for adoption. It’s good you left that church. I would not want my children to grow up in that kind of church – not that everyone in the church was like that, but the Pastor’s wife?! Really, get the fuck outta here.

    • Grace

      P.s., it’s time to man up and get ur ass to church on a regular basis – that is, one that’s really christian- u know, one where they actually share Christ’s love and shit

      • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

        I think we’ve found a good one. It may not be our permanent home, but it certainly has been a wonderful and kind place to be around Christians again.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Grace, you crack me up. Actually, you cracked me up multiple times because the first time I read your comment, I was on my phone and couldn’t reply right away. “Get the fuck outta here”….my greatest wish is to see those words come out of your mouth in person.

      A small comfort is knowing that I am more aware of what to look out for so that Cal doesn’t have to go through some of the things I went through. I don’t blame my mom or anything, but I had to discover on my own as an adult that I had a voice and that it was okay for me to stand up for myself. I try to remind Cal of those things on a regular basis because she deserves to be valued.

  • cindy.jtlt

    Thank you once again for being so vulnerable! I love your bravery. Shame on that pastor’s wife for pushing you out like that… Church is for all people. We’re ALL broken and need of grace and that’s the one place judgment should be forgotten because when you really dig into each of us, we all have our issues and imperfections. But churches are made of imperfect people like the pastor’s wife and all of us. I’m so glad to hear that you’re trying to go again and that the words of one person haven’t completely distorted your view on God.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      This is actually something I’ve been working on in other areas of my life. I tend to shy away from something after one bad experience (it could be something as small as bad service at a restaurant which makes me not want to go back there again). Everybody fucks up and if others are willing to give me another chance, I need to do the same.

  • http://inpursuitofhappiness.net/blog Miss Britt

    And again your vulnerability is a gift for us.

    Are you liking going back to church? What prompted that for you?

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I do like it. I wanted church to be a whole family experience because when i was growing up, I only went to church with one parent.

  • Elizabeth Barnes

    I think it’s awesome of you to be brave enough to show people that real, flawed people who aren’t going to condemn them to hell believe in God. Love this one!

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Honestly, I was scared shitless that people were going to condemn me for being open about my Christian journey, but I’m done letting fear rule me.

  • Brittany

    I usually hate any posts about religion/ faith, but I really loved this one.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Your thumbs up makes me happy. Thank you.

  • Alice

    Hey friend, glad you wrote this. Sorry that the pastor’s wife said that. As one myself, I hope I never say that to someone.
    Hope the church you guys are going to now is welcoming. There will probably be people that judge everywhere you go, but I’m that you have your head on straight. And that you know God still loves you.
    Every time I read about imperfect people in the Bible, especially David, who was a man after God’s heart, who did all those wrong and awful things, and see how God forgives and loves him…I’m so in awe.
    I’m glad you are going to church with your family. Take it a little at time. I will always love you my homegirl.
    Alice

  • http://www.puttingthefunindysfunctional.com/ Cyndy Bush

    I went to church for three Sundays IN A ROW and the church is still standing. Trust me, I’m as shocked as you are.
    Those idiots….are idiots. They’re judgmental and RELIGIOUS, and I hate religion. I call myself spiritual but really, why do we even need labels?

  • brittany rae

    Girl! I loved this. I was called out once in a “Christian” church because I didnt sing,dance, etc. Mind you I’m Catholic… I quit for years. I started going again but had a few too many panic attacks in the parking lot so I tend to not go. I want to and I should work on overcoming this. Someday.

  • http://www.unitedstatesofbecky.blogspot.com/ unitedstatesofbecky

    Oh man. Now I’m all riled up about that stupid bitch pastor’s wife.
    *Deep breath. Must. Calm. Down.
    Okay…I agree – not all religious people are narrow-minded (myself, example) – but I think sometimes the people with the least inside their heads just keep shouting the loudest because – well – they can’t stand the silence or something. Some people are such monumental asshats that they make everyone around them look like giant asshats, too. Grrr. Now I’m getting worked up again….
    And basically, that’s how my prayers are, too. I think it’s how I pray best, because for me at least, it’s the most sincere way for me to talk to God. And I’m always nervous at church (when I go). Always nervous. Mostly because I get angry and impatient and judgy with people all the freaking time. But mostly, church-going or not, swearing or not, teen mom or not – I think God knows what’s in your heart and He’s going to do His own thing with that information no matter what the asshats say. Also: my belief God knows what’s in my heart (impatient, cranky jerky-jerkington) is probably the reason I’m always nervous when I go to church.
    *Le sigh.

  • theblahblahblahger

    Wow – I really hate it when Christians actually live up to the stereotypes that haters portray us as…I would have hit the pastor’s wife for you. Good job for inching back in as you feel led. I don’t think you have to attend church to be a good Christian, but sometimes you find the kind of people there who build you up and share your beliefs and it’s really satisfying!

  • Rachel

    I have a hard time with organized religion… I struggle with my faith on a day to day basis, but believe that there is something/someone definitely bigger than me. I read my bible regularly and believe in the spirit… it’s just that… well, I have found that people in the church community can be very narrow-minded and judgmental. I try not to bring that on to myself willingly. But, congrats to you, for being a bigger person and attending! I wish you the best in your church community…

  • Cathy Q

    hey liz – i’m glad you’re not letting what other people think stop you from continuing your faith journey and from sharing about it. there’s a lot of persecution of christians from both outside and inside the church. sadly, we all make mistakes, judge others, and say/do stupid things…but that’s what Jesus is for! :) keep believing! :)

  • Natane

    Thank you for sharing this. It echoes many of my memories and sentiments about church. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to go back for more than just the holidays and family events.

  • Heather

    As a Christian myself I apologize for that woman’s annoying “concern.” In my opinion, church is made for community, because life is hard and we all need support wherever we are in our lives. But that’s just me :)

  • alexandra

    We do church at home. We visit my mother who has dementia, we help each other around here, we are nice to one another. Church is home. That’s what I believe.

  • http://birdybegins.wordpress.com/ Eleanorjane

    Damn, I’m sorry you had to experience that stupid church. There are better ones out there and some awesome Christian people. Jamie is one of them and her most recent blog is about being a teenage mom. http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/search?updated-min=2013-01-01T00:00:00-07:00&updated-max=2014-01-01T00:00:00-07:00&max-results=20

  • http://desertgirlsvintage.blogspot.com/ Lori and Rebecca

    Wow- it is hard to believe that some people are so narrow-minded. I have a friend who stopped attending her church when 2 members got pregnant at the same time- one married, one not. Everyone immediately flocked to the wed mother and started planning her baby shower. When my friend offered to plan the unwed mother to be’s shower, she was pulled aside and told not to bother; they didn’t want to send the wrong message. Her argument was a baby is a baby, and should be looked at as a gift from God.
    It’s just sad that some people still feel like they have the right to judge others.
    Lori

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