“How me am I allowed to be?”
This question taunted me, when we first began attending church back in 2015. I had such a skewed perception of what a “church girl” ought to look like, combined with a previous inclination that admitting or showing my sin would land me on the outs of the church cliques, that I was truly concerned that one of two things would happen:
I would be found out.
Or I would stop being me altogether.
And both options were equally unappealing.
The presence of this particular fear kept me from joining any church groups for a long time. Getting involved would mean exposing myself, to a degree, and I rather liked the obscurity. Here, I could show up to church, be greeted by everyone and recognized by no one, and leave again.
That was the initial draw to my semi-mega-church, if I’m being honest. In stark contrast to anything I’d known previously about church (remember, I grew up in a small town and whether you went to church or not, everyone knew everyone’s sin). Being unknown felt safer, somehow.
When I walked into church, my good girl mask on, no one knew that I was depressed. I could show up every Sunday and pretend that I didn’t drink too often. I could stand and sing at the top of my lungs and no one knew that the weight of my shame was so heavy on my chest I could hardly breathe. I could blend into the crowd and no one knew that I was too bad to belong. I could sit and listen to the sermon, and no one knew that I couldn’t list the books of the bible, that I wasn’t really sure how to pray correctly, and that the name “Jesus” still sounded foreign on my lips. I could smile and wave goodbye and no one knew that I wondered if it could really be real.
In 2015, I learned how to be Noel: church girl extraordinaire with the super human power of being able to live life perfectly.
But super girls aren’t actually realistic, and I had already spent way too much time pretending, to keep up the charade.
Still, I struggle with the question: how me am I allowed to be?
Maybe you’ve been there? You kind of sort of want to know more about Jesus but you’re not quite ready to wave your Jesus freak flag high? Or you wonder how it could feel to attend church, to grow in your relationship with Christ, but you’re certain you’re way too bad to fit in?
And it wasn’t just how me am I allowed to be in church? It was how “new” me am I allowed to be publicly? At the time, I was still in the process of building my coaching business and if there’s one rule in business, it’s this: don’t talk about your religious or political views lest you offend a potential customer.
Immediately, I was torn between two selves; the self that built the business and reveled in the direction it was headed, and the self that was beginning to realize that nothing had ever given me peace quite like this God journey I was on. Was I to be the two people? Keep my life compartmentalized? Talk about faith with other believers and pursue worldly endeavors with the non?
How me am I allowed to be?
Not too long after, I fell in love with the book of Romans. It was love at first sight. Here I was, unable to tell you which was New Testament, Old Testament, or not testament, relying on one verse I happened across over and over: Romans 8:28. This verse inspired me to read all of Romans, the first book I read start to finish. And something in me changed as God revealed the truth that can be found in this book!
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
Okay. So God loves me so much, He’s willing to wait while I wade through the shallows, testing the waters, discovering first hand what should and shouldn’t remain in my life. This is good news. God loves me as I am, so much so, that he’ll patiently wait for me to become who I’m becoming.
“Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people…are under the power of sin.”
Okay. So it isn’t just me. There is no one here, in this church, on this earth, who has not sinned, who does not struggle with their nature to sin, and who does not need redemption from their sinfulness. God knows I sin, He knows I’ll always struggle, and yet, loves me still. And if it isn’t just me, it’s everyone around me. And knowing it’s everyone around me takes the pressure off of me.
“…now we also may live new lives.”
Permission to be a new person on Facebook, business suicide be darned. I’m able to be who I am still, at church, and who I’m becoming, online. It’s one and the same, from two different perspectives, and it’s totally allowed. I’m allowed to attend church as a sinner beginning my new life, and talk about it as a coach working on my new life.
And then, my friend, the freedom of Romans 15:7,
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ as accepted you so that God will be given the glory.”
Acceptance. Acceptance as I am. Acceptance for who I am, despite who I am, because I am, because He is.
How me am I allowed to be?
Because, and here’s the bottom line: the “me” you’re worried about presenting to the world isn’t truly the “me” of your core. You are not your past, your sin, your doubts, your fears, your flaws, your struggles, or your labels. You are fearfully and wonderfully made; unique and unable to be duplicated. If you don’t show your whole “me” to the world, no one ever will.
And we will all miss out.
Church isn’t about hiding what you’ve done wrong to present the best you possible in order to appease the standards of others. Church is about joining others on their journeys to better, seeing them through the lens of Christ, not culture, and loving them because you are loved.
God didn’t choose your sin, but he will use your sin; you are allowed to be as much you as you are, sister, because there is someone out there who needs to know that they’re allowed to be them, too. If you put on the mask, you take away another’s freedom to live life filter-free.
Have you ever struggled with not knowing how “you” to be, in a certain situation?
Read more about my experience fitting into church here.