I was having an insightful conversation with my friend Claire about the evangelical church in general and my church in particular. Comments shifted, as they do, to the heavy heart I have for my pastor and his wife. They are wonderful people. Gifted. Talented. Both have a strong desire to serve God and to shepherd His people. Both are under a yoke that is not from Jesus. They have a picture of Jesus and it is not the true Jesus. It is something false and it is sucking the life out of them.
So many people have a false picture of Jesus. And they are loathe to let go and embrace a clear, truthful picture of who Jesus is. This runs rampant not just in Evangelical Christian circles, but everywhere. My BIL is an atheist and he rejects Jesus because all he sees, all he had been shown growing up, is a false Jesus. He is right to reject this false Jesus. What he’s not willing to do is seek out the true Jesus.
I understand. I almost walked away from my faith because of the oppression and the false beliefs of who Christ is that I had been taught and modeled. I attended a faith based college and if you ever want to see the faith community in action, check out a campus at any faith based higher education institution. After putting in my four years, I was turning cynical and questioned everything my younger self ever believed of who Jesus was and what it meant to be a Christian. The instructors, staff and students at this college may have been willing to accept legalism, false humility, the subjugation of women, and a works based faith, but I wasn’t. There had to be something more, something different. I needed it to be different.
I married and moved to a new state. I attended bible studies and joined a sunday school class with my husband. I did my devotionals. And I cried every day because none of these actions felt as though they were leading me to the God my grandmother introduced me to. Instead of feeling love and compassion and acceptance, I was judged. If I spoke an opinion or asked a question that caused someone to think (gasp), I was shut down. I was told I needed to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman. I needed humility. I needed to encourage my husband to be the head of my household and essentially think for me. When I discussed my desire for a career, I was shut down and told a good Christian woman and have babies. Make a home my husband would long to come home to. Pray, study, serve.
I was not attending a cultish church. This was a very mainstream, very large church in my community. There were professional women in this congregation, but the overall teaching was to do, to follow a model someone decided was the one size fits all answer for every married woman.
Initially, I did pray that God would remove my longing for a career, to help people in a different way. I prayed my husband would make enough money I could stay home and be a homemaker. I prayed for the desire to be a homemaker. Which is really funny in retrospect because anyone who knows me knows I don’t love to clean house and cook meals. I’m not fond of my vacuum cleaner and doing dishes gives me a rash. Laundry? A necessary evil. I would do really well with a maid. In one sense, those prayers did help me see the value in those acts, but they didn’t remove the desires that were imprinted upon my heart.
I felt called to be in the workforce so I was. I sought out God in the “secular” world and believe it or not, it was there and not in church that I found Jesus. You see, Jesus does not live in an ivory tower. Jesus embraces the masses. Jesus is unafraid of getting his hands dirty. He meets needs. He loves. He laughs. He lives. Jesus became real to me when I stepped outside of the teachings of my church and stepped into life. My prayers took on a conversational tone. Here was someone who wanted my questions, my opinions, my fears and my joys and didn’t care if they were all a messy tangle of need and longing. He just wanted me to be real.
I am still learning who Jesus is and am learning to distinguish between what Jesus asks of me and what false spirits masquerading as Jesus want to take from me. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two, but I’m learning.
What does this have to do with the prophetic? I need to know whose voice I’m listening to. If it’s not Jesus then I need to shut it down. How do I know I’m hearing Jesus? In the words of Graham Cooke, if the words are full of the fruit of the spirit, then it’s God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23