Religion Made Me Take Life Too Seriously
I’ve spent approximately 97% of my life trying to make sure I live out my purpose and my days intentionally, according to what God had planned for my life, plans that I was told he decided before I was born. I was taught that God had ordained all of my days. He had a plan, a perfect will for me, for how I should live out those days. They were to be spent serving God by serving others, and not my own selfish self. My life was not my own, and I was responsible to find God's perfect will and live by it. I did not exist to bring myself joy and happiness, but to suffer for Christ - and in that - it was said, I could find happiness, knowing I was bringing God glory. That’s different from happiness from pleasure. We were taught not to seek happiness from pleasure and things satisfying to ourselves...that is worldly and God is not pleased with it.
The burden was so heavy. I was constantly racking my brain trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing at that moment to make God happy. I was never able to just relax and just be, because fear of God wouldn’t let me. I could never do enough - there always had to be MORE. Because - WHAT IF - Jesus came back in one of those moments I chose to relax. WHAT IF - he wouldn’t tell me “well done, good and faithful servant.” WHAT IF I wasn’t enough. WHAT IF - I was embarrassed for lack of rewards for my life lived here on earth that I was supposed to immediately place back at Jesus feet.
Our lives were often compared to the missionaries who had suffered the most in third world countries, some who had lost their lives for the sake of the gospel. They had given ALL. Would WE GIVE ALL!? Would we be willing? We were constantly guilted into surrendering our lives to full-time-Christian service, or rededicating our lives to God because we weren't good enough. We were challenged to make sure we were as focused and working as hard as the glorious Christians who were put on those pedestals because, God was definitely happy with them. The rest of us were second class...but we could sure strive to compete for first. I always thought, when I become an adult and can drive myself around, I can serve so much more, etc. The torture in my mind to be and do more was endless. And all I wanted was for God to be happy with me.
Well, I entered adulthood, got my own car, went off to college, served even more, did weekend outreaches to proselytize, worked at weekend and summer camps, got married, had kids, even adopted, taught Christian school, homeschooled, served in church, hosted and led Christian book and Bible studies...and it STILL wasn’t enough. All I kept hearing from the pulpit was “we’re not doing enough!” My whole last couple years in Christianity, I heard it EVERY. SINGLE. SUNDAY. However, those last few years, I was starting to hear a voice inside of me that said, “um, you are doing enough - you can’t do any more. You don’t have any more time to commit…” And so now hearing “you’re not doing enough” from the pulpit made me start to grow a whole new frustration. God wasn’t telling me this. Man was telling me this. And how dare man tell me that I’m not doing enough for God.
But I still didn’t understand what life was about - I still was stuck on making sure I was doing enough to make God happy to fulfill his purpose for me. It was so stressful. I was so stressed, anxious, and burned out. I was still always searching my mind for “what would God want me to be doing with these moments in this day...what’s his perfect plan…” I was so afraid of getting it wrong and being disappointed when I would stand before God someday and give an account for the good and bad ways I lived my life.
I’m 38. I was born into religion. Over the last 37 years, everything I enjoyed or started to enjoy has slowly died. Why? Because I was not supposed to be enjoying it. I was to be about God’s business of winning souls for Jesus and saving them from eternal damnation. From an early age, it was drilled into me that Jesus was coming back soon to take the Christians up to heaven. They said that when Jesus returns, he did not want to find you playing games or telling somebody about him? We were to always be watching for him to come back in the clouds, and to be constantly serving so we could be found faithful. We were actually constantly shamed for being more excited about a football game, where we would yell and cheer, which exceeded the excitement that we brought into a church service.
Here’s the irony...in a Baptist church, if we would’ve brought the same level of excitement that we brought to the football game, we would’ve been kicked out of the church service and shamed for that too!
You can’t even hardly raise your hand in a baptist church service without being looked at as pushing the envelope and being a little rebellious. Especially not where I came from. You could always feel the thick cloud of judgment and religious expectations. I felt it very deeply - all the dang time.
It was several years ago that I realized I had become numb to the ability to enjoy anything anymore. I had lost all my hobbies. I had lost the ability to fully enjoy anything at all. I had felt it all slowly slipping away, and then one day I realized I was numb - and the ability to do anything for pleasure or enjoyment was gone. Yes I could laugh in the moment, but my ability to be at peace and enjoy the present did not exist anymore. Somehow, I would dissociate from the present experience in a way where I couldn’t connect to the joy I used to feel inside as a small child. Traumatic experiences have a way of taking their toll on your body and mind. Trauma is your body’s response when it doesn’t know what to do with the information it had been given. And my body was clearly storing a life-long experience in religious trauma. I am just now beginning to process all that and getting back the ability to feel joy and pleasure in the present.
When you spend your entire life striving to be 100%, whole-heartedly sold out for Jesus, who wants to find you working when he returns at any moment, your purpose and identity are completely wrapped up in this deity that exists outside yourself. It’s a lot of overwhelming work. It’s stressful. It’s draining. It’s frustrating trying to find the right, perfect path…
I have spent my entire life, taking life WAY TOO SERIOUSLY...Thank you fear-based-religion...
So when your entire belief system shifts, or even completely disappears, you’re left not even knowing who you are or why you exist anymore. I’ve tossed ideas around in my head over the last year, and I came to the conclusion that well, I can love. If nothing else, I exist to love...and to help people hurt less, by being with them in their pain. But that still wasn’t enough - there was still an emptiness that I’ve felt all my life, that I was told was a God-shaped hole that only he can fill if you’re following him closely (well, y’all...I no doubt proved that wrong for me at least - the rest of y’all have to decide that on your own ;). It's your life - you write your story. I have no right or reason to tell you what you should or must believe or follow. Your life is yours. Embrace it. ♥
Just yesterday I was thinking...Wouldn’t it be great if life didn’t have to be taken so seriously? If there didn’t have to be an agenda? If we could just enjoy what each day brings, as it unfolds, and just be in the moment?
OMG guys...do you ever just feel like you have been sleeping, and you just “wake up” to how good things really are? Because that’s what happened yesterday when I realized that life is so much simpler than I had been making it out to be ALL MY FREAKIN LIFE.
Life does NOT have to be taken seriously. There is NO AGENDA for ME to follow to please a deity and be in right standing. I CAN enjoy what each day brings, as it unfolds, and enjoy just being in the moment. There are no requirements for life that I need to fulfill to make a god happy with me.
I get to create my own purpose and reality...and that can simply start with enjoying the human experience in any wholesome way possible! I can’t go wrong here! That is so freeing!
It’s completely okay to enjoy the day by doing nothing... It’s okay to stay in bed all day if you’re sad or exhausted or tired or just want a day off... It’s okay to enjoy playing video games... It’s okay to enjoy an exotic, amazing vacation. It's okay to enjoy any kind of music. It's okay to have a movie marathon. It’s okay to spend the day coloring with your kids... It’s okay to go out with friends and have a blast laughing and having drinks. It’s okay to let loose, have fun, and enjoy the day playing games, chilling, swimming, hiking, and doing whatever you want with your family and friends... It’s okay to float in the pool all day. It’s okay to laugh and be silly. It’s okay to chill and watch tv...It’s okay to eat a lot or a little...it’s okay to enjoy yourself at a ball game and cheer on your team...it’s okay to spend money on whatever you choose to spend money on...it’s okay to miss a Sunday service to do something else you’d rather do that excites you…it’s okay to not go to church at all!
IT’S ALL JUST OKAY!!!♥♥♥
I feel like I've wasted so much time - but I'm gonna say, it's okay...time to make up for it!♥