I am a Christian.

If you're like me, you may have spent a large portion of your adolescence in the wonderful establishment that is youth group. No place else can you learn/make up hand motions to even the most reverent of worship songs, get about forty different t-shirts with the most random religious references known to man or tarnish the sanctity of the church by playing an all-night game of capture the flag in the chapel. One of my favorite things I learned from youth group however, was a particular song. I'm sure a large portion of you know it...."I am a C. I am a C-H. I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N...." and, well...you know the rest. As a super-cool youth group kid, we would make up variations of this song that changed the letters in to words such as " I am a Chicken. I am a Chicken-Ricken. I am a Chicken-HIcken-Ricken-I-Sicken-Tickin-I-A-NIcken". I mean, I was really, really cool. 

What's crazy is I feel like sometimes when I tell people I'm a CHRISTIAN, they hear that I'm a ChickenHickenRickenISikenTickenIANicken. They hear the general gist of what I'm saying - but end up filling in the details with their own agenda. They automatically substitute their own notions, beliefs or ideas about being a Christian in to my religious affiliation, and then expect me to comply to their standards. I'm a Christian? I must be judgmental. I'm a Christian? I must be super-pure and above reproach. I'm a Christian? Surely I must carry my Bible with me at all times and know at least 100 verses. How am I supposed to know how anyone else defines my beliefs or affiliation? Sure there is doctrine and Biblical basis for a few things, but most of it is a muddy, gray area - and excuse me if I offend anyone in saying so - anyone who views Christianity as a "black and white" life style really should re-read....well, the whole Bible. That's the beauty of what a perfect God created in our beliefs, breathing room and grace to accommodate the strict conservative AND the most liberal. Why would we change our God-given aptitudes and interests to adapt to a socially defined idea of the perfect Christian?  

This idea that being a Christian can mean one lifestyle and one set of world-views leads me to make a lot of qualifying statements when trying to share my personal outlook on life. "I'm a Christian...but" gets thrown out a lot in my conversations with non-Christians (and other Christians as well). I find myself waging an uphill battle against every stereotype, prejudice and notion that someone has formed of Christians because I personally take a more unorthodox route to my core beliefs. Don't worry, though - at the center of it all, I still hold true to the good stuff - love, our sinful nature, the beauty of grace and the call to sanctification - but the rest, the stuff that is the gray areas, I've made up my own mind about...regardless of current cultural norms (at least I'd like to think). 

Notice how I really haven't shared my beliefs on this post. Because after years of having deep, trying (yet, rewarding) conversations - I've become a bit gun-shy at pulling out the Ch-word. I prefer to let my life do the talking, my love do the ministering and my heart to do the evangelism. Words and notions are hard things to navigate, especially with such a loaded topic as religion. Life is messy, why shouldn't my Christian walk and beliefs follow suit? Though even with the hesitance, I still relish the chance to share my heart with other people. I know I may be misunderstood, judged or condemned, but there is power in knowing who I am regardless of the approval of anyone else. There is power in proclaiming the sweetest, most real thing I have in my life - and there is power in finding truth and understanding in someone else's beliefs, regardless of how different they are from mine. 

I am a Christian. I am messy and complicated, even in my beliefs. I am a CowHowRowISowTowIANow.

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