“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
There was a time in my life when matters of theology ruled the day. At any given time, you’d find me at my desk with multiple versions of the Bible (primarily KJV), plus a Strong’s Concordance, and various online resources on the computer. I studied the Bible line-by-line, through the lens of my very straight, white, conservative, evangelical upbringing.
The Bible was a tool, to be used to make a point. It was a resource. A double-edged sword.
But it seemed that the Bible was pushing more people away than it was drawing them in. I believed I had a strong faith, but what I actually had was a killer dogma.
A dogma that killed.
The words “faith” and “religion” were used interchangeably back then. And it’s only been in the past five years, since my suicide attempt, that I’ve learned those two words mean two very different things.
That’s right – a suicide attempt.
Performance-based Christianity nearly killed me.
Performance-based Christianity nearly killed me. I had bought into the lie that if we work hard enough, eventually, we might be able to earn a little of the love of God. I had been in ministry nearly a decade, but I was also battling anxiety and depression, shame over childhood sexual abuse, and a secret addiction to pornography.
Religion taught me that a prayer of faith at an altar call would save me. Not only save me, but change me instantly. But life had shown me that God wasn’t working any instantaneous miracles in my life. I was 30 years old when I finally began to learn that God works ordinarily, through prayer, the Sacraments, therapy, a strong support system, and even prescription drugs.
I was exhausted, ashamed, full of secrets, and scared to death.
I was a Christian, yet I hated myself.
No one had told me of the God of Brennan Manning, who loves me as a I am and not as I should be.
No one had whispered the Grace of Paul Young’s Abba, who tells us that we are wounded in relationship. And it is in relationship that we find healing.
I grew weary in well-doing. I was worn-out, burned out on religion. And on my very worst day, lying in a hospital bed, I met a Jesus who feels the same way. He’s burned out on religion, too. In my darkest hour, Jesus placed his hand on my chest and I heard the voice of Grace, whispering, “I’m not finished with you yet.”
I’m still in recovery, and recovery is really hard work, but God remains faithful and present, even there. God has never allowed my pain to be cheapened by sweeping it under the rug. Instead of snapping his fingers and healing me in an instant, God has allowed me to name my pain and has sat in the ashes with me.
I have a strained relationship with the church today, but everyday faith has shown me that God is present in my process.
Everyday faith has taught me that humanity is far more important than theology. And not only to me, but to the God of Jesus, who lingers with me as he gently restores my soul.
Everyday faith has taught me the miracle of the mundane: that the faith of every day matters.
Abuse, addiction, and a suicide attempt weren’t the end of Steve Austin’s story. In fact, a suicide attempt is where his life began. Steve is an author, speaker, and life coach from Birmingham, Alabama. Connect with Steve at iamsteveaustin.com today!