The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
(found in John 10:10)
Most people give up something they love for lent like chocolate, Netflix, or wine. Fasting from a luxury can be a beautiful and spiritual practice. Yet, I propose we keep that which we love in our lives and let go of all that we don’t. Unless every day you’re eating a dozen candy bars, binging on 10 hours of Netflix, or 2 bottles of wine, then I would say the excess is stealing your joy. However, all that gives life, we keep. All that destroys, we repent of.
If you grew up in Christianity, chances are you’ve heard the words spoken above in John 10:10, many times. Yet, these words probably meant something different to each of us, depending on the perspective of our own individual denomination. As a Baptist, this verse was tied to eternity-hell or heaven. Jesus came to give us abundant ETERNAL LIFE, and the thief (Satan) comes to give us ETERNITY in hell. These words were not about life before death.
This life, the one we are living right now was inadvertently taught by the church as being insignificant. Life after death is what mattered. As a result, many Christians are being raised and taught messages such as:
Where are you going when you die?
Are you ready? Jesus is coming “any day now.”
Our suffering will be worth it as our reward is in heaven, not on earth.
This is not our home. We are just passing through.
Jesus had to die and suffer unspeakable torture so you wouldn’t go to hell because of YOUR sins, because of something YOU did.
These messages may not affect everyone the same. Some Christians can just go about their lives, not internalizing any of them. Many are not as sensitive and find comfort in them, like I used to.
The promise of escape is so alluring and seductive. For example, the looming rapture gave me major
We all have our addictions. We all have our outlets and our illusions of control. The world can be scary.
Yet, now that I am out of toxic religion, I see this preoccupation with life after death and rapture as a life-stealer. They are concepts that came from “the thief.” Being obsessed with the rapture took my attention and focus away from my life here and now, and from working for a better world. Making sure I was good enough to escape eternity in hell actually put me in hell, here and now. I actually had to repent of these toxic religious messages. They were killing, stealing, and destroying my life.
Fresh off of finishing Nadia Bolz-Weber’s new life-giving book “Shameless: A Sexual Reformation“, I am enchanted with a perspective of God I am finally ready to receive. A perspective I’ve always had myself but buried deep beneath layers of shame, guilt, and fear. In other words, silenced by religion, hidden by “the thief”. I have spent years burrowing through these layers, being angry, self-destructive, fearful, and sad. However, the journey has led me to this present moment, the need to repent once again.
Repent is a loaded word. For some, it is a trigger word, bringing them back to a bible-beating world of fire and brimstone that they left. It is a word that has been associated with guilt, shame, and fear.
“Repent! The End is Near!”
“Repent or Burn!”
You get the picture. However, repent isn’t a scary concept. It is actually a marvelous, transformational one. I love the way Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks of repentance in ‘Shameless,’
“…repentance (metanoia in Greek) means, in essence, to snap out of it. To repent is to think new thoughts, and what makes the Gospel so meaningful is that it offers us a form of brain spackle to fill in the deeply worn neural grooves in our brains, where harmful thoughts have funneled through over and over.”
Today, on the first day of lent, I propose we repent (snap out) of that which is killing, stealing, and destroying our lives. I believe a lot of us have become addicted to misery and that which makes us miserable. We run from health and happiness as if we don’t deserve it. We’ve bonded traumatically with our suffering as if we do deserve it. We must change these thought patterns and behaviors as they open us up to more toxic situations, and keep us in a poisonous cycle.
There is a difference between spiritual conviction and religious conviction. The more connected you become to your body, your mind, and your spirit, the more this difference becomes clear.
Is the shame you feel from an all-loving, life-giving God, or is it from a toxic religious message you’ve received? Release it.
Is your guilt placed upon you by religion or someone projecting from that religion? Release it.
Are you afraid or lacking hope in a good future? Release it.
May we change the way we think about ourselves and our lives. May we change the way we think about “God”. The “God” I used to believe in was a thief. The “God” I am seeing now is an all-encompassing energy that loves me unconditionally and wants for me to live my best life so I can also help others live theirs. And yes, that can mean enjoying a juicy Ribeye on Friday.
The “God” I am understanding now isn’t concerned with whether we are gay, straight, transgender, liberal, republican, agnostic, atheist, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, or any other human label. This “God” is concerned with how much life we are giving to ourselves and to others.
Are we feeding and watering ourselves? Are we nourishing others?
In conclusion: Repent! The end of your self-destructive world is near!
Join me on Instagram if you’d like to follow along this season as I #repentforlent.