God has taught me a lot this summer. There have been the usual (though more intense) lessons in trust and patience, but over the past couple of weeks, He has started to show me freedom and worship in a different way than He ever has before.
I'm not really sure how to explain it, but over the past year (and maybe longer than that...), I've struggled a lot with certain aspects of Christianity, and more specifically, the Pentecostal church. I guess I've been trying to figure out what is genuinely God and what is stuff that we've just thrown in along the way. It's trickier than you'd think, especially when you've grown up with certain things all of your life to the point where it seems natural. It's just a hard thing to deal with because it's about God. There are so many differing opinions and theological standpoints out there, and it's so hard to know which is right and which is wrong. I mean, who can you really trust about things like this except for God Himself? Anyone else could be wrong. I guess I just get scared that I'm going to be deceived by someone with the best intentions. It's something I've been praying about...a lot!
Anyway, so here I am in the middle of all of this confusion, and I head off to work a Church of God-based youth camp for three weeks. Whoa. If I didn't know it already, I am now positive that I am definitely not your typical Church of God college student. (Actually, I don't really claim any denomination these days. I just always grew up in the COG, so...yeah.) Even more than that, I'm not your typical Pentecostal college student. It's not that I don't believe in that sort of thing—I do. My views on it are different from those of most Pentecostals, though, and so is my worship style. When I was at camp, it was the norm to worship in a more, um, active manner, for lack of a better word. Don't get me wrong—I think that style of worship is fine as long it's genuine and done in the right context. However, personally, I have never, ever, ever been comfortable with jumping or shouting or anything else of that nature. This has always been kind of a weird thing for me, because I've always grown up around it and it has kind of been presented to me as the "right," most genuine form of worship, so I've always felt a little guilty for not being comfortable with it. (I've always heard the, "If you were at a football game, you'd be jumping and screaming and full of excitement for your team! Why can't you do that for God?!" My mental response: "Umm, actually, no. I don't do that at football games or anywhere else.") Anyway, so while I was working camp, I felt some pressure to worship in a way that did not come naturally for me. This was more on the emotional side of things, but I guess I focused a little too much on how I was physically expressing my worship, and all this led me to was a whole bunch of frustration and not much focus on God at all. I just couldn't help but think that if I just stood there and worshipped quietly, people would assume I wasn't worshpping at all. They sang a lot about freedom and in Pentecostal churches, freedom is usually equated with these more physical forms of worship. As I stood there, though, God started to show me that if it wasn't coming from my heart, then it wasn't genuine, and was, in fact, another form of bondage. I could hear Him saying to me, "Be still and know that I am God," over and over. If my worship was wrapped up in other people's expectations, then it wasn't really worship at all. He helped me realize that maybe freedom for me was worshipping in a more quiet way. I finally had to stop what I was doing completely, refocus on God, and just be with Him. In that moment, I finally felt at peace about the whole thing. I finally felt like it was okay for me to let go and not be tied to these things anymore. It was so relieving for me, to know that God was telling me that it was okay!
So. I still don't know where I stand on certain issues, and I'm still trying to sort through what's for real and what's not. But I don't feel guilty anymore. I'm me—I have to figure out what God wants for me and how He wants me to live. His plans for me are not going to be the same as those He has for my parents or my friends or anyone else. My personality and gifts are not the same as those of others. I have to find out how I fit into all of this, and it has to be okay that it's not going to be the same as everyone else. I know not everyone will agree with me, especially not on this issue, but I'm finally okay with that. I am so glad that God has given me peace about this. I can finally feel free.