When I was growing up in the fundamentalist Christian church, I thought God was a big scary white dude in the sky with an awesome beard who hated me. I pictured God with a perpetual frown. I thought he was bossy, that he always wanted to be in charge, and that he took pleasure in punishing me.The god I was raised to believe in wanted to make me small. I felt like I had to squeeze my hopes into a box that just wasn’t big enough for them. I believed God hated who I was, because I wasn’t any of the things my parent’s religion wanted me to be. I was outspoken, I had opinions, and I had ideas that were bigger than their specific religious filter. I wanted no part in the traditional gender roles I was supposed to fill, and I felt like a god who said that that was the only way to be wasn’t a god I could connect with.I’ve made quite a journey since then. It has been messy and chaotic and full of roadblocks. I’m still on my way to believing that this Christian God wants me to be happy. That I was created to be who I am, not to become small. The turning point in my faith came when I decided that a god who didn’t want me to be happy was not a god worth following. I am so far removed now from the faith of my childhood that I feel like it’s not even the same religion, even though the label has stayed the same.
See, I think who we are, our personalities, dreams, quirks–I think that God likes us. I think God likes whatever messed-up parts of us we have, and I think God likes that we’re so varied, so multi-dimensional, across the spectrum of the human race. It doesn’t make sense to me that the things I feel are so deeply part of who I am, my very core, should be displeasing to the god I want to believe in. The things I like best about myself are the things I would hope God would like about me too. The things I want to achieve in life, the aspirations I have, the things I dream about while staring out the car window, are the things I want God to want for me too. I want to believe in a god who wants me to be all that I can be–a god who wants me to big, and who wants me to be happy.
I think that perhaps my experience, while very specifically related to a small corner of one religion, is not quite as foreign to others as I once thought it was. I know of many of my friends who have gone through similar transformations in what kind of god they want to believe in. I think there’s always something, some interpretation, someone who’s always determined to make us feel that god doesn’t like who we are, or who we want to be. For many, it can turn them away from the idea of any religion altogether. There’s something inherent in the belief in any god that makes us feel that we are less-than. I think it’s okay until it becomes not–at the point where we do not have the freedom to be ourselves, to be happy, or to even want to be happy.
What about you, readers? Have you ever felt like your religion, or God, didn’t want you to be happy?
Featured image by ambrosetea on flickr