Thursday, October 25, 2012

Different flavours of Christianity

So - once upon a time, there were three sisters.  The eldest had red hair and was prone to anxiety.  The middle sister also had red hair, and was very private.  The youngest had blonde hair and was a happy girl, with a touch of worrying.

These three girls are my sisters and I - we are 36, 34 and 33 respectively.  We are all Christians, although we are all very different Christians, with very different lives.  I was thinking about Christianity and how a lot of times, it gets a bad rap for hate, scandal and greed.  I wanted to let you in on how it's possible to worship Jesus and God in a way that is genuine and honest to you, and yet to be very very different in the ways that you approach your faith.

Let's start with me, because let's face it - talking about me is one of my favourite things to do.  I had a lot of years away from the church - where I was out living the party life, drinking and kissing boys and getting myself into terrible trouble.  During times of terrible trouble, I'd turn to God and start going back to church. I'd try to repent and to stop making rude jokes, to help out with the youth group and stop binge drinking.  I lived a bit of a double life, advising the girls to wait for their true love, then going home and getting changed into lurid outfits and hitting the town.  I had a spiritual awakening about nine years ago, when I realised that I had to stop living a double life.  I'd been praying for a husband and yet my younger sister was the one who got engaged first.  I was terribly angry with God, but didn't realise that my partner in the bridal party would go on to be my husband.  It was like God said to me "huh, do you think I'd leave you all alone to make this decision? Here he is, the one you were waiting for - I had it planned all along.  Why didn't you just trust me?"

So, I've learned to trust God and during the time when I had intense and severe Post Natal Depression, my faith developed. I realised that God had a plan and a purpose for my life, and that I had to stop thinking that I could know what was best for me - that I had to trust him and just do my best - learn to stop trying to control surrender and let go absolutely.

These days, I attend church with my hubs and son, teach Sunday school, support gay marriage, am pro choice, love dirty jokes and movies with Kirsten Wiig in them.  I've learnt that I don't have to say goodbye to my racy sense of humour - God gave it to me for a reason....but that I do need to learn where to unleash it. I am very open to other religions, and have seen lots of people have spiritual experiences that don't involve Jesus.  I struggle with the idea of one true faith, but I know that I can't not believe in Jesus.

The next sister had a period of illness in her early teens, where she suffered terribly with Chronic Fatigue.  During those dark times, her faith developed, and she was one of those well balanced girls, who concentrated more on her books and her faith than boys. Our mother's faith was also an amazing example to her, as it has been to all of us.  She got her license before I did, and had a wide circle of friends.  She was always interested in other cultures, and wanted to travel.  Funnily enough, as the one who didn't really care about boyfriends, she ended up with the most interest.  Perhaps it was because she wasn't interested? Perhaps because she trusted God with the outcome? She studied hard, became a vet, and whilst she studied, she traveled the world, had lots of adventures and lived in America for a year. 

These days, she lives in a small country town, and attends church with her husband and five children, was the first of us to be married and have a baby. Although she's settled down, she has by no means settled, she took her first born to Japan and is always scheming the latest trip to visit friends far and wide.  She supports a number of organisations that ensure the rights of unborn children, mothers in need and those who have had terminations and who need counselling.  She's loving and giving and prays endlessly for the members of our family.  She holds a bible study in her home and sends her children to a Christian school.  Her husband preaches in their church and they frequently discuss the bible and how to better follow God.  They don't observe the traditions of Santa, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, and have requested that the family not give their children any characters that could be seen to have magic at their core.  No Power Rangers, No Ben 10, No Fairies. 

I don't always agree with all their decisions, and they don't always agree with mine, but our Venn Diagram of faith overlaps in many areas, and we are able to respect the other's opinion, even though we may not agree with it.

Moving on to youngest sister.  She and the middle sister attended many christian camps and workshops in their teen years.  Youngest sis is a very talented cook, and catered for many church camps, and was happy and cheery and loved organising her friends into races and active things.  She got her drivers license earlier than I did, and was often the designated driver to parties.  She was more social than middle sister, but still studious.  She studied hard and excelled at Uni.  Her faith developed during a difficult time, when she was the only child left at home and things were very busy in the family business.  She would probably have liked a boyfriend, but I think the cautionary tale of my unhappiness with chasing boys and her faith made her content with what she had.

These days, she is an Assistant Minister at an Anglican church in Sydney.  She's an accomplished cook and is a very caring lady.   She wears the full frock and collar (when necessary), but when she was ordained, she wore a pink shirt and high heels, when everyone else was in black.  She is moderate, and believes that life is hard but that God is grace.  She is a big fan of Harry Potter, Dr Who, The Big Bang Theory and Legally Blonde.  She often runs 14km a day, lost 40kg over two years and is addicted to the bustle of city life.  She loves technology and is incredibly funny.  She has a black cat, Max, who she adores, and lives with two very cool flatmates.  She is infectiously happy and loves "Miranda" more than I do.

Despite our differences, or perhaps because of them, we all still worship the same God. We believe that God has his hand on our lives, that he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins, and that he is the way to have a relationship with God. Same God, but very different people.  So, please don't switch off when you hear that we're Christians.  We may have the same core beliefs, but there are many different flavours.

What is your experience of Christianity?

Friday, October 19, 2012

A message from an ex-dancing queen to Em Rusciano

I have been thinking a lot about Em Rusciano's post on Mamamia yesterday. -

And, it brought up a lot of stuff for me.  I'll admit it, first I went all judgey, and wondered why she was still going out when she had kids.  And then, I realised that she was right - she has the perfect right to dance on a podium, get dressed up and enjoy a night out.  Why does it bother me so much?


Because I can't be that mum.  And, that comes with a bit of grief for me.  As readers of my blog know, I'm nine years sober and mostly happy about that.  But, to have a sustained sobriety, I have to avoid the old places.  I have to check myself before I literally wreck would be all too easy to fall back into drinking to make me feel good about myself, then ending up a messy wreck, doing things I don't like with people I hardly know, losing my self respect, probably losing my marriage and perhaps even access to my son.  Yes, it was that bad at the end. My husband and son have never seen me drink, and I never want them to.

I know from my friends in AA, that if you go to places where the drinks are flowing, that sooner or later, you'll drink.  As the saying goes, "there's only so many times that you can sit in the hairdresser's chair before you get a haircut".  My life has had to change because of my illness, and mostly, I'm okay with that....but it makes me feel different!  Which, I guess I am....but I realised that I had a message for Em, as I read her article.

Em - you are foxy, and go girl, for going out and partying.  That's great that you can do that without compromising your family and relationships.  (Apart from those nosey parkers who judge!)  But, just because I'm not on a podium dancing, or because I can't have drinks with the girls, doesn't mean I'm a party pooper.  My life is different to yours, but I like to think that I'm still fun.  So, even though you say that you have little in common with the 40 something mums at school, try sharing a racy joke with them occasionally.  You might be surprised....we might have been waiting for the opportunity to make you laugh.  Don't judge a book by it's un-sequined, non-podium dancing cover.

Deb xx