Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Good News

You know the drill! We're welcoming back Noelle Juday today, who, like me, believes in the beauty and power in sharing our stories. She blogs regularly at NBrynn, where you will find everything from her daughter's gorgeous ballerina birthday party to insight about marriage, parenting, and orphan care. Please welcome Noelle as she shares more of her story with us today. 

I've never had a great memory, but I swore the old rhyme from childhood went like this: "April showers brings May flowers." Either my memory is failing me again, or someone forgot to tell the gods this simple little rule. Because around here, the saying for me would more accurately be, "April showers bring May monsoons and madness and moments of utter desperation and money problems and messes and many moments of anxiety or sadness."

I know, it's a mouthful. What can I say? May was a draining month. It's been a month that makes you wonder if the previous months were actually real, that makes joy and peace seem eternities away. A month that reminds you of every old, "I told you so!" and buries you in piles of self-defeat and despondency. A month that seems intent on sapping all strength, on reversing all progress, on undermining all growth. 

Have you ever had a month like that? A month when you get to the register and learn you don't have enough money to pay for the groceries in your cart. A month when teeth fail and require emergency maintenance or hearts race and require emergency care. A month when dreams die and business ventures fail. A month when yelling and crying start to feel like more of a norm than laughter or rest. 

The truth is, I have months like this a couple times a year. Maybe it's the melancholy in me. Maybe it's something I'm doing wrong. Maybe it's just life.

It was with this heaviness that I began listening to a talk the other day while working on bowtie orders. I habitually flip on a Ted talk or podcast while whittling away at orders, and had recently found myself completely zoning out for large portions of the talks, too mentally and emotionally fatigued to take anything new in. I had largely been in this zoned out state, when all of a sudden my ears perked up and my heart melted inside me. Here's what I heard:

Look, I don't know about you, but this is not the Gospel I grew up with. At least not the one I was ever able to hear. I heard a lot about my sins, and a lot about certain prayers to pray and certain things to do and certain words to read.  I heard a lot about heaven and hell, a lot about my inherent sinfulness and about how God would pardon that if... And sometimes this message was very explicit, but sometimes it snuck it's way past words like "a free gift" and "amazing grace" and, instead of freedom and grace, we found ourselves bound by a lot of rules and requirements.

I stopped my work and stood in tears. Later I would text a friend and say, "If I could find a church that teaches this Gospel, I'd be there every Sunday."  It was the first time in many years that any part of Christianity deeply resonated with me. The first time, perhaps ever, that the Gospel felt truly good.

I remember years ago - while living as a missionary and checking off so many of the "Good Christian" boxes - emailing a few trusted Christian mentors with this nagging question, "What is so good about the Good News?"  A few years before that - while living at a Christian leadership school and leading daily Bible studies - I sat on a hill, sad and confused, and cried out to God, "Why is this so hard? Why don't I feel any joy or peace?" Even then, zealous and devout and recently converted, I couldn't quite grasp what was so good about the Good News.
And how could I? I was living and breathing a Gospel that said God would only accept me if I said the right words, with the right attitude and then proceeded to show my sincerity through a life of right actions. I was living a Gospel that bound me to service and repentance and never enoughs. I was always hunkered down or bowed down, often feeling down and depressed and unworthy of this "gift of grace," which looked more like finding the right doctrine statement to sign and sticking to it. 

I am not writing any of this as a theologian or even as someone who would openly claim the label "Christian." That label is far too tainted and far too tender for me these days. 

I am writing this, though, as someone who loves God and pursues Him daily. As someone who spent much of my life thinking I was earning and proving and pleasing a diety that cast people into pits of fire for not using the right words. As someone who gave all of my youth, endless hours and years of life, to a system that said, "We know all the answers. And only our answers are right." As someone who did everything by the book, checked all the boxes, and realized that my heart was still dead. 

It was still dead because I was believing in the wrong Gospel. In the wrong God.

And so at the end of a very hard month, I am holding onto these words, "The Gospel is not an announcement of all the terrible things about you, the Gospel is an announcement of who you are, an announcement of your true self. It is Good News because it is a massive reminder that you are a child of God."  

To me, this is freedom. This is grace. This is life everlasting.

This is Good News. 


Joyce Rice said...

Oh, I truly get this! Beautiful words!

Anonymous said...

I know a gospel that teaches this.

Jill said...

I know a gospel that teaches this too, and I am there every Sunday because it does feel like good news! From the time I was a small child, I was singing, "I Am a Child of God," in Sunday school. Recently, I read an article that I can't find again for the life of me, but it added to this concept for me. My summation of the point is this:

Heavenly Father's love for us does not depend on our good choices, or our personality, or our character. He doesn't love us because of who WE are; He loves us because of who HE is. He loves us because He is our God, our Creator, and our Father. His love is always there, freely and abundantly given, no matter what. Nothing we can do, good or bad, can change His love for us. We cannot do anything to make Him love us any more or less than He already does. It is certainly one of Satan's tricks to make us think that we could influence the all-powerful Supreme Being--that our choices or mistakes could ever make God stop loving us.

That principle gives me so much hope, because I know I have a loving Father in Heaven.

visit http://www.mormon.org/ to learn more

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to the Vine on Gallows road? I love this church. It has the most positive messages and vibe of any church I have ever been to. You walk in this church and know that you are accepted and loved.