Posted by: An American Expat | February 19, 2011

Upbringing (and my bad taste of legalism)

Disclaimer:  Obviously a lot is left out of this post. There were several Godly people who touched my life when I was younger.  And for that I am thankful.   I have a purpose in sharing the effect legalism had on my life and how God is bringing me out of that, so the post is focused on this.  I also want to point out that each person, including myself, is responsible for their behavior and how they view God.   God has given us his word and his spirit.

I didn’t grow up learning much about God, but my family went to church most every Sunday morning and sent me to a small christian school.   Sound ironic?  That’s because it is.

Now, I would have to say, that my perception could be altered a lot.  I was young and have a very bad memory, which limits my childhood memories.  So, I could have missed a lot, but here is what I remember.

I remember being taught almost all of the “Bible Heroes”.  How David defeated Goliath.  Daniel survived the Lions Den.  Noah built the ark….the list could go on.  What I don’t ever remember learning was that it wasn’t them that did all that work.  It was their God. I was told “be like Daniel”, “be like David”, not “let me tell you who the God is that they served.”

I remember that we were rightly told that God created the world.  And that He loved us enough to die for us.  However, after we come to faith in him, it just seamed that it was all up to us.  I felt as if I need to pay back God with my life.  Not because I realized who He was and how he loved me so-and with this creating a natural desire to give God my life.    Now I do realize that I struggle with being bent towards such legalism.  I still struggle with it today, so I could have heard things differently then how they were meant to be heard. Yet, the lack of joy and love in some of the people that I grew up with still rings true in my ears today.

However there are very distinct memories that would support me being taught legalism.  Such as, when a well respected man asked me what my (current) boyfriend was doing for his devotions.  When I respond “Psalms”,  he replied that I should “tell him to get into some meat.” -meaning the psalms weren’t as good as some of the other books in the bible. Or, there was the time that several college aged friends and I were having a discussion about “contemporary christian music” (whether wrong or right)  When I asked “isn’t it important what your heart is thinking when listening to music?”,  the accepted response was “No, it doesn’t matter what you heart is thinking, because you are doing the “right” thing”.

Honestly, I was pretty good at living this way.  I liked rules and having someone tell me what to do was comfortable for me.  I was a classic “good student”, well liked by my teachers.  But soon I fell apart.

Naturally I had become tired of trying so hard to keep all the rules.  I began making unwise choices because I figured if I was going to ‘fail’ I might as well not try at all.  Yet, due to God’s grace that lifestyle became miserable fast. So I went to  a local pastor’s wife for counseling. During one of our meetings I told her I didn’t find time to read the book she had asked me to read.  I told her that I had only had time to read my bible.  She told me “If you only have time for one, read the book.  When I am reading this book, I don’t always read my bible, because the book quotes a lot of scripture.”  That was the biggest red flag, yet I didn’t know what to do with it.  I had already tried to ‘give up’ but found no joy. However I felt as if I was drowning trying to get things right.  Everywhere I turned I felt as if I was looking at  hypocrisy.  No love, no joy, no forgiveness-but they kept the rules well.

I was tired of my own mask as well.

to be continued………..


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