I am sharing this story as part of the synchroblog idea Joel came up with. The biggest challenge for me to write this up here is about how to make it short. :)
I was born in a very orthodox Christian family, where my parents, grand parents and many generations practiced Eastern Orthodox religion (a branch of Greek Orthodox). Religion, church, and related rituals were all part of our life during childhood. Starting with my parents, continuing with my teachers at school and Sunday school, including the church clergies, pretty much all the people I ever came to know in my life, in one way or the other, knowingly or unknowingly have tried to put pressure on me to perform/behave in a certain way. In other words, no one wanted to accept me as who I was. Everyone expected something from me - from good grades in school to good behaviors at church.
All these, including many incidents through out my childhood, slowly started to inject a deadly poison into my brain - that my worth is directly depended on my performance.
Later on, in my late twenties, I was introduced to Pentecostalism, where I learned the idea of being born-again first time in my life. I saw it in the Bible that Jesus is the only means for Salvation (which the orthodox church never taught!). I got saved by believing in Jesus. It brought a lot of joy into my life.
But, sooner my focus started changing. I started falling into 'doing' stuff, thinking that is what God expected from me as a Christian. It all got powered up by the faulty concept many of us has learned during our life time - that our worth is directly depending on our performance.
The following few years, my life was a roller-coaster ride of performance, gaining Bible knowledge, religious show off, emotional experiences, faith formulas, prosperity gospel, prophecies, health and wealth, name it and claim it, end times and all that you can think of.
I started following the popular beliefs of 'churchianity'.
As a follower of churchianity, I have always thought I have to do 'big' things for God. I remember, few months after becoming a Christian I started participating in the evangelical programs of the church. I went to university campus to reach out to the students with the message of gospel. I visited homes telling them about Jesus. I distributed ‘free chilled water’ in summer for the commuters, handing over tracts along with water bottles. When some people hesitated to accept the tracts I thought that was ‘persecution’ and felt so proud that I am being persecuted for Christ! I acted in bible dramas to reach out to unbelievers. I felt so good because I was doing all the big things. Sometimes I forgot my small family back at home waiting for me. I walked with big bibles and expositories in my hand and engaged in big theological discussions. ‘End times’ was one of my favorites. People considered me as a person who is ‘fired up’ for Jesus. I liked the attention I started to get. I did more to bring more attention. I was busy and acted busy as well around others. I enjoyed the praises of elders and pastors. I appeared happy and busy for God on Sundays. After all these, on Monday when I wake up I was dry and miserable like hell. I was impatient towards my wife. I wondered what Jesus meant by the 'spring of water welling up in us'. I had no joy. I used to cry out to God while driving to office, to bring joy in my life. I negotiated with Him about the big things I am doing. I reminded Him the things I did and demanded 'joy'.
I was focused on doing big things while forgetting the small things - resting in Him, enjoying His life, abiding in Him just like a branch, allowing Him to live His life through me, learning to be contented in all the circumstances (As Paul said in Philippians 4:10-14).
He heard my prayer and I got His attention (or He got my attention?) in the year of 2006. He put me through a revolution, a grace revolution. His radical grace started changing my outlook on everything radically. He revealed the truth of His gospel and showed me the freedom He offered. He taught me to read the Bible for what it means, not just what it says. He changed my perception of Him that He isn't an angry God waiting up there to whack us when we misbehave, but a loving, compassionate God who operates from the paradigm of amazing GRACE. I started seeing myself as He sees me, as a new creation in Christ who is accepted into His family as His own precious child on the sole basis of what Jesus did, not what I do/did/will do.
I started unlearning religion. It still contines, even today...
Make no mistake, this isn't an easy journey. There are many lonely moments. There is opposition. This is not a popular belief. This isn't about following the majority. There is pressure from legalistic sources. There is confusion, doubts, questions, challenges and all that. But, regardless of any of it, I wouldn't trade this journey for anything. He has given me the confidence, that no matter how I mess up, I can still snuggle back into His lap and call Him "Abba, Father!". And there is nothing, nothing which can separate me from His love. NOTHING!