PigTale

PigTale 25 | Ray Gilford

PigTale 25 | Ray Gilford

I was a solitary believer. At this point, you could say I'm more or less a Jesus-leaning Deist with all sorts of Buddhist and Gnostic flavors and notes. Spiritually, I'm kinda like wine.

Pig Tale 24 | Katy Richardson

Pig Tale 24 | Katy Richardson

"I’m a lot of things that the classic western church tries to avoid: an intellectual, science loving, environmentalist, postmodern art aficionado, democrat, feminist mystic with a smart mouth and a deep love of bourbon. Sometimes I feel excluded from the church conversation... The world likes what I’m about. Incidentally, so does Jesus. He has made that abundantly clear in the direction He points His favor."

Pig Tale 22 | Charmaine-Grace Bennett

Pig Tale 22 | Charmaine-Grace Bennett

"God has seen what I’ve done, and still takes me back. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that."

PigTale 20 | Jordan Travis

PigTale 20 | Jordan Travis

"For any theologian, or any budding one like me, acceptance of truth is just as bad as a lie. And I lived out that lie to the fullest."

PigTale 18 | Nicholas Sibson

PigTale 18 | Nicholas Sibson

"Its been eight years into my journey with Jesus, and there are more questions, uncertainty, and doubt than I've ever had in my life. This whole thing could be a pile of shit, but if it helps me love people like Jesus did in the Gospels, I'm okay with that."

PigTale 17 | Casey Schumacher

PigTale 17 | Casey Schumacher

I don’t have a conversion story. I don’t have a date that I remember thinking Jesus is real now. He was always real. As real as the color green. If He was ever not-real, my reality would shatter. Just like if you told me the color green wasn’t actually green.

 

PigTale 15 | Michael Kober

PigTale 15 | Michael Kober

I’m not the Chuck Norris of Christians. I’m not running into hell guns blazing, nor is that what I’m called to do. I’m called to do the stuff nobody gets credit for.

PigTale 13 | Rebekah Kraulis

PigTale 13 | Rebekah Kraulis

Rebekah recounts a time in her life where things got difficult, but God was there nonetheless.

"Let me tell you a secret: I have a pretty weird and twisted view on tough times and relying on God. People often talk about how it’s easy to rely on God when times are good, because things are going our way. Well, here’s where the twistedness comes in: I think the opposite is actually truer for me."

PigTale 12 | Chris Leonard of Rebuilding Love

Forward by Joshua Wing

Christians often portray poorly the love that Christ showed us in His life. I don’t believe that we do it intentionally but rather, we find it difficult to dive into someone else’s mess and get messy with them. It’s uncomfortable and often isn’t the clean cut ministry that many churches have transformed into. As Jesus showed us on the cross, His love is messy, gorey, and ultimately uncomfortable. Chris shares a story that many can identify when it comes to finding that love years after deep involvement and commitment to the Church. His story may not be your story, but it is a common theme among believers.

The answer lies in each one of us. It takes every single believer to show this love unabashedly. When we find one finds one’s self immersed in the mess of another, whether it be addiction, mental health issues, or otherwise, one must remember that it is okay to feel uncomfortable. Because it’s in this act of loving through the awkwardness that we show the true love that Jesus shared with us through His death, burial and His resurrection.


Why Rebuilding Love?

I have been on a journey over the past year or two questioning everything I know or was taught about God, the Church, and Christianity. I grew up in a Christian home went to church 3 times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. On top of that I went to Christian school from preschool through high school. I did all the vacation bible schools, youth groups, mission trips; all the good stuff that Christian kids do. Then the real world hit.


I dropped out of high school after two years of 9th grade and then failing 10th. I was going to be 21 at this rate if I stayed in school until I could graduate. I went on to pursue my dream of being an audio engineer working with bands. I went to a recording school for a year and landed a job at one of the top 10 sound companies in the country. I began to tour all over the world with bands. Suddenly I was out in the big world living my dream, or so I thought. My love for doing sound and touring consumed me. I slowly stopped going to church, or reading the Bible and you know all the good Christian stuff. Fast forward 10 years or so, I now have a beautiful wife and daughter, and still working with sound but more in the corporate audio visual world now. I was still putting my job or love for sound above anything else, including God, my family and friends.

My awakening came with the passing of my Grandfather. He was truly a man of God, who did everything for everyone else first. He was the most selfless man I ever knew. Going through the emotions of losing the greatest man I knew helped me revisit where I was with my relationship with God. I began to seek out who God really was. I wanted to actually find him and not just go along with everything I had been taught. The Christianity that I knew from before was full of “what’s in it for me” or “make sure you have the smile on your face Sunday morning regardless of what’s going on”. There was constant pressure of not breaking all the made up rules like what music to listen to, what to wear, when you had to be in church, or the who to hang out with and so on. Quite honestly, it was legalistic crap that is not built on what Jesus taught. It drives a culture of “if you don’t look, act, or speak a certain way than you’re not a Christian,” as if what makes us a Christian is built on what we can do ourselves.

What I began to find this time around was the God who created all of us for a relationship with Him regardless of our problems and sins. He made us to love us. I learned that it’s not our sin that defines who we are but the forgiveness of God that does. Jesus did not come so that we would stop sinning; He came so that we could be in relationship with Him. This does not excuse us to sin whenever we want but it does mean that His love is greater than any sin we could ever commit.

The word that defines it all best is Love. It seems so simple and cliché at times but that is what Jesus talked about most of all. As followers of Jesus we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Every human on this earth is our neighbor. Not one person deserves to not be loved by us. Most problems people have stem from not being loved or accepted at some point from one person or even many people. The concept is so simple to think about but so difficult to execute. I feel the “Church” in general does an awful job at truly loving others as Jesus does. It’s easy to love someone when it is convenient for us. Too often when it comes to having the conversations with people about their addictions, depression, pain and suffering, we brush them off. We think “oh, someone else will help them,” or “why can’t they just get over it?” or even worse, we make fun of them or joke about it to others.

I still struggle with putting my work ahead of everything else, among many other problems in my life, but I have a new sense of who God is and what He wants from and for us. I may not have walked through serious addictions, suicidal thoughts or depression, but I have seen it all around me in very close friends and family. Jesus has used all of them to help break down the taboo walls that I had also built up around it and just start listening, learning and understanding where they are coming from. I don’t normally have any answers, but just listening to them and not judging them shows love.

With the help of God we can be Rebuild the Love of Jesus to our neighbors and be his voice and arms of embrace on earth. We can simply show love by just sharing our stories, talking to someone, listening to someone, just accepting someone right where they are without judgment. I want to help create a culture that breaks down the walls of “taboo” subjects of pain, suffering, addiction, depression, suicide, and other life problems. Too often people don’t seek help because society has made it not acceptable to talk openly about our problems. I want to help start a community that wants to Rebuild Love.


To hear more from Chris, check out Rebuilding Love 

PigTale 11 | Erika Lutz

PigTale 11 | Erika Lutz

Erika Lutz from www.somethinglovely.us writes in about her experience growing up in a fundamentalist church and the backslide that followed.

PigTale 10 | Kenneth Jackson

PigTale 10 | Kenneth Jackson

This week, Kenneth is brutally honest about his depression, anger, and his family dynamics.

PigTale 09 | Joshua Wing

When A Moment Is Everything

In that moment, I hated him. I hated him with everything about him. I was on the fence about how I felt about him until that moment, but after what he just said….I was done. Now, I’m not going to name the church because it doesn’t matter to most reading this, but I will say that in regards to church politics, I hate everything about the process. And that is partly my fault. I expected those who were leaders in the church to be flawless, ever-seeking Christ followers. And that’s on me.

But as I stood in the parking lot the day before I was ready to officiate a funeral, there was a void that developed between me and my pastor in that moment. You see, I was the youth pastor in this church and I had become increasingly uncomfortable with a decision that was being made in the church. The decision was to file a no contact order on a member due to the fact that she had a verbal altercation with another member. Now, granted, Molly (not her real name) was in the wrong. But there was no church discipline, no confrontation. The pastor went directly to the police and filed for a no contact order.

Now this story could go on very long if I indulge into all the details, but that’s not where I want to take you, so let’s fast forward a bit. So the order had been in place for about a month and my heart was struggling so bad with the way it went down. I was slowly withdrawing into a dark hole of doubt and despair when I received a phone call early one morning. It was my pastor. He told me that Molly’s thirteen year old son, who was active in my youth group, had hung himself in his closet the night before.

Suddenly my heart sunk. So much guilt and anger and frustration welled up inside me. My pastor then said, “They are asking that you meet at the school with the students and provide encouragement and prayer.” This was so heavy and I just wanted to run. My heart ached for this lady and having lost a daughter myself, I could sympathize with her better than most. Later that night my wife and I decided, “no contact order” be damned. We were visiting her.

We arrived at Molly’s mom’s house, where the family was hiding out, with a laundry basket full of comfort food and supplies, our feeble attempt at a peace offering. Molly was furious with us that night and we could tell. We left feeling so angry with our pastor, so lost. But then I received a call early the next morning from Molly’s heartbroken husband. “Josh, we can’t think of anyone who would be better to officiate the funeral. I know that this whole “no contact order” is still in place, but could you consider it.” I didn’t think twice. I quickly responded, “I’ll be there. I’d be honored.”

So, I called my pastor and informed him that I was officiating the funeral. He met with me the day before the funeral for what I can only assume was his attempt at a pep talk. His words were simple and send daggers to my heart. He said, “remember, when you are up there, you are representing Jesus. But also remember, you are representing the church…or ‘cult’ according to Molly.” (This was in reference to a facebook post this lady sent, saying that our church was a cult. Again, she was in the wrong… but maybe not so much). I couldn’t believe it. I was fuming! I didn’t say a word and just walked away. But in my heart I knew, I was done at this church.

So I did the funeral and have been able to maintain a very close relationship with Molly and her husband thereafter, and I set up a meeting with the pastor to let him know I was quitting. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the balls to tell him exactly why I was leaving, because honestly I had no more self-esteem, no more trust, and no more confidence. I was a zombie.

It has taken my wife and I years to really begin healing from this ordeal and we both still are very gun shy around pastors. We have not served in a church even in a volunteer capacity since this time. My faith has also taken a nose dive in the process of all this chaos. It’s now been about 4 years and I feel I’m just now picking up the pieces from that day.

It was determined later that Molly’s son did not commit suicide but actually died playing the choking game. I know that a life is a life but to me, it helped with my guilt to know he didn’t commit suicide. My heart still aches every day for him and for the family and we have remained in good contact.

I now realize that I made a monster out of a man. The pastor is not a monster. He is a leader who led out of fear rather than authenticity. I realize that I was not completely in the right with some of the ways I handled things from then but I also realized that part of my healing began when I finally chose to forgive him and myself. I feel that now I am coming to a fuller understanding of who God is and how He works all things for His good. Ultimately, the world is messy. And the best way we can show the love of Christ is not being afraid to climb in the filth of someone else’s mess and simply listen to their story. The most loving thing we can do for our fellow kind is to be authentic and available. But the biggest take away I have been offered is a humbling rebuke. God spoke into my heart in a moment of seething hatred and guilt, “You are no different from him. I love him as much as I love you. Let that be enough.”

1 Corinthians 13:2 “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

PigTale 08 | Ex-Mormon: Megan (Part 1)

Forward by Kyle Unger

Pain and hurt is inevitable. It happens to the best and the worst of us. Megan is no exception. She has experienced many forms of pain in her life, as she'll explain, but at some point comes healing. She now has hope in Jesus, and she's gone on a journey of healing through Christ's love. Megan's story is an interesting one, coming from a background not too many people will be very familiar with. We'll explore that background next week actually, but for now, let's listen to Megan's experiences in coming from a place of feeling worthless and unable, to being a cherished daughter of God.


I walked across the University of Montana campus with much on my mind, as usual. I was rushing to get to class, with the list of all I had to do that day weighing on me with work, homework and of course the constant wondering if my relationships were ok. It’s a constant anxiety of mine, no matter the assurance; I live in constant fear of rejection.

The familiar voice singing through my headphones settled into my brain and hushed many of my fears as I focused on the lyrics of the song. “We’re not questioning God, just those He chose to carry on His cause…”[1] The song has got me thinking a lot lately about the church, and even the Christian world. It’s hard not to notice the significant stigma when you talk about “the church” these days. As part of the millennial generation, it seems to be increasingly more common not just to feel the stigma when talking about it among the non-Christian circles, but among Christian circles as well, including many church-going Christians. I will honestly admit I have been among them more than once lately.

I grew up in a very legalistic community with parents who tried to enforce the values of the community, yet could never seem to follow through with them for themselves. This served as a backdrop for my own skepticism about God and religion, and even my trust for people for much of my life. You see, I was raised as part of a Fundamentalist Mormon community. Growing up, I had no reason to question anything about my life or upbringing until I went to a public school in 3rd grade. From that point, as I interacted with other backgrounds, I realized that my family was different, very different, from so many of the people I saw at school every day.

With this experience, not only did I struggle with being an outcast in school, but throughout my childhood I managed to walk through a lot of abuse, in just about every form imaginable. Today at twenty-six years old, I have experienced physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, manipulation, as well as some forms of neglect. Much of this happened within my family growing up, but also outside of my home. Through my young adult years, as I started to get into several relationships with men and others outside of my family, I added other wounds to the list. When I was about ten years old, in the course of many of these experiences, I began to struggle with depression, suicide and self-injury as well. This is something that I have struggled with through much of my life, and often times still do.

I don’t divulge this information for pity, there is a reason I do not want to express details here. Many do not know most of this about me and believe me when I say that it could get far worse. My story in all its gory details, should I have chosen to share them, is mild compared to so many I have heard. I simply say this to show that in the midst of the most broken and darkest places, God’s love reaches deeper still. In the midst of my pain, I found God on the floor of my bedroom at seventeen, right before attempting an overdose of medication to end my life. Thankfully God’s mercy never let me get that far.

Of course, you’re asking how that translates into the church. Well, I became a part of the church after these experiences, and I wasn’t healed yet. I’m still not. I can honestly say that in the years I have grown in my faith, I am still a bleeding heart. So many that walk through the kinds of experiences I have, are bleeding hearts too. Although I have come hundreds of miles on my journey, I still have thousands to go. You see, the truth is that the church is made up of many broken people and the reality of that is that broken people often damage those around them. Intentionally or not, we perpetuate the cycle of brokenness. We do so because of sin. Because of the sin that has happened to us, but also because of the sins we act upon, so often we are acting out of self-preservation on account of our wounds. But the church should be a safe place for broken people, right? Yes. So why is it not? I think it is a result of pride that we cannot acknowledge and have grace with the broken people who embody the church. Often times that pride is the armor we wear in order to guard ourselves against wounds that so many, like me, have attained. These wounds have come from our life experiences, and sadly, many have come from within the church as well. All this to say, that the church is not without sin. We ourselves are not without sin.

This is a fact that I think we so often forget. I have needed this reminder so much in this season of my life as I have struggled to love people and allow them to love me. I have held those around me to a standard that they cannot live up to, because I want them to love me on my terms… not on their understanding or abilities. If I am honest, I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own standards either. This is likely one of the main reasons I struggle so much believing in my own worth and that those around me won’t reject me, especially when they see the level of shit that I am still wading through daily. Thankfully, I have some truly amazing people in my life, through the church, that have seen a lot of that shit and are still willing to embrace me.

Lately I have been thinking about the process; the process of healing, the process of sanctification, the process of growth… we are all in the midst of that process and rest assured, it will take our entire lives. As I have walked through seasons of tremendous pain, I have also walked through seasons of tremendous joy that came through freedom and being healed of many of those wounds. I have not arrived, but I am healing. One of the greatest lessons that God has taught me in those seasons is that in order to be free from the weight of guilt and shame that comes with sin, we must see ourselves as He sees us, through the eyes of His son and the sacrifice of the Cross. Furthermore, to extend that same healing, grace and forgiveness to those around us, we must see them as Christ sees them as well. We only gain understanding as we pray for His heart, listen to His voice and seek to take Him at His word, allowing Him to cleanse us through scripture. It is when we allow God to heal us and work through us in the process that we can love as He loves, and in doing so, the church, the bride of Christ, becomes pure and blameless once again. Therefore love. Love each other as Christ loves you and as He loves the church. May we always remember that the message of grace always comes down to the messy simplicity of love; love God, love people, and allow them to love you in turn.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” –Philippians 3:10-12

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8


[1] Song lyrics are from (*Fin). Written by Stephen Christian and Anberlin. Produced by Aaron Sprinkle, 2007. CD. Tooth&Nail Records.


PigTale 07 | Deist: Tierney

Forward by Justin Hartford

Sometimes, hearing about what someone else has experienced is not easy to stomach. This PigTale, submitted by a girl named Tierney, was that way for me for a few reasons. For starters, this is a story about someone who left the faith that I profess and believe in my heart to be truth. Reading this instantly puts me in a place where I have to pick a side and possibly even get defensive about my own beliefs. That is not very comfortable.

I am also aware that ChristianPig's current audience is primarily comprised of Christians that may get offended by the sentiments and the language used by the author. Part of me is worried about what might happen after sharing such a publication to such an audience. What might happen to our viewership or to our image? Regardless, we will stay true to our mission. This is not a website solely focused on conservative Christianity in the same way this is not a website centered around leaving Christianity. If we want to truly represent a multitude of perspectives, one like this would naturally come up, and we would be liars if we chose to hide it. 

A quick note to Christians:
This is an opportunity for you and me to actually live out what we say we believe in. Whether or not you can relate with the part of Christianity that Tierney talks about, evaluate your own heart and remember Jesus before making decisions to lash out defensively. I may  be puffing this up unnecessarily, but I know that our first reaction is to cling to our tribe and reject outsiders like a bunch of baboons. No dung slinging ya bunch of animals. Play nice. Smiley face.


Hi there. My name is Tierney. Chances are we have no clue about the existence of one another until now and that's the cool thing about being alive. It's not just you. This brings me to this writing which is about the time I first realized I wasn't going to be a Christian anymore.


It was a couple weeks into my first semester of college. I hadn't really seen my first erect penis yet. Obviously, the best was yet to come. At this time, I was fresh off the boat from Masters Commission and man did I have a fire for God. If you've never heard of Masters Commission, it's a nine month discipleship program. Like the Peace Corps for Christians. You spend most of your day serving, learning, praying, walking around Dallas at 5am in below freezing temps playing a sick, sick knock off of the Amazing Race. You know, normal Jesus stuff. I learned so much about grace during my time in Masters. From watching a lot of people who are important to me be betrayed by a famous televangelist (Jim Bakker cough cough) and silently walk away without destroying him to watching a girl return from Christmas break pregnant and our Pastor sitting her on a chair and honoring her instead of condemning her. She finished out the year with us too. Those images of grace easily bring me to tears and will never escape me.

Back to my first semester.

I was singing on a worship team when I decided to run for Freshman Senator. A highly coveted bullshit position in student government that only 4 lucky freshman got to hold. Everyone was passing out candy. I thought to myself, "If I were a college student surrounded by absurd amounts of free pussy and dick, candy is the least of my wants." So I went to Walmart and bought hundreds of condoms. The good kind. Threw some magnums in there and some ribbed, for her pleasure, and non-latex for the losers who weren't gonna get laid anyways.

After my first day of passing out condoms and chanting "Vote for TBOMB, grab a CON-dom" between classes, I was immediately kicked off the worship team. The worship leader came to my dorm room with his bible, and had a short disagreement with me about not being of this world and kicked me off.  A part of me knew this would happen. I remember praying about this before doing it, and feeling absolutely zero convictions about it.

I won one of the freshman senator spots, and gave the leftover condoms to some incredibly attractive frat guys who would later become some of my good friends. I would end up even wearing their letters one day. However, it was in this moment I realized a couple of things. I first realized my personal relationship with God doesn't align with standard American Christianity. This broke my heart a bit. A lot of who I was at the time was built around community with other believers. However, being that I hadn't seen my first real live erect penis yet, I still had so much life to experience, as well as experiences with other people and how they live their lives. All those experiences would shape me into the person I am now. At the time, it felt like the worst place to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

I also realized standard American Christianity doesn't care about people, they care about what people do. There's always the argument of "I disagree or I don't condone it, but I still love them". I find that incredibly annoying. Love is the only thing you're called to do. It should always start and end there. The more I began to disagree with a lot of fundamental standard American Christianity beliefs, the more I moved further and further away from Christianity as a whole.

The best thing that did come from this is that for the absolute first time, I realized the true beauty in being vulnerable. I never would have developed those friendships, or won freshman senator, or had a dope story to blog about if I wouldn't have bought those condoms. See, condoms do change lives.

Thanks for reading and remember to always practice safe sex. Except if you're by yourself. In that case - go nuts.

 

Come join the discussion on social media!

PigTale 04 | CP Writer: Kyle Unger

Oh hey, I didn’t see you there! My name is Kyle Unger. I’m 21 years old, from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. My interests include comic books, craft beer, podcasts, Jesus stuff, and feminism, anti-racism, and other such equality stuff.

Wait, that’s not what this is about? Well crap. I guess I’ll actually express myself or something.

Aside from being a fan of corny, cliche writing used in an ironic sense, I’m also a student. I’m currently studying French, but I used to be in school to be a teacher. I worked at a summer camp last year, and quickly realized teaching totally is not my wheelhouse. I mean, I’d probably be an okay teacher, but I’d probably hate my job and be that teacher all the kids resent. Plus everyone hates the French teacher. That’s just the                                                                                       way it works. So teaching - not for me.

 However, I’m very grateful I was in the program for a few years. It was in that program where I learned of and acknowledged my white privilege (and basically every other sort of privilege that comes with being a straight white male in North America). It was there that I learned of the systematic injustice that takes place in our society, that seeps into our culture without our noticing. It was there that I learned how to think differently, to reflect on my own experiences.

 In my school experience, I learned that people are different than me. It took me 18 (ish) years to begin to realize it, but thankfully I learned it eventually. Luckily, I was humble enough to accept this reality as well. Now I haven’t worked very hard at forming relationships with those different than me. This is something I need to work on. However, being in school for this program I ultimately never finished, I learned that people who are different than me deserve to be listened to, and deserve better.

 This is a large part of why I’m excited to write here on ChristianPig. As a fairly liberal Christian, I can’t just sit in my own little bubble. Other people experience this beautiful reality that God has gifted us with differently than I do, and that experience is worth just as much as my own. According to Jesus, one of our greatest commandments is to love others. I don’t see how we can do that without listening. So while I’ll have my chances to spout off my opinions on this lovely site, I’m just as excited to be a part of the dialogue we’re beginning here. I’m excited to be a part of this larger conversation. I’m absolutely stoked to hear what others have to say about life, God, culture, whatever.

 It’s all about our experiences, and I just can’t wait to hear about yours.

PigTale 02 | CP Writer: Paul Meha

The heart of Christianpig is valuing and learning from each person's unique perspective because everyone has experienced life a little differently. A different childhood, or religion, or parents, or school, or culture, or city, or family... the list could go on forever. Why the hell does that one guy from work never stop watching annoying YouTube videos? Why does my wife always claim there is a “correct” way to put on a roll of toilet paper? Truth be told, we all have different perspectives on life shaped by how life happened to us. This article is about a perspective I have.

Overall, I'm a pretty average dude. I have a job, a wife, some hobbies and passions and goals, but if I were to use one word to define me, it would definitely be the word “Christian.” I love that and hate it at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I'm most certainly not ashamed to name myself as a follower of Christ, but the name Christian usually comes with some preconceived ideas about “those types of people”. Of course, it's understandable when Christians have a tendency to act as if we are a little different from everyone else, perhaps even a little better. I'm no exception to this struggle.

Even writing this post, I have such a hard time not taking a “theological” angle and discussing how religion and life mingle together. Is that what people need to hear?

The truth is life is messy and we all are affected by how we grew up or the crazy things from our childhood, all on top of the person we were made to be, and that's okay. In fact, that's amazing. Everything I've experienced, even up to this very moment, has shaped the person I am and that's just the way God intended it. A huge part of all of that for me is my unique childhood.

Growing up, I didn't have the typical American childhood, or then again maybe I did. There was plenty of domestic violence from my dad and by the time I was eight, my mom took us and left to raise us on her own. She had four of us kids to deal with and while going back to college, she worked two jobs so that we could have a place to live. Needless to say, my new found life had a lot of freedom and I was okay with that.

I'm not sure if it was because I was too young, or if it was a normal way to deal with the situation, but I didn't care at all that my parents had gotten a divorce. It's actually kinda weird to say, I was only eight, but not having a dad like the rest of the kids was fine with me. Maybe I didn't care about my parents splitting because I was so independent, but either way, this new freedom in life fit my personality like a glove. Through all this, my childhood took on a unique structure. Everyone in my family did their own thing and took care of themselves. No one worried about what someone else was doing and we all just lived. There was no animosity or bitterness, at least not from me, and I enjoyed the way our family worked. I feel like that is the best way to describe it and looking back now I see how it has affected my life.

I have a hard time forging strong bonds, even though I have always liked all my friends and connected easily with the people around me.

I would even go as far to say that I trusted people more than most and had a large group of really close friends, but even then I knew that if all of my friends were to suddenly stab me in the back, I wouldn't have cared. Maybe you can relate to what this is like. I was stuck in a bubble that perhaps didn't hinder my interactions with people, but stopped them from getting too close, all without knowing I was doing it.

When I turned 12, I encountered God.

This encounter wasn't an awe inspiring, miraculous moment with God, but actually a very personal and almost anti-climatic experience. All of a sudden I just knew Jesus wanted my life and in the same breath I knew he had it as well. I didn't go to church and no one stopped to tell me about my need for a Savior, it just happened. Somehow I knew this to be true more than anything in the world, and my life was changed forever. Even with such an impacting event however, my independent mindset did not change.

Through middle school and high school my lifestyle reflected that of a Christian, but the way I perceived and treated relationships did not. Unfortunately, this carried over to how I dealt with my relationship with God as well, and caused a lot of problems. To be in a relationship with God is to be completely transparent and utterly vulnerable, while I was closed off and independent. What God showed me, and what I didn't really learn until a few years back, is that to be in a relationship with anyone means the same thing.

"To be in a relationship with God is to be completely transparent and utterly vulnerable"

Each relationship varies, there are friends and then there are acquaintances, but to be able to truly connect and live life with someone else, you must be willing to be vulnerable and surrender some independence.

I say all of this, but I, of course, still hold on to many of my old tendencies.

I am horrible at keeping in contact, even with close friends, and especially so if we don't live in the same town. I easily forget about trying to maintain relationships unless it's someone I tend to see often. Even in my shortcomings though, I have realized that to truly see how amazing friendship is and to really get the most out of our life, choosing to have close relationships is necessary. It's how things were designed to be.

While I feel like this is true, I know that I am still far from doing it perfectly and I am fine with that. One thing I know for sure: life isn't about being perfect. That is why I love the mission of Christianpig and why I even bother writing this article. Knowing that I can learn and be encouraged from other peoples' unique perspectives and hoping someone will be encouraged from mine.

 

PigTale 01 | ChristianPig Founder: Justin

   If I were forced to put a title on my life, I would describe it the way I view most things, interesting. I don’t think my life is any more interesting than anyone else’s, but I have to admit that it is just as interesting. It starts out just like almost every Lifetime movie and, unfortunately, it is very similar to many sad stories from those that grew up in broken homes. I believe the proper Christian thing to call it would be an “unhealthy family environment”.

   I’ll keep my family life during my childhood confined to a list, because I’d like to focus on a different aspect of it. It consisted of, but wasn't limited to, the following elements to varying degrees: Domestic abuse, the use and exchange of drugs, alcoholism, gambling addiction, poverty, forms of prostitution, divorce, mental disorders, and countless yelling fits. I actually had a whole half-article written up about how I responded to living in those conditions as a child, but I think the way the situation affected me throughout the years is far more interesting and perhaps more profound.

   In order to cope with the harsh climate I grew up in, I developed a keen sense of awareness and observation. I watched the way “normal” people and families functioned and tried to mirror it, pretending my life was the same. It started out innocently and eventually got more complicated (pretending turned into flat-out lying), but it was simply a way to try to convince others and myself that my life was meaningful. The key to that, if you’d ask any pathological liar, is to be able to manage what you tell people and know what lie you’ve told to whom. It was very easy to fool people that didn’t really care about me as I grew up, but things got tricky when I got older and had to face people that loved me for who I was. As some young people these days would put it, the struggle was real, and it led to many internal debates that flooded my thoughts.

Do they actually love me for who I am, or just who I am pretending to be? I wish that they’d love me for me, but how can they know if I’m not being who I really am?

Do they actually love me for who I am, or just who I am pretending to be? I wish that they’d love me for me, but how can they know if I’m not being who I really am?

   That’s an awfully shitty place to find yourself in- wanting so desperately to be loved while feeling so ashamed of who you are. I wrestled with many possible ways to fix it, all of which involved maintaining my reputation and none included coming clean to anyone about my actions. Covering lies with lies, that’ll do it.

   I’m going to side step for the second half and add a very critical element to the story. The fact that I’m a Christian adds a whole different value to the equation of my psyche and how I dealt with the milieu around and within me.

   I’ll start with a very short introduction to why I became a Christian to set the stage a bit. I have faith that Jesus is the savior because of what I believe to be a supernatural experience with him. To be very short, and to try not to sound too “Christiany”, I felt the love of Jesus one random Sunday morning when I was 9 years old. I call it supernatural because there weren’t any perceivable “natural” conditions that led to my encounter with Jesus. There are certainly many more details to the actual story, which I will elaborate on in a post to come, but there are just a couple important facets we will focus on for our purposes here. One is that this was the first palpable feeling of love I had felt up to this point in my life. Even to this day, the encounter with Jesus on that random Sunday morning stands as one of the most tangible occurrences I have ever had. The other aspect to take note of is that the love I experienced from God that day was the only knowledge I had of him. To repeat and to sum it up, it was the only feeling of love that I knew and it was the only insight I had of who God was. Those points are critical because that view of love and Jesus was pivotal in how I saw everything around me.

   Later on, I got a Bible and I read about Jesus’s interactions in the Gospels and noticed there seemed to be a resounding theme: Jesus loves people despite themselves. The concept made total sense since he revealed himself to me when I definitely wasn’t looking for him and didn’t deserve his revelation. In fact, it seemed like all of Jesus’s actions didn’t make any sense at all and were kind of counter-cultural even for that time. Since I was somewhat of a socioeconomic outcast, I was very attracted to how Jesus seemed to rebel against the rich/religious and their systems.

   Fast forward a few years and take a teenager with this perspective and plug them into an American-Conservative Christian culture. In my limited view, I saw these other Christians as a culture that tells you that “Jesus loves you”, but acts as though “Jesus loves you IF (fill in the blank)”. A culture that says:

  1. Always act as if everything is “all-good”

  2. Only hang out with other believers

  3. Vote republican.

   It felt as though the people that called themselves “Christ followers” were the exact people that I read about Jesus rebelling against in the Gospels. Of course I’m generalizing, and I was only a teenager, but there were many things that I couldn’t relate with as I got involved within Christian community. All this time, I thought being Christian meant solely that I understood my need for a savior, that savior being Jesus, and that Jesus loves me and died for me. But as it turns out, Christianity seemed to be more about acting and looking like Jesus, instead of acting and looking like we need him.

Avoid this. Don’t talk about that. Don’t date them. Can’t watch that. Don’t vote for him.

 

 At first, I wasn’t necessarily against what I was seeing, I was just utterly confused by it and I even bought into it for a while. Eventually, though, it became more of a struggle of trying to understand how to deal with the constant conflict. No matter how much I tried to fight it, I couldn’t get around the fact that I felt different than how I saw other Christians living. I was not even close to perfect; I saw sin all over my life and, in my heart, didn’t truly hate everything I was told to hate. Most times, I found that I could relate more to “sinners” than I could with the “saints”. It became pretty clear to me that I was the type of person that we were supposed to avoid.

 

   This is where the lying really came into play. I believed in the same God as these people, but I wasn’t nearly qualified for the standard that appeared to be set, so I pretended to be. I figured I could learn to look Christian over time and, with enough practice, I could get away without having to face my problems. That line of thinking was obviously very flawed and led me down very weird paths. The logical and hyper-analytical side of me knew I was wasting my time, but there was still that part that felt stuck.

 

   To bring this to a close, I’ll admit that the things I lied about weren’t always as dramatic as they sound, although sometimes they were, too. Surely there were physical “sins” that I would keep to myself. They ranged from things to do with sexual activities with girls to minor money-oriented problems. Those things definitely had their consequences, but the larger portion of what I would keep to myself was the huge part of me that felt doubts, fear, tension with the church, feelings about people and just about anything else. My biggest problem was that I didn’t trust people with the finer details of my life and I kept every dark part of me enclosed, often even hiding it from myself. The battle went back and forth throughout my teenage year until around the age of 21, when reality caught up with me and actually flung me in the completely opposite direction.

 

   Through friendships, spiritual occurrences, marriage, and other random experiences, I was eventually forced to face these issues that I had with revealing my hand to people. In fact, through the processes I learned how beneficial transparency is in the grand scheme of life, not to mention that Jesus calls us to be transparent and full of truth. Nowadays, I am compelled to run a race of complete honesty, no matter how brutal it can be or how naked it could make me feel. I can see the double standard I set, saying that Jesus loves us no matter where we are, while I didn’t believe that about my own position. I also understand the pain and struggle of maintaining a false identity, and just how selfish it really is to be unwilling to burden others that love me, including my savior.

 

   Despite the realization of the importance of honesty, the tension I feel with church culture hasn’t necessarily subsided. In some ways, the growth I’ve had in these areas has contributed to a greater, yet different type of separation than there was before. A progressive would probably call it “maturity”, whereas a fundamentalist might label it as “rebellion”. I’m almost positive that it has to be a combination of both, but I also am not standing here claiming to have any answers. There are still many struggles that I sort through daily, it should make for great writing material to come. If you end up following Christianpig, you’ll hear all about them as I continue to wade through the huge part of me that feels doubts, fear, tension with the church, feelings about people and just about anything else. In the very least, it should be interesting.