April 14 2016: A written and illustrated transcript of my testimony on belonging and community.
It’s good to see you guys and I have a story to share, but I’ll start, with a question.
“Would you rather live in Sacramento, or be forced to wear a toga forever?” While I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this: that was a typical would rather question, among the silicon valley teenagers that I hung out with in high school. We went with the toga, every time, which might give you a general sense of how I used to feel about this place.
Ironically, a couple years after college, I ended up moving here, to go back to school. But at the time I didn’t mind the move, because I had high hopes in the potential of my “friendlationship,” with a guy who also happened to have just moved to Sacramento. I thought the coincidence was a divine sign.
Okay, let’s talk semantics. “Friendlationship” by my definition, is a noncommittal, coed companionship, involving: long hours of emotionally intimate one on one time, many mixed signals, and frequent face timing.
Soon after I moved here, it was no longer a healthy dynamic, but I refused to let go. I had started operating under this irrational and weird assumption that if one guy felt so halfheartedly about me, than that was probably indicative of the entire rest of the male population, and that it was better to have someone in my life, rather than no one. I felt stuck.
I called one of my friends who I can always count on to tell me the truth, for advice. She said “You know, God has plans for you in Sacramento, whether or not they include this guy. Ask Jesus for wisdom, he loves to give it.” And then she asked, about what I was reading in my Bible.
I told her “Oh I don’t think I really have good enough academic background to read the Bible on my own.” This was a bad excuse. First of all, I went to Westmont College where I took about five classes on Christian doctrine and the history of world Christianity throughout all time. But even if i didn’t go to Westmont, it was still a poor excuse, and I am so thankful, she called me out on it.
“Chrissa, the gospel is simple, it’s meant for children to understand. You will have a lifetime to read and analyze it all in depth, but for now, just read it.” And I did. For the next 6 weeks, as I listened through it, I walked around everywhere with my jaw dropped just thinking “Wow! it says that!? This is amazing news. This is the food I have always been starving for.” The word lit a fire in my soul, and for the first time in my life, I received crystal clear wisdom from the Holy Spirit, what I heard was
You are free. You’re not a place holder. You can leave.
So I knocked on his door, and true to form, used a Lord of the Rings break up analogy. I said, “Well, I’ve enjoyed our time together, but dude, we’ve been stuck in the shire of indecisiveness, for more than a year, so if you’re still interested in other hobbits that’s fine. But I’m taking the Fellowship.
” I’ll admit, this was scary. But sometimes you just gotta pull a Frodo Baggins and say, “I will take the journey, although I do not know the way!”(that’s code for, parting ways for those of you who don’t speak in fictional characters)
Part II: The Fellowship
Part of me assumed that because the decision was Holy Spirit lead, it would be a painless easy process. And it was…. For about 3 weeks. But after that, I cracked. Like really cracked. Suddenly, everything that I had tried to protect myself from feeling, for about, the previous 20 years, came rushing to the surface. I had no confidence, I had no energy, and I had no friends (At least here). It was a dark place, and my life felt so empty.
But I wasn’t totally helpless. I thought I could make things better, by simply seeking Jesus MORE. So I read books and I’d plow through an entire sermon series on a weekend like it was some type of holy net-flix binge. It was as though I believed that if I just gained enough information about Jesus, then I’d truly be full of joy and the holy spirit. But I wasn’t. Actually, at this point I was more like a Christian marshmallow s’more, who was either puffed up, burnt out or both.
And even though every morning, I listened to songs like “In Christ alone,” and “All I Need is you,” I was definitely missing a key something in my faith.
Part III: The Wakeup Call
Then I came across First John 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
And I realized that I had been pretending to myself and to God. It was time to come before him as I was. So I pulled out my journal, one year ago, and wrote this prayer.
April 2015 Dear God, It has been so long since I’ve been bold enough to ask for something big. I have not felt gratitude, trust or hope for a couple months. Lord help my unbelief and give me the strength and the faith to pray something bold. I need a new start. I pray for a place to live that’s closer to school, and the American river trail, where the rent is under 500 a month. But most importantly, lead me to a church community, that is uplifting, fun, and grounded in truth. One that will make Sacramento just make sense. Jesus, you are my DAD! I know Dad on earth would love to give me these gifts. So why not my Dad in heaven? I ask for this in Jesus name, Amen.
Less than a week later , my first craigs list contact, offered me a place with every single specific. And God even threw in a bonus pool.
Another month after that, I found Epic Life on google and decided to give it a shot. I remember my first day, I stood in the back, with my arms crossed thinking. I really can’t wait to get home and finish that Bonhoeffer book, Life together, about community. And then it hit me, that maybe God can offer this request to me if I did something.
Making friends started with small steps, by introducing myself to one person, and giving some hugs, and accepting a pool party invitation and so on. It came much more out of an act of will, and practice, than anything else. But it turned out there was nothing to be afraid of, and you guys were super welcoming.
Yet, even with all these new people I met, I still had this underlying sense of loneliness. And I’m not talking about just being by yourself, but rather a feeling of being misunderstood or isolated even in a group of people. I’ve recently learned, that for me, this came from two things.
- First was the belief was that I needed to arrive to church well put together and happy, always. This lasted until the time I had a bad day and tried to leave worship so I could go outside cry alone. and about 5 people, approached me asking if I wanted to talk or pray. So I just went back inside.
- The second was rooted in a general sense of unworthiness of belonging. I just didn’t think I was ever good enough, I even pulled aside Eric Knopf aside in January and said “Hey it’s really nice, you guys invited me to be on leadership, but I dont know if I really measure up. I mean I hear from God, but not at the same lightning speed as everyone else, and I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert once and they’re not exactly a Christian band. Sooo….
He just looked at me like, Uhh, I think you’re doing just fine. But it was moments like these, when I would share outloud and have other people refute the lies that were coming out of my mouth, that I was able to start moving on from the crippling perfectionism.
Another heart change, came a couple weeks ago. I posted a blog entry on Facebook. Eric Waterbury shared the link with the caption “Our very own, Chrissa Trudelle has written something etc.” When I read that, I just stared into the screen at the word OUR. I haven’t been coming here that long and I’ve had to miss quite a few because of school, but I belong… to an our.
Then last week, I had this moment, when I was looking around during worship, and I couldn’t help but smile, and think, these are my people. This is my city. Honestly, most of you, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg of your hearts. And there’s so much more life and experience to be shared.
This excites me, because I now understand, that the Christian life without fellowship is a tiny fraction of the richness of what it can be within.
And Spiritual growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum, trust me I’ve tried. See,
- If I try to blow off my next paycheck at the Nike factory store, the Christian finance expert, Dave Ramsey is not going to shoot me a text to keep me accountable for my financial stewardship. But Ashley Mellott, probably would.
- And if I have 14 burning questions about the latest sermon, CS Lewis can’t answer my wordy curious emails, but Eric Knopf does.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should ever stop learning or asking questions. But sometimes if I overanalyze to the point of anxiety. I back up and remind myself of three things.
Number 1: By the cross, our sins are forgiven. But God isn’t just saying nonchalantly “ehh no worries.” What I imagine, is a Taylor swift in concert at Levi stadium, where 50 thousand teenage girls, (and me), erupt into song and dance, singing shake. it. off.
Number 2: God is FOR us and not against us. I used to think of God with a big punishing stick. But now I picture his love a lot more like the time the San Francisco Giants won the pennant in 2014, after Travis Ishikawa hit one deep and AT &T park was on fire with excited fans and orange rally towels. I imagine that noise and electric energy times a billion as God, For us.
But you know who else went crazy? Was the home team. Which brings me to point number three.
- I love you guys!