I am tired of being a Christian. Like a flower in the winter, my color is gone. My edges are brittle. My leaves are gnawed. I am drab and lifeless.

I am tired of being a Christian. The word sits on me like a lead weight. It makes it hard for me to breathe, like old neighborhood games of football where you end up at the bottom of a pile of sweaty kids and no one seems to be un-piling. I feel the burning in my chest, the labored breath, my ribs are bruised from the pressure.

I am tired of being a Christian, and God tells me, “It’s just a name. It’s just a label. And I have given you a new name. I am calling you Artist.” But you don’t just go around telling people that, now do you? Because the Christian title is one worn with great pride and at great cost. It is protected by many. It is even, especially where I live, culturally relevant, accepted, assumed. When the masses are carrying the current a certain direction it’s pretty hard to feel like the right thing for you to do is to swim against the flow of status quo.

The problem for me really comes down to the definition of Christian. And my definition is obviously skewed and slanted and messy and disfigured. I can’t hold onto a title that I’ve been asked to honor, when the title is leaving me bitter and angry and lying to myself. I have an affection for people like Anne Rice and Gandhi who at least are daring enough to be honest about the dangers of a word that so many blindly reverence.

I am, oddly enough, not tired of Christ. I am in awe of the story of a rebel with a cause. A great cause. A cause that refused to be muddled up by the preconceptions of what it “should” be. And I am in great conversation with a God who seems to know my name and my heart far greater than I have ever given Him credit for. I am in shock that my religion has kept me so far from Him. And even more in shock that I was absolutely sure for years that I knew Him because I knew the rules of my religion.

Things got messy for me when I first started paying attention to and pursuing the desires of my heart. I started listening to the fact that I wanted to be an artist, and I started taking those desires seriously. I had the audacity to consider that those desires planted on my heart took precedence over guilt-driven actions of serving at a soup kitchen, going to church, or reading my Bible and that years of ignoring those desires actually drove me further away from God and into a life of empty service.

And then something else messy started happening. I started believing I was really hearing from God and that He was telling me something different and unique. I started to get confused with what to do with the preaching at church because the preaching at church wasn’t nearly as unique and hand-crafted for me. I started to feel guilty that I would rather be hearing from God on my own then hearing from Him through the words of a sermon series at church. I started looking around at the people filling the church building and wondering if they were feeling as empty as me. If they were sitting there because they were lumped in under the title of Christian and that meant their butt had to be in a seat. I started feeling like God was calling me to Himself instead of calling me to protect and reverence a label, and it felt naughty and scandalous and oh so relieving.

I’m tired of being a Christian if being a Christian means I have to be issued my marching orders from “higher-ups” who do not know me or know my heart.

I’m tired of being a Christian if being a Christian means I have to preface any and all of my actions with an explanation. I am drinking, but I am not getting drunk. I am cussing, but I am doing it in a whisper and I’m only quoting something I heard from someone else. I am not going to church but I’m not alienating myself from the body of Christ. I am writing in the mornings, but it doesn’t mean I’m not getting my prayer time and Bible time in with God at some other point in my day. I’m so tired of explanations, many of which I don’t even believe in.

I’m tired of being a Christian if being a Christian means I have to apologize for being me.

I’m tired of being a Christian if being a Christian means I have to tie everything up in a nice neat little bow.

2011 is going to be a year of “Messy” for me. And it’s going to get messy because I’m going to stop doing things because of a label that I don’t believe in. I’m going to stop doing the things that I’m doing simply because that’s the way they’ve always been done. I’m going to trust God’s unforced rhythms of grace and realize that as much as my religion has wanted to convince me that there is a formula, there just plain isn’t.

Every single day of my life is unpaved territory, and I’m being led by an unsafe (yet good) Artist God who delights in mystery, wonder, the unexpected and joy, and He sure as hell doesn’t wrap everything up with a nice neat little bow for me. He lets me wrestle with the mess for as long as it takes. And you know what? I really like that about Him. He has far less problems with my imperfections then I do, and He refuses to make me do anything.

I’ve been drowning for years in a world of “make me” and He has pulled me up out of those turbulent waters and set me down in the sunshine to bask in His love and grace and condemnation-free sunlight. And I, quite honestly, am just enjoying the conversation, and the warmth, and the space to figure out what it even means to just be “me.” Dripping wet, angsty, pent-up, gasping for breath “me.” The me He created me to be, not the me Christianity created me to be. I don’t owe it to God to be a “Christian.” I owe it to God to listen to the truth of who He created me to be.

Do yourself a favor, if you are a Christian, stop being one because someone told you had to be and start having a conversation with God to find out who you really are. How are you defining that word Christian and are you okay with being that definition? If yes, great, but if there is even the smallest inkling in you that you aren’t, give up the game. There are far more exciting conversations and lifestyles to be had on the other side of the ocean, on the beaches of God’s grace and truth and love.

This blog post was written in 2010. It appeared on my Messy Canvas Wordpress Blog before it crashed in 2013, and I referenced this post in my spiritual memoir, Thrashing About With God. It is currently the first chapter in my eBook entitled Spiritual Wanderings.