A Lifelong UPC Woman's Experience II
(An update to an experience posted in July 1998)
It has been a long time since I have contacted you, but I followed a link from another site to yours and began to read once again all the experiences that others have had. I was pleased to see that my first letter to you was still posted (A Lifelong Woman's Experience). I just wanted to let you know what has happened in my life since last year.
I am attending an Assembly of God church in my hometown. I still keep in contact with the pastor's son of my former church quite regularly. We were always great friends, and he has remained such with me...despite our obvious differences in opinion. I think what has helped him to keep the friendship is that he still sees in me the character of Christ, unlike the other girls who left over the hair issue. They are not living their lives for Christ. I have remained. I am thankful that he still holds me in high respect.
I absolutely love my new church. I am a member of the choir, I sing on praise team in our young adult group, I help with various other ministries in the church, and I am looking to be involved in children's ministries in the near future.
My parents still attend a UPC church, and although they are not as happy as they once were, they cannot find another Oneness church in our hometown that they can be satisfied with. I have no problem with my "Trinity" church, because there is only terminology difference in the belief of the Godhead.
I have yet to go to a salon to get my hair cut, but I plan to very soon. Simple trims are nice, but I am ready to let a professional take over and help me!
I have found unconditional love and acceptance with my new circle of friends. I have helped them to understand things from the "Oneness" point of view, and they have helped me to understand the "Trinity" point of view. We have agreed that we are both right and we are both on the same wavelength.
I find it very interesting that so many experiences listed on your website not only reference the hair issue, but the whole idea of salvation. Acts vs Romans. I have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit on the true meaning of justification. It is such a relief. I have struggled with the questions such as "who is right and what is wrong." As we are so fond of saying in our Sunday School class, it all comes down to a matter of where your heart is. If you are doing anything for the sake of doing it rather than bringing glory to God, you should examine your motives.
I truly believe that I have matured in my Christian walk in the past year like I never have before. I am being constantly challenged to study the Scriptures to prove them. I am being discipled in a way that I never have before.
I did not have bad experiences in the UPC church. I am very grateful that I have a good Pentecostal background. I don't know what I would do or how I would live day to day without the Holy Spirit's guidance in my life. I still love and respect very much two of my three former pastors. (I won't discuss the other one...it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but not because of the church, because of him alone.)
I feel extreme sorrow that so many people have been hurt by the UPC. Yes, there are some members that have shunned me, some telling me that they will pray that I will come back to the truth. Sad to say, most of them are not truly living the Christian walk the way that God is revealing to me that it should be lived. I still see and hear some people shake their heads and ask where I went wrong and how I could turn my back on it all to give it up for worldly pleasures.
The irony is that I have found pure joy in salvation rather than fear or confusion. I cannot count the number of lives that I have been able to bring some cheer into in my professional and personal life. Even my agnostic brother who refuses to attend any church has said that if he EVER goes back to another church, he will come to mine because he has seen what a difference that it has made in my life.
There are a few reasons why I left the UPC. When I first started questioning was when I made a few really good friends from an Assembly of God church here in town. I went to a Baptist high school, and we had open discussions in our Bible classes that really sparked some questions. Such as... If God requires outward holiness standards as a condition of salvation, why did the Assemblies of God churches receive the Holy Ghost also?
And that made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong in my judgmental attitude. I mean, we saints were supposed to judge the world at the great white throne judgment so surely we could judge among ourselves. Well, I learned the hard way that God is the judge. We don't have all the answers down here. When that day comes, we will be changed and perfect, so our judgment will be perfect. Down here, we are all flawed. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
So, if God saw fit to give my friend Kelly the Holy Ghost when she wore pants and makeup and had short hair, and God gave me the Holy Ghost and I wore dresses and skirts and no makeup and had long hair; and we both had the same spiritual experience, could one of us be wrong? I saw so much joy and freedom that I longed for. I now have that joy. Everyone who knows me has seen how much I have changed in the past year.
True, I still struggle with day to day things...someone pulls out in front of me on the street and I desperately want to teach them a lesson, or my mom irritates me until I snap at her and feel bad, or I have a bad day at work and all I want to do is cry and complain about my coworkers or my boss. These things happen. But I can deal with them. Get angry. Repent. Cool down. Praise God that He is going to give me the strength to deal with it.
After I realized that outward holiness does not necessarily lead to inward holiness but inward holiness cannot HELP but lead to outward holiness, I decided that I had been going about it all wrong. I was trying to make myself holy rather than let God do it. It wasn't working. I had "built a lovely mausoleum for my soul." (lyrics by Big Tent Revival) Yeah, I may look the part of a Christian, but was I really taking on the attitude of Christ? No.
So, I decided that if I was really gonna be a Christian, I had to start doing what God would do. Be merciful. Be caring. Be a friend. Be patient (still working on this one!!!). The best witness is a silent witness...when a person can tell you are a Christian without one preachy word coming out of your mouth. Not because I can sit on my scraggly hair. Not because I have a shiny, blemished face. Not because I wear skirts to the floor and sleeves to my wrist. But because I have a "God confidence." I know that God is my Savior. I am a child of his. And I don't know about you, but I think that anyone is stupid to try to mess with the child of someone as powerful as my God is!
Once I realized that the whole outward holiness was wrong, I thought that maybe there were other parts of my theology that were wrong. I had practically memorized the book of Acts, but didn't know much other scripture. I began delving into the Pauline epistles.
If Paul was one of the greatest preachers in the Bible, why did he never talk about the plan of salvation the way that Peter did? As a matter of fact, on some points, Paul publicly opposed Peter. He called him out for hypocrisy. So, if Paul didn't preach the way Peter did, was Paul wrong? Then why did he write half the books of the New Testament? There had to be more than just Acts. Reading the Pauline epistles really gave me an insight into how the church was supposed to be, and how believers were supposed to live their lives. Peter gave the Acts 2:38 message, but Paul gave the Romans 10:9-10 message. Both claimed to be the way of salvation.
What got me thinking on this point was the fact that repentance was so often skimped on. It was done in this fashion- ok, say you're sorry for all your sins, now let's pray for God to give you the Holy Ghost. Just praise him and say I love you until you begin to babble in another language. Ok, now be baptized and you're saved. Where at another church, such as my Assembly of God church, not only the confession and repentance of sin is done, but a turning away and a discipleship start.
Once God has shown what an awesome work he can do, then the Christian prays for the Holy Spirit to fill their lives, to guide them, to teach them, to comfort them. Often, they begin to speak in tongues during praise and worship and they aren't even thinking about it at the time! It is spontaneous and not under pressure. Those people end up staying longer in the church, also.
I won't even go into the Oneness vs Trinity thing here. There is plenty of other information floating around, and you can read all kinds of debates. Basically, one says person and the other says attributes, but they're both talking about the same One God.
I hope that all is well for you, and that God is continuing to show you his plan for you. I was excited to see all the additions to the site. I will continue to visit periodically.
Thank you for your candor and for your willingness to voice what God is sharing with you.
Love in Christ
Posted December 10, 1999
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August 23, 1997
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