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It’s about a Relationship, Not a Religion, or a Result

My oldest sister Hannah is in town visiting in Pullman… It’s been great. Since graduating high school my life has gradually shifted to being more rooted in Washington, although my Wyoming roots will always be at the base of my story and identity, which I’m very proud of.

But the effects of time and place seem to inevitably shape people. Overall I’ve been happy with how WSU has shaped me, and as I go back home, time continues to separate my casual acquaintances from my lasting relationships there. And it can’t help but seem less familiar, while Pullman has become a village of some really great friendships.  College friendships are unique in that, while schools in session, you’re a sort of social family.

Yet my visits from my family have been priceless.  I’ve probably been truly homesick as much as I’ve been physically sick: a couple times a year, from as long as 2-days to 2-weeks.  Life on the Palouse has been overall a blessing, but throw in one of my genuine Wyoming relationships and I’m in hog heaven. Me and Hannah have been having amazing conversations about our family relationships, futures, beliefs, who we’ve become in our time apart, and dating — which interestingly isn’t as different for a 21 year old and a 29 year old as you’d think (at least for us anyway).

I told her about when I was a more self-centered teenager, Mom and I would be driving back in the car from Cheyenne and would discuss our faiths. Although it was mostly her discussing and me half-listening and half-thinking about sports, or girls, or bacon, and saying “yeah,” or “huh,” to let her now I was somewhat tuning in. I wasn’t always such a chump, but often I was… if someone can ever figure out how to communicate to teenagers they’re emotional basket-cases with the wisdom of wildy-coyote, it will be almost more amazing than a cure for cancer.

Then I told Hannah that as I’ve been at college, and have been ironing out my core-beliefs, I’ve had a lot of moments where I remembered my moms little sayings on faith and been so thankful she’d shared what I have found myself to be absolute truths.  Things like, “It takes two complete people to make a good marriage, because if you’re each only 50% and one of you is having a bad week and can only give 30%, you’re in trouble.” or “Find a career that is pleasing to God, but is also passionate for you. He’s not going to send you to Africa if you’re going to be miserable and ineffective there, he wants you to be passionate about him, and what he has you doing for his glory.”

The one I heard most though was probably, “You’re faith is about a relationship not a religion.” I think she put so much emphasis on this because this is the biggest misconception in Christianity; it’s not a checklist of things you can’t do, there is Jesus’s love behind these laws.  He wants us to obey them because they will ultimately hurt us, and our relationship with him.

Yes, mom, you’ve done well, although if you don’t mind I’d like to add an amendment to this saying so it reads, “It’s about a relationship, not a religion, or a result.” Because what I’ve found to be as jaded as pure legalistic Christianity is the “prosperity gospel.”  When the bible says “ask and you shall receive” it’s ludicrous to think he was talking about that Mercedes Benz you want, because Jesus is always talking about things beyond this world: ask him, earnestly, constantly, genuinely that he will teach you patience, then work as hard as your little-soul can at it, and damn right you’ll be more patient.

The problem with thinking God’s goodness is based on the results of this world, is that when our comfortable American lives go to pot, we blame the only being that can truly help us out of it: God himself.  Maybe he can’t un-burn your house down, but if you let him, he can teach you that this world is about people and not material.  We think in terms of the next six months, God thinks in terms of eternity.

So with this in mind I wrote a little poem about relying on God, and running on his clock. Because I bet he’s got one in heaven that makes Big Ben look like Tiny Tim.

son, where did your faith go? / you lost it when you need it most. / you lost your job, your house, your mom. / just what was your faith standing on? / yeah you may have got knocked down, / but there is no use sitting around. / stand up with me and rise to your knees. / yes, that’s it, right there and watch this tree. / now you see the dying color of the leaves, / but hold up now, be patient, we’re far from done. / just be here awhile, till spring can come. / know do you see how the branches bud? / give it another month and the leaves will bloom. / give me a year, the tree will grow taller too. / give me a year, and you’ll grow too. / keep at it you’re branches will shelter lost souls like you.


About ananiasgo

Charles Westerman is a freelance writer, songwriter, school bus driver and murder mystery theater actor living in Portland, Oregon. He grew up on a ranch in Chugwater, Wyoming as the youngest of five kids and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Journalism and English Lit. in May 2012. In between driving his Jr. High minions back-and-forth from school, he is currently at work writing his debut literary novel, Where Heaven Meets Cheyenne and its sequel. A two-part telling of the story of his ordinary family that came together in an extraordinary way. For the past two and half years he has worked to tell this story with honesty, excellence and honor to the characters who made it possible.

3 responses to “It’s about a Relationship, Not a Religion, or a Result

  1. Lynn Kirkbride ⋅

    As you can imagine… you made me cry… I am glad you are making it your own!

  2. hannah k ⋅

    Which isn’t as different as you’d think, considering our crushes are 25 years apart in age.

  3. Michelle K ⋅

    I’ve become a big fan of this site (and have been a big fan of the author for quite some time!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts Charlie. I just sent a link to this page to a friend who is also a mother of teenagers. Your comments on the fact that some of what we mothers are saying is important and will turn up in your life later on is very encouraging.

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