This is What Rules Are Made Of
I began my faith journey as a teenager and I was bright-eyed about what I could potentially do as a young Christian. I grew up in a Southern, evangelical Methodist church, that soon turned non-denominational when it split from the local Methodist denomination.
Within that church, I learned a great deal about what it means to be a “good” Christian.
Read my bible daily
Pray without ceasing (especially in the closet)
Tithe like my life depends on it
Follow the rules of those in charge
That last one really did it for me.
If you know me personally, you know that I’m not super great at following rules, especially if those rules are arbitrary.
I don’t like following rules if I don’t see the value in what they bring to the world.
I don’t follow rules that are put in place to marginalize and silence others.
My southern, evangelical, Christian upbringing sent all kinds of subliminal messages about how if you thought outside of the realm of “truth,” you were going straight to Hell. I didn’t even think about coloring outside the lines on my Sunday School coloring sheets, either.
So I constantly had to wrestle with my embedded theology and what felt natural to me. It was all contradictory. (Are we really surprised, though?)
Here are a few :
I was taught that children should be quiet, all the while God put in me a LOUD voice.
I was taught that women were naturally promiscuous, while I experienced harassment from men.
I was taught that God was a loving God, while I saw all the horror that happened right in front of my eyes.
And I didn’t have a safe space to figure it all out for a really long time.
There’s a Special Place in Hell for Those Who Ask Questions
So as any teenager does, I began to question everything. And my pastor and youth pastor hated to see me knock on their doors.
I instantly remember a life altering conversation with my youth pastor back in 2008. He was preaching to our youth group about repentance and sin and how if we don’t continually ask God for forgiveness then we can not get into Heaven.
I raised my hand and asked, “Why would God create a place like Heaven that he* doesn’t want anyone to be in? Why should I care about such a God?”
I’ll never forget what my youth pastor said to me next. He said, “Amber if you died tonight you would go to Hell because of all the sin you have in your life.”
I replied, “Fine with me.”
That was the moment I began dismantling my “Good Christian” mentality
A Woman’s Purpose
Fast forward a few years (2011), I became a youth minister’s wife at a Southern Baptist Church. And I quickly was shown my place as a Christian Woman whose husband was a minister. I even learned what it meant to be a” Help-Meet.”
It wasn’t the title my spouse placed upon me as he saw us as partners and collaborators in this new season of ministry. It was the church that bestowed the title upon me. And that’s all the congregation saw me as, even though I was doing equal work as my male counterpart.
Eventually, my spouse was fired for being too bold and too young. And I was left with a gaping hole in my chest. I felt pushed out, degraded, and deemed “too much” by the one place that I thought was supposed to love and accept me for who I was.
And since the church believed this about me, that meant God did too.
Alone, I continued to wrestle with the teachings of well meaning Christian Leaders because I just didn’t feel right in the box they put me in.
I asked questions like, “Why would God make a woman’s purpose solely to meet the needs of the man?” And, “Why would God make me— a woman who sees her purpose as something else? Is that purpose not of God?”
Once again, I had tried on the whole “Good Christian” ensemble and realized the reasons I took it off in the first place.
So I left the church for good and became a rebel.
A few years later (2016), I found myself applying to Seminary. There is a year’s worth of blog posts about seminary that I won’t try to squeeze into this one.
The shift in my thinking and being and believing was happening slowly. At this point, I thought I wanted to be a full-time minister/pastor of a church. As I progressed through, I felt this deeper calling to the arts and rebellion. “But where is God in Art?” I asked myself, “Can I even be rebellious and faithful?” “Is there even space for that kind of minister?”
That magnetic feeling toward painting and creativity felt contradictory to all that believed about myself and my purpose. I still somehow believed that being heretical/rebellious/untraditional meant that I was sinful. It was an embedded belief I couldn't quite shake.
And then I found myself in Cuba in the summer of 2019 with my seminary sisters and professors. We were learning alongside Cuban Pastoras and, really, we were learning from these badass Cuban ministers about the importance of our gifts.
And when one of the Pastoras asked me, “what gifts do you have to offer to God in ministry?” I stared blankly back.
All these fierce women were around me talking about their creativity and their call to ministry and I felt like I had nothing...
I left Cuba feeling empty and questioning my call to church leadership and to God. I questioned that deeply rooted belief that I couldn’t be a follower of God and rebellious in nature.
When I got home, I began to paint fervently. I couldn't stop. I was at a crossroads in my career and found myself unemployed for the first time in my adult life. So I had plenty of time on my hands to practice painting. I also embraced my rebellious nature and welcomed it in others.
A few months later, Amber Simpson Art was established as a part time gig, while I worked at a University as their Associate Campus Minister.
And I was happy doing this work, but I still felt that magnetic tug to the arts. I wanted creativity to be my life’s work. I wanted art to be my full-time dedication. I wanted to feel comfortable in my questioning and my doubt and my heresy.
And I feel like I am called to create an intersection between it all— artistry and ministry and heresy.
I feel like I am called to throw out the rulebook. I feel like I am called to share a space with other rebellious natured Believers. I feel like I am called to create a safe place for people to ask questions.
And if You’ve Made it This Far…
I bet you resonate with this story in some way. Perhaps you were once a “Good Christian” who is now a rebellious person of Faith. Perhaps you are asking questions to your pastor and they are shutting you down. Or maybe you are trying to find a heretical community to wrestle with all the contradictions in your life and faith.
If my journey from a “Good Christian” to a rebellious person of faith spoke to you in any way, I would love to connect with you. Comment on this post, follow me on Instagram at @amber_simpsonart or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s chat about the ways I can serve you. At the very least, I would love to listen to your story in the same manner you have listened to mine.
And, together, let’s throw out the rulebook and follow our calling to be rebellious questioners of Faith.