A few years ago, I got sick and tired of the cute, perfect Instagramable spirituality I saw everywhere on social media. I’d spend countless hours scrolling through my feed and see only posts of my friends curled up their Bibles or their C.S. Lewis books, maybe with a nice cup of coffee or a bagel with cream cheese. They’d caption these photos with a profound quote, a Bible verse, a recent revelation or maybe even a little summary of their morning prayer.
And on behalf of all of us real Christians, I’d just like to say: pfffffft! Hellooo! The spiritual life is supposed to be messy! It’s complicated! My own spiritual life is frankly an unmitigated disaster! I rejected these unrealistic social media ideals for something that truly captured the endless complexities of an authentic Christian walk. I fully accepted the fact that my life isn’t perfect and is, in fact, pretty messy. And well, confession time: I think I may have started a cult.
Oh, I’m sorry. Is this too real for you?
I can already feel the judgment from the influencers and the Christian Thought Leader Twitterati. “Started a cult? That doesn’t sound good,” you’re probably sneering. “Is everything, like, okay? Seriously, do you need help?” Wow. Unrealistic standard much?
I admit, it’s pretty chaotic. Sorry that my spiritual life doesn’t fit into a neat, tidy 280 characters. But out here in the real world, not every problem can be solved with a #blessed hashtag. Maybe if you got your nose out of your Chip and Joanna Gaines-branded journal for two seconds you’d understand.
How’d it happen? Who can say? Life is full of inscrutable twists and turns. One minute you stop seeking the spiritual guidance of people wiser than you, the next you give up dedicating yourself to spending a little time every day in enriching prayer, reading and contemplation, the next a band of roving cultists have set up an altar in your house and are bending the knee to Blathos the Tortoise God of Scams.
When Unity Rainbow came to me, telling me that he is a reincarnated dolphin who’d been tasked by Blathos to amass his followers for a coming apocalypse, who am I to say no? The Bible isn’t all “do this, don’t do that” legalism. When Unity said he wanted to use my home as his base of operations for Blathos’ sinister reign, I recognized that this is what the mess of life really looks like. This was my opportunity to abandon the Facebook-approved, aesthetically pleasing, ecumenically sound theology of the soccer moms and doctrine buffs for the wild, rollicking terror of real, authentic spirituality.
This is the kind of spirituality Jesus embraced. I think. I haven’t actually had time to read about Jesus since the Blathosians moved in. Sorry not sorry if that’s too real for you.
Now I admit that this isn’t something you’re likely to read about in a Beth Moore book. It’s not the sort of testimony that would sound good on a Hillsong stage. But let me tell you: it’s real life. Not perfect. Not fun. Not happy-dappy, you’re-okay/I’m-okay, let’s-hold-hands-and-sing “Oceans” spirituality. Not safe. Not even necessarily legal, based on my understanding of how they’re funding the giant temple they’re building in my backyard. But real.
The old me would have been looking for answers here. I would have turned to prayer, or to spiritual authorities, or maybe law enforcement officials. The old me would have accepted the offers of help from my friends, family members, pastors and the FBI. But now I know that would not be embracing the real, authentic Christian life. How will I learn what the Christian life is all about if I avoid the complexities of housing and feeding an ever-growing number of off-the-grid cultists and their aspirations of creating their own, independent nation-state in my house?
The key here is to learn that God doesn’t meet us in our quiet times, our Bible readings or our prayers. He meets us in the mess and much of the everyday. Not always right away. Not always when we’d like Him to. Not always when it would, in fact, very helpful if He would do, well, anything. But He has His own timetable. And I’m done apologizing for that.
So be free with me. Let go of the rules, the image, the disciplines and the well-meaning calls for you to get out before it’s too late. Embrace the real, authentic messiness of the Christian walk and see just how terrifying life can be.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.