I’d like to tell you a little story about my last post entitled “Epic Fail”. Maybe this will help those who are confused to understand my decision to share such a painful and troubling experience. What good could it possibly do?
This is not the first time we have walked away from a church. In all my years I had never considered leaving a church family until we found ourselves being pushed out the door in a previous home. We had been key leaders. We had our hard work, time, gifts, and financial resources supporting nearly every ministry there. For over twelve years. And we were pushed out.
To this day, I cannot clearly answer why that was done to us. I can say that we were definitely not the first family that was treated in that way there. So, in that regard, I should not have been surprised. The pain should not have been as deep as it was. The dark days that followed should not have been so black.
But, being human, it was a dreadful time for our family. And yet, we chose to leave silently. We decided that we did not wish to stir up any divisions by stating what had been done to us. We chose to let people believe that our moving to a new home was the reason for our exit. Happy happy church joy for all that way.
I now question that decision. Were the friends left behind in the unhealthy environment served by our silence? Was the leadership who chose to behave in this way given a chance to grow through our quiet departure? No. Clearly, no.
So, our family has found themselves at a difficult crossroads again. This time we chose to speak. This time I chose to write. This time I had hoped that maybe it could be a learning experience for all involved.
For those who have expressed concern for our family and for me personally, I thank you. It has been truly touching. Know that it was never my aim or desire. But support and care displayed is never a bad thing.
For those who worry about my soul being lost, my faith in God destroyed, or in me becoming some angry atheist–please do not worry. I am not lost. My faith in my God is strong. My desire to follow the life and teaching of Christ is still very much my goal.
For those dying to know what exactly happened–um, nope. Those who need to know, do. Those who don’t, won’t. We have addressed every bit of the problem in the best way we know how. We have followed scriptural teachings in doing so and are now ready to just rest and heal.
But my reason for writing about this is in hopes that this very personal example might illustrate the problems I have been writing about since I started my blog. Actually, I have been talking and writing about some of these problems for many years. Maybe this time people in the greater evangelical church might listen? Maybe this time people will ask themselves the questions that I pose? Maybe now they’d look and see that it is not just my lone voice screaming in the wind?
I must admit that I have been shocked by the amount of response to these words. I have said nothing earth-shatteringly new. I have written many times before of nearly everything in this post. I have consistently asked questions of the American evangelical church that I believe need to be asked. I have consistently pointed out hypocrisy, contradictions, blind spots, and weaknesses.
Is it because this time I actually said I have had enough? Is it the fact that I blatantly point out that some of those “other church” issues are actually present in my own? Is it because my family’s health is more important to me than the potential bruised feelings of a few? I hate to break it to anyone who might doubt it—but all churches have a messy underbelly. All churches have wounded people. All churches have people who hurt others. All churches have some people who think they have all the answers. All churches have some people who judge those who are different. Because all churches are filled with people. Imperfect, fallible, struggling people. Don’t believe anyone who would tell you differently.
You may not have noticed, but my name is nowhere on my blog. You may not notice, but the church I’ve attended is never mentioned by name. The personal stories I include are altered just enough to protect those whose stories are important to tell (while protecting the very real humans behind them).
This is on purpose. This is very much for a reason. I don’t need anyone to really know who wrote the words. I don’t need anyone to be able to pat me on the back. I don’t wish my family to be attacked (or have any other ripple effect caused) because of my words.
I want for those who read to be able to put themselves in the middle of whatever topic I write about. I want you to be able to say “she’s talking to me!” when you see words of support. I want you to ask “have I ever done or said that?!” when I point toward our common Christian stumblings. I want you to sit and think, “does any of this happen in my church?” “Have I been guilty of causing hurt in others because of how I express my faith?”
I write out of love for my God, my faith, my community, and my church. I do not write to attack. If you see things that way, I cannot change that. Instead I would ask you to question why you believe I am attacking you.
I have been surprised by how many non-church-going, non-christians read my blog. It is humbling. It is sobering. It is a huge responsibility in my eyes. I write to them. I write for them. I write to show them that we are all messed up. That the “perfect church people” who’ve hurt them are not perfect. That the only perfect example of love and grace is Jesus Christ. The one who we Christians take our title from. The one we claim to follow is the one who needs to be looked to when people are jerks.
The one who chose grace and forgiveness over judgement and condemnation is the one who should be heard. Not the loud, ugly voices of church people on tv. Not the protestors with signs condemning gays. Not the protestors with signs condemning women outside clinics. Not the one making excuses for a morally bankrupt president. Not the ones asking for money so you might be blessed. Not the ones who have hurt me personally.
The one who told the crowd to put their stones down rather than kill a woman who messed up. The one who loved the unlovable, touched the untouchable, scolded the unteachable. That one. That’s the example to follow.
And, as I have so very often before, I will quote His words once more. If I could have them tattooed across my forehead I would.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Let’s give those words a try.