I have hid this story for so long--in pieces and in its entirety at times-- that I have a difficult time actually putting it into words. I have to psyche myself up and remind myself that part of the reason I am telling this story is to heal from it, grow from it and let God use me and it how He sees fit.
I used to tell a friend who had been through a lot that she had an amazing story that God could use for so much good. It is ironic that while I was shelling out such stellar advice for someone else to go out and make themselves vulnerable-- I wasn't brave enough to do the same thing with my own story at the time.
I wrestle with each post and sometimes wonder if I am going to come back and continue. Your encouragement has been so amazing. From your comments, to your emails, to even a few phone calls, I am amazed at what God can do with my story.
With all that said, I have been wrestling with this post a bit... I know I need to write about it... so much so that God worked with me today on it in a way that reminded me of the GOODe Ole days...
So, without further ado... This is Part 4. Need to catch up? Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
My disconnect from the church grew from a crack to a gaping hole from that point forward.
I believed that if I ever let my guard down and shared my thoughts, fears and developing opinions on what I believed that it wouldn't be received well...and I in turn would get hurt.
I kept God separate from fellowship. He and I would have really awesome and powerful times and then I would burn out.
I read somewhere (can't remember the source) that faith is like an ember in a fire. It can burn red hot, but if it is separated from the other embers, it will quickly lose it's heat.
That was me... I would get all fired up. So connected. Then it would fade... I had no one to kindle it with.
I was caught in this vicious cycle that had shame all of its own.
I was after all Sunday School Suzy... I couldn't be the "child actor" version of the Christian faith could I? I sailed and soared and then fizzled all out...unable to reconnect with what literally made up my identity as a child/teen.
There were a couple occasions when I found a way to connect with a body of believers for a length of time, but I still kept most at arm's length even then. And, on the rare occasion that I tested these waters and let my guard down... like a self-fulfilling prophecy... I would get burned and on occasion badly.
Turns out hanging out with other embers can burn baby.
Badly enough to be able to say --and boy did I say it to myself OVER and over and over again--that the most hurtful times of my life have been at the hands of Christians.
And, from a social standpoint, if I couldn't trust Christians-- a group I so identified with for so many years-- who could I trust?
So everyone was locked out.
After getting burned for the last time, I decided that I was going to try to find a new church and this time I was going to have criteria dag-gone it.
So, like when teachers would get the in class evaluations, off to church I would go with my list of things that were "deal-breakers" for me and I would "observe" the service to see if it offended my sensibilities.
Many say that churches are filled with hypocrites. I couldn't say that. My experience with church and church culture was more complex than that.
No, my deal breakers centered around bubble issues like rallying the congregation around hot button social issues, the mention of certain Christian leaders or their
Now, a lot of these issues are still important to me, but looking back I think of how arrogant, distrusting of God, prideful, judgmental, *insert all kinds of awful things here* this monitoring behavior was... even though I know it was rooted a deep need to self-protect.
In my mind-- I was also protecting tons of folks who were seeking God, but didn't fit into the church, folks like myself... except that I rarely told anyone that I objected... I just used it as another reason to stay disconnected.
I became a pro at chalking up the differences between me and other believers. Most times, I was so concerned about what was being said and who it might offend that I missed many opportunities to engage with my Creator and/or His people.
Gradually God led me to the painful conclusion that if I was going to continue with these strong feelings of what was wrong with the church-- I needed to look at myself and answer --as a Christian-- what I was doing to balance things...
My criticism was doing nothing for the things I claimed to care so deeply about... in essence I was the hypocrite.
As Gandhi once said, I needed to "Be the change you want to see in the world".
That is part of what this online journey is about...
I have been struggling with how to write about my "deal breaker" period and ironically enough yesterday at church I had to laugh when many of my previous triggers were present at some point during the service...
Triggers that used to consume me and my thoughts all service long.
God totally used it as a teachable moment for me. Even though I may not agree with certain approaches in regards to hot button issues or may not believe it is our job to create a Christian nation-- yesterday I saw the people who may think differently than I completely different.
Instead of judging them, I saw our similarities over our differences.
In each case, we were both imperfect humans coming to our Lord on a Sunday morning.
For the first time in a long time, we were both there to worship our God... not judge each other.
Do you struggle with God's people? Do you struggle with those outside the church?