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Broken by the Church

My heart is broken and I don’t know where to go from here.

Let me explain.

My last blog post was on not feeling safe at church. Other than boundaries, it has been my most visited and liked blog in the shortest amount of time. And for that, my heart aches. This shouldn’t be the case and I don’t know that I have any answers.

Here’s what I do know.

When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do.

What is that, you may ask. I’m asking too. And I don’t know that I have any answers. For me, like I said in the last blog, I am very happy attending church on the couch (COTC). I virtually attend, sometimes alone, sometimes with a loved one, The Church of Eleven 22. I’m a little partial to this church, whose many campus’ are in the Jacksonville area, because my youngest son is on staff there. It’s easy for me to ‘trust’ it because I hear about the in’s and out’s of its leadership and its mission and its heart. I’ve seen it put into practice. I’ve heard Joby Martin, lead pastor, talk on difficult subjects and be very real and vulnerable. It’s been really refreshing. But they’re there and I am here, meaning NOT in the Jacksonville area. So for now, I feel safe on my couch and visiting in person when I go to Jax.

As we all know, being a Christ follower is not simply about attending church every time the doors are open. I’ve seen too many, who have claimed that as a way to show just how spiritual they are, fall. Hard. It’s not a pre-requisite to a life well lived for Christ.

So what is?

Honestly, I think that is the better question. As I said before, no one else is responsible for my, or your, spiritual walk except me or you. It’s not about what others see. It’s really about what God sees. And He sees it all.

So again….what is it?

Through the years my walk has been all over the place. As I’ve learned through my healing journey, which is not linear, that my walk with Jesus isn’t linear either. I wish it were. I wish I knew that when I reached a certain point, I could consider myself mature. But then something happens that throws a kink in everything I believed to that point and I feel like I’m back at square one.

Can anyone else relate or am I on my own here??

I say all of this because these past ten years or so have been more like a roller coaster. Realizing that Jesus never promises an easy life to those who follow Him, in fact just the opposite at times, I guess I didn’t understand how much I would question what I have heard and learned at church or in study groups.

I don’t negate truth. What I negate is the feeling of being alone while I’m going through some of the most devastating events of my life. I have amazing friends. I have a counselor who has walked through much with me. But my church. Remember…they are to be my family.

You see…I feel we get so focused on ministering to those who DON’T know Jesus and wanting them to know His love that we forget about those who are needing to be reminded of how much He loves them even in the midst of the crazy, the pain, the betrayal, the sickness. And to stand by them because they need Jesus with skin on, just like the lost do. Yet as my heart breaks over the many things that have really hurt me, I’m told I need more faith. Or here’s another book. Or another study. Or just keep praying. Or forgive. Again.

While some of those things may be of real help….especially praying because He’s the only One who can change anything, my heart aches. Alone. I fear what my church leaders will tell me about my spiritual condition because I’m struggling to trust through yet another situation. My lack of trust must mean I’m not really saved.

But beloved, that is so not true. As I walked through some really dark days, the furthest thing on my mind was to seek help from the pastor. I truly feared judgment. Spiritual chastisement. Being told I haven’t tried hard enough (in my marriage). You and I both know that’s not true, so I never went. Honestly it’s not fair of me to pass judgment on what his response may or may not have been, but as they say, the past is the best indicator of the future. The past never showed anything compassionate or empathetic. While I knew what to do spiritually, I needed my spiritual leaders to come along to let me know they cared. That I was prayed for. That they were there to hear my story….more than once if needed. That they would keep me safe from emotional attack. But that never happened.

So here I am. Hurting for you and for me. I so want a church family with leadership that supports and cares, but instead I feel really alone in my pain. Yes. God knows and He sees, and thankfully He is always there. He is the One I turn to always and depend on completely. I would not have made it this far without Him. But the church family component is missing. And I don’t know where to find it because I don’t know that they ‘get it’. And I’m sad.

Again. What is it? What does a life well-lived for Christ look like?

I think it's more about relationship...with Jesus and with others. It's difficult to clearly define because we are all so different. But Jesus tells His followers, as they see the needs of the people, to just 'be that' to them. Whatever 'that' is in the moment. It doesn't mean we accept sin, or celebrate sin, or even tolerate sin. It means we love in spite of sin. And pain. And uncertainty. He tells us in His Word that by our love, others will know we are His.

Let's do that, church. Let's be that.

My prayer is that the more we talk and share and say ‘no’ to accepting mis-directed blame and shame, that our leaders will finally turn a corner. That they’ll understand that God’s people need to be loved in their pain just like the lost do. When we begin to treat our people in this way, the lost world would see and maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually want to know the Jesus we profess.

Because we really will be different.

How are you showing love to those inside the church? What are you needing to be assured of most in your own spiritual walk?

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