I Too Was Burned By The Church

I know I am not the only one who has scars from those who call themselves Christians. This. Should. Not. Be.

I had given up on the Church*, on Christians. I had almost given up on God, my faith, my life’s value. But somehow, for some reason I can only attribute to the mercy of God, Grace Himself gave me the strength to try again. The Lord alleviated my skepticism long enough for me to open my heart one last time to give the Church another try.

Note: I am open to discussing my experience growing up in that church, but I always hesitate elaborating on the details unless they would be beneficial to the listener. So for now, please bear with my vagueness. My point here is what has happened since I left that local congregation.

What I saw in a new local church (I have since become a part of this family) shocked me. People actually loved one another. These Christians really believed what they said. They really sought the truth, fought hypocrisy, and sacrificed their lives for others. It is in the context of a church family that I have begun to feel the soothing waters of restoration. Yes, I still have panic attacks in church when we sing certain songs as they trigger my past experience in church. But I also know that I am slowly healing. My anxiety is less severe and my episodes less frequent than even a year ago. In order to begin this kind of forgiveness and healing, I have had to face my pain head on. It has meant allowing myself to grieve, counseling, and actually becoming an active member in the Church again.

I. love. The Church. And believe me–that really is a miracle.

Of course the Church still makes mistakes right and left–it’s made up or people, after all! But the Church is what Jesus chose to represent Him until He comes back. God is at work in His people! I have seen it, and I have been encouraged.

Something that grieves and angers me is that not everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian really follows Jesus. That devastates me… for their sake, our sake, your sake. People have done some horrible things in the name of Christianity, some of these crimes horrendous. Since I stand as a part of the Church, I must therefore stand with the Church in its failings as well. I confess that in different areas we haven’t loved well in the past, in the present, and likely will make grievous mistakes in the future. These wrongs are without excuse. We have claimed to represent God Almighty, yet have acted totally contrary to what He would have done. And I Am Sorry. I am sorry that we have neglected you when we should have acted. I am sorry that we acted harmfully–intentionally or not–when we should have extended grace. How I wish I could reverse your pain! All I can offer is a listening ear and a heart eager to extend grace to the broken. I ask your forgiveness for the ways that my people have acted wrongly in the last 2000 years. Please consider forgiveness.

I have experienced so. much. grace. in my local fellowship. I deeply respect the leadership there, and I willingly serve them with joy. They have responded to me with such affection, care, and acceptance. When I was desperate, they offered me patience and support. Even when I “came out” to leaders as questioning both my gender and sexual identity, they responded with nothing but love. They really listened and desired to understand my needs, concerns, hurts.

I testify that though I too was wounded by those in the church, I have witnessed God’s presence, freedom, truth, and grace in His global community of followers since then. My local church community has, by their devotion to God and genuine love for others, helped restore my faith that God really is at work on earth.

If you too have been burned by the church–perhaps deeper than you can express or understand–please hear this: On behalf of the Church, I’m sorry for the pain we have caused. You are not alone in your pain. I want nothing more than for you to experience healing, grace, belonging. Please, consider my story. Through the Gospel–the good news of Jesus Christ–I have found hope and am being restored. Please, consider trusting in the great Restorer, for He is good.

Blessings to you all!

*When I use capital C “Church,” I refer to followers of Jesus across the globe who together comprise Christ’s metaphoric bride, His body on earth

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Moving right through the thick of tragedy

It’s been a couple of weeks since I heard the tragic news.

My dad called me, his voice shaking. His best friend had called him and told “the worst possible news.” My friend Madison, his son, had died.

Madison. Died.

What?!?

My dad relayed vague details, and shared the situation’s increasing complexity: Suicide. Madison took his own life.

Shock, grief, numbness, terror, denial, sorrow. What a confusing few weeks it has been with emotions fluctuating from suffocating to starkly absent. I went home to be with my parents and siblings as they sorted through their grief.

My dad had took on all of the details and responsibilities for Madison’s dad, his best friend, and allowed the rest of their family to spend focused time together in grief until the memorial service.

There are pages and pages I could write about the last several weeks as it relates to the tragedy, but I will try to keep this brief. One of the most striking moments for me was in talking with Madison’s dad.

“Someone asked me how on earth I deal with a tragedy like this. And I said, ‘You have to move right through the thick of it.‘”

When Tragedy presumes its horrifying face at your door and shoves its way in your life, you are forced to make choices: Will you invite others into your pain? Will you suppress the deepest, most painful questions? Will you hide? Will you allow yourself to feel emotion or become numb?

These decisions  have to be made on a moment-by-moment basis. What I admire about Madison’s family is that they allowed others into their pain, allowed friends to grieve with them. They didn’t hide their fears, but expressed them appropriately. They allowed their community to mourn with them, to express love’s final mark: grief*.

My dear, dear friends responded with maturity in their sorrow, facing the situation head on. Let’s press on to maturity, friends. It requires courage, so let’s support one another in our weaknesses. For we. Are not. Alone.

Madison, we miss you dearly. You are loved beyond expression. But we grieve with hope that we will see you again.

*I borrow this thought from my insightful mentor