Time to time I find myself emotionally deep into a disagreement with the very people who are my spiritual; brothers and sisters about how the church has let me down. It is so unfortunate that in my statement I keep saying the Church when in fact it was just one pastor or pastors wife or worship leader or preacher; just one individual. its sad not just because I allow one individual to represent an entire church but it is sad also because what one individual did was damaging enough for me to allow it to represent and entire church. I say ‘allow’ because I do know that regardless of the fact that I am a human being and it is hard to act less human or super human, I have power over what affects me and to what extent.
As a late teen I was so in love with Church. I would do anything to become a minister or have a role on the pulpit. I joined one of the big choirs/dance groups of my church at that time. What was supposed to be a safe and comfortable haven tore down my confidence, self-esteem and toyed with the Lord’s joy in my heart at that time. I will not go into the nitty-gritty of what exactly happened seeing I am far on the way to forgiveness and letting go of all that. I know some of you know exactly what I mean here and some of you do not know. I do believe our experience direct or indirect will help you who is reading to relate. Lets just say staying away from the church helped me get over all the hurt and made it even easier for me to forgive my wrong doers.
Today as I write this I know a spiritual sister who instead of being supported by the very people she led worship with, instead is left questioning her faith. Do we blame her for how she feels or instead ask ourselves if we even have a slight imagination of what it feels like be let down by the very thing or person you run to for cover.
Some of you know exactly what I mean here. Some of you have ever found yourself betrayed, let down, or hurt by religious people or leaders. I know some in your church like me struggle to really trust our “church” simply because of what one person in the church did to you or someone you know. Some of you even know the Bible front and back but can hardly bring yourselves to open the other side of the shame-based tactics they were subjected to in the past. Some literally break into hives just thinking about sitting in pews or walking into a traditional church building. The wounds are real and the healing is slow.
Why I write this is for one reason, if you’ve ever found yourself struggling with being let down by the church, I want you to know you’re not alone and perhaps suggest a few steps forward:
1. Resist the Urge to Become Cynical.
If you have been here where I have been and probably still at, being cynical is so easy. It demands very little of us and contributes nothing.
It can be hard to resist cynicism when we are human and not perfect. Believe me I get it. What is not easy, is entering in and actually contributing to the change we long to see. While this may seem overwhelming right now, it is an essential part of the healing process.
If you havent been here, remember that our experiences mould our beliefs at one point. The way you have seen nothing but good in the church that makes you fight for it, is the same way another has seen not just good but the dark side of church and ends up feeling the way they do and saying what they say. Remember the best you do is say a little prayer for the offended and the offender. My friend Nunu is a very kind soul, always looking at both sides of a coin. In all honesty, she was the reason I thought about writing this. Her warm response to my anger, her indirect experience through a friend that has felt what I felt made me calm down, think twice and realise that there is still good people in church.
2. Jesus Still Loves His Church.
Those of us that have been hurt by the “church”must eventually level with the hard truth that Jesus loves His Church. Even with all her imperfections, Jesus still thinks her worth dying for. He chose the church, died for the church, commissioned the church, empowered the church, continues to move in and through the church, and He will be coming back for the church. This very church that hurt you and I. So we don’t get to abandon the church
This is hard truth that we all hurt or not hurt by the church need to understand that we have to accept the church has hurt some that are left in pain and the very church had healed some that consider her nothing but pure.
We all need to know the church is made of people who are not perfect, the offender that destroyed a faith, the offended that is left angry and the spectator that is human enough to take sides depending on their experience direct or indirect in such situations..
3. Go back to the Church at Your Own Pace.
If you bear the scars of church gone wrong, then let’s just acknowledge together that beginning to trust a church again is going to take a while. In fact, it might take a very long while—and that’s OK. The sad truth is not all churches or their leaders are worthy of your trust. We have far too many modern examples to illustrate this point. So the instinct to protect yourself is going to be strong. Don’t feel guilty for guarding your heart. Trust cannot be rushed, nor should it be. Take your time.
4. Expect to be Disappointed.
Someone described the local church as Jesus’ village of sinning-saints. It mirrors the truth that we who are in Christ are now and forever saints in the eyes of God, while at the same time acknowledging the fact that our own imperfections with sin continue on the other side of the Cross. It mirrors the truth that you will fail again in the future and so will those in whatever fellowship you choose to be a part of. At times you will fail them and they will fail you.
And so my challenge for you is this: choose ahead of time what you will do when people let you down. Will you withhold grace or humbly extend it? Choosing to extend grace is enormously difficult and it is a choice you will have to continually come back to, but in the end, it is the only way to really heal.
At your own time and pace go back to the church. Our father is loving enough to wait on us. But remember he knows our heart’s intentions so while you take your time, pray each day that the Lord holds your hand to forgiveness and love.