There was a time in my life where I hated the church. Most of us have heard stories like this, and honestly, we’ve probably grown a little numb to the feeling of someone being truly hurt by the church. When people tell me they hate going to church, I know exactly what they mean.
Years ago, I went through one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had in my life. A pastor, who I considered to be very much a father figure, hurt me and my family deeply; resulting in me resigning my well-paying church position, in hopes of not damaging the relationship anymore more.
The fall-out was awful. The resignation had caught my pastor by surprise, and he wasn’t fond of surprises. Once my resignation was on his desk, I was immediately told that I was not following God’s will for my life.
I was told I would never find a better paying job, than what I had at the current time.
I was told the church would not miss my presence.
He was hurt that I was leaving, and in turn he lashed out in pain.
Within that week, my insurance was cut off, I received my last pay check from the church, and my office cleaned out. That upcoming Sunday, it was announced to the congregation that it would be my last. I didn’t have much time to give a heads up to friends within the church about the transition, so with the shock of my sudden exit, they were hurt as well.
“I thought we were close” they echoed.
I was in-between a rock and a hard place. On one side, I wanted to leave on good terms, and speak no fowl words. On the other side, I wanted to be truthful and throw my pastor under the bus.
I took the brunt of the blame, and tried to be the bigger man in the entire situation. It’s definitely easier said than done.
Just because I took the high road, doesn’t mean I felt content with it. In fact, I hated it. Bitterness started rising in my heart, and hatred towards the church became more prevalent. In fact, I didn’t go to church for a long time after that..
Years in fact.
The sad reality is, while I still believed in a loving God, there were times where all I saw was despair and heartache for and by his people.
Why would I go to the place filled with people who hurt me the most?
Why would God allow his people to cause so much hurt and pain?
Doesn’t God care enough for me to protect me from a mess so painful?
While my questions might be valid, a closer look at my heart would conclude that I wasn’t looking to hear answers from God. I was looking for God to be good and just in my situation. This mindset seems logically and theologically sound. If God is a God of justice, shouldn’t He smite down my offenders?
God is a good God, right?
I don’t believe that God is a good God because it’s what I’ve been taught; I believe that God is a good God, because He created me.
Creation is an act of love. When you create something for yourself you love it, don’t you?
When people say they’ve been hurt by the church, they are really saying they’ve been hurt by certain people that go to church. Those people were created just like you and me.
I know it hurt when you were stabbed in the back
I know you still have ghosts haunting your memories.
However, If we were never hurt, we would never know what peace feels like.
Without feeling disappointed, we would never know what fulfillment feels like.
The shadow always proves the sunshine.
While I’ve personally experienced deep hurt and pain from people within the church, I’ve also experienced joy, peace and love from those same people. The “church” ,in essence, is just a group of believers. When you get a group of people together, it gets messy. No matter who the group consists of.
Church isn’t a programmed one hour service on Sunday mornings. Church isn’t a meeting in a building. Church isn’t a rock show that meets at 6:08.
Church is doing life together with others. Church is breaking bread with other believers, no matter how much they hurt you or you hurt them.
It took me years to learn that the church didn’t need me, I needed the church. As cliché as that might sound, it’s the truth.
The wounds and scars that we have experienced in our life, aren’t meant to be dwelled on. While the scars from “church pain” might be some of the most intense hurt we’ve been through, know that God’s love conquers all.
The only real way to begin the healing process is to identify who hurt you. Don’t group it, as a whole but who was the individual that truly burned you. We’ll never heal unless we can identify who did what.
I know people who move from relationship to relationship, church to church, friends to friends always coming off as having a hard time committing or hating the world. These people refuse to do the hard work of learning how to forgive and reconcile. Whenever the relationship takes a difficult turn, they leave it. They move on to the next one. They have this coping mechanism built inside their minds to push away the slightest conflict. For those people, including myself I have something to say.
May you remember the times you were shown love and respect within the church.
May you remember that the church was created for and by you, just as God created you.
May you choose to truly live life and not dwell in death.
May you realize that everything matters in your life. Nothing is shallow or superficial.
May you have peace and may it be contagious in your interactions with others.