Easter. A time to reflect on the extravagant grace and mercy heaped upon us by God through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, our passover Lamb. A time to celebrate new life– in Christ and in our gardens. A time to savor the magic of egg hunts for a child and the blessings of faith, family, and food!
But for some, it’s a time to wrestle with old hurts and anxieties as they attempt to step foot inside a church. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are some of our own worst enemies. We shoot our wounded and judge the broken, rather than binding up their wounds and leaving them with Jesus.
Imagine, if you will, a young teen-aged boy who is uncomfortable with the topic being discussed at youth group. He quietly slips out and takes a walk, returning a short time later– where he is met by a furious youth pastor. This youth pastor excoriates the young man in front of everyone there. When the teen attempts to respectfully defend himself, the pastor takes it as an affront and a challenge to his own self and bans the teen from youth group. The children’s pastor jumps on board this bandwagon and bars the teen from serving in AWANA. Suddenly you have a fifteen year old young man who loves the Lord having his very world crumble because of the actions of others who love the Lord. But it doesn’t stop there. The children’s pastor then confronts the young man’s older (teen-aged) brother. He, too, is tossed from serving. Now you have two devastated young men. The trickle-down decimates a sister. Enter Dad. He asks for a meeting with the two pastors, hoping to straighten out the misunderstanding. No prayer is offered. God is not invited to this shindig. Pride, anger, judgment. And boom, Mom and Dad are now no longer welcome to serve. (The youngest daughter thankfully made it out unscathed.)
That was us. Seven years ago our world caved in. We were all shell-shocked. But you know what each of our kiddos did? They opened their Bibles and studied the Word. In the confusion and hurt, we all wondered how this had happened. Were we really so awful? It was a time of drawing near to one another and seeking after God’s heart. We were Bereans:
“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” ~ Acts 17:11
We “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so”.
What did we figure out? That we are sinners who had meant no harm. That it had been a terrible misunderstanding. That perhaps the pastors thought they were in the right, though leaving God out of the situation was not. That we needed to forgive them (an ongoing process). And that it was time to find a new church family.
There has been tremendous fall-out. Our two sons suffer from a mild PTSD and panic attacks whenever they attempt to go into a church. Our oldest daughter is completely off on her own road– far, far away from God and quick to attack anything “Christian”. Our youngest daughter and ourselves? We can look back and see how God has worked it for our good, bringing us closer to Him and leading us to a new and wonderful church family.
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” ~ Genesis 50:20
Do we think the church leaders meant evil against us? No, they thought they were doing what needed to be done. Did Satan use it as evil. Oh YES, and then some! Did God mean it for good? Oh YES, and then some more!
Why am I sharing this? I asked God the same thing last night when He laid it on my heart. Do we finally get to tell our story and put the rumors to bed? Well, yes and no. Rumors are like feathers– they fly everywhere, cannot be retrieved, and tickle ears.
But God gently reminded me this was not about us. It was about others. Those “walking wounded” who will be in our pews tomorrow, sharing a cup of coffee with us at the sunrise service or community egg hunt. The people who have a hard time separating God from His church.
There is a meme going around Facebook, something about if you walk away from God because the church hurt you, you were only there for the people to begin with and not for God. While there is a kernel of truth in that, when you have been lambasted by someone who serves in authority at a church, the damage is real and the hurt is palpable. You may know in your head that that wasn’t handled biblically, or that it wasn’t from God. But the heart is bleeding, and sometimes that proves to be too much for the injured party.
Trusting God’s people is one of the hardest things for the unchurched to do.
So Church, please listen up. This Easter let’s heap GRACE and LOVE upon all we come in contact with. In fact, how about we do this every day of the year? Let’s reek of Jesus to those around us. And Lord God, help us to watch our words!
“Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:13-14
” ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’ ” ~ John 13:34-35
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13
**NOTE: This is one of the hardest blog posts I have ever written for several reasons.
1.) I do not wish to trash or disrespect our previous church, pastors, or church family. The two pastors mentioned have since asked for forgiveness from our youngest son and my husband (I am still working on forgiving– some days it seems I’ve achieved it, and then other days the wounds bleed fresh yet again– and every day it is a work of the Holy Spirit in me!!). We still have many dear friends from our time in that church family. ❤
2.) Three of our four kiddos are "walking wounded". The betrayal and judgment were severe and inflicted serious damage that only God can heal. The boys still trust God (mostly– don't we all struggle on occasion?), but our oldest daughter blames Him and has wandered far away. My heart breaks for them all, but it is eviscerated by the woundedness and anger of our girl.
3.) I do not want Satan to use this for his benefit. I pray fervently God will keep the enemy from inflicting more damage on our kiddos. I deeply love them and don't want to hurt them by sharing our story.
4.) I strive to "fly under the radar". Sharing this private pain is not something I take lightly. And painting a big target when Satan already has us in his sites is not my cup of tea.
But… "our God is greater, our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other! Our God is Healer, awesome in power…"
(From the song Our God by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman)