this weekend’s walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church was a really sweet & beautiful time for me. it was hard, too, because the reality of so much pain & loss in what’s-supposed-to-be-the-safest-place-on-earth really gets under my skin. i will never be able to recreate what happened there but i will try over time to share some of what it stirred up for me. i’m so behind on this blog, with unfinished posts here & there so i’ve got a feeling they won’t come in order, but they will come!
there were many things that stuck out for me over our friday evening & all day saturday together. however, if i had to choose one overarching thing it would be the deep sadness of realizing how so many dear and dedicated people, with deep passion for Jesus & people & hope & change, could end up on the outs somehow. it just hurts.
and i think the thing that everyone has in common is that somehow they weren’t quite “right” for the systems we were part of.
they were too much or not enough. too messy. to passionate. too caring. too female. not male enough. too gay. not pretty enough. too strong. too weak. too mentally ill. too poor. too loud. too divorced. too single. too wild. too quiet. they asked too many questions or not the right ones. too creative. too boring. they said “no,” said “i can’t anymore,” said “something’s wrong here,” said “i’m not so sure anymore,” said “what about those people?” said “can i take a break?” and “can you please help me, i’m hurting?”
the church should be the safest place on earth. the one place where we are okay just as we are. in all our mess, in all our glory. in all our femaleness in all our maleness. in all our good and all our bad. in all our strengths and all our weaknesses. in all our love for God and in all our doubts & questions.
but the truth is that because of its emphasis on performance, growth, exclusion, and self-interest, the church has become a place that continues to make most people feel somehow never quite right about who we are.
i realized that has been my experience from the beginning, really. when i first became a christian i always felt stupid because i didn’t know important things i guess i was supposed to know magically about the Bible. i remember being chastised by my first real pastor when my oldest son was a baby for asking what-i-think-were-really-fair questions about predestination. he made me feel so dumb, so “not quite right.” i have countless stories of feeling shame in these kinds of church-y moments. then, as i learned more and started to grow up, i ended up feeling completely inadequate as a christian; i wasn’t a good enough christian wife or mom or friend or disciple and somehow needed to pray more, work more, learn more, do more, try more. when i started to break free from that and gain a little more security & healing, i found myself in a system that in subtle & direct ways kept saying to me “um, can you quit talking about deeper relationship? we just want to study our Bibles and go to church and be happy. stop it!” that is on top of being a strong, passionate woman who isn’t interested in either children’s ministry, worship, or only women’s ministry. yeah, until now, i was never quite right. i have always been too much or not enough for the church.
i know so many of you in the same boat.
you’ve just never been “quite right” for the churches you’ve been part of.
i’m so sorry. it’s not the way it should be. i don’t think it was ever the idea.
the church, the wild & beautiful body of Christ, people of all shapes & sizes coming together in some shape or form to learn how to love God, ourselves & others should be the one place where we’re okay. just as we are. today. not tomorrow. not once we do this or do that. not once we know this or know that. not once we heal this or heal that. now. today.
so that’s my prayer for those of you who are on the outs and are hurting. who were never quite right for the places you tried to be. i am so sorry for your pain. but you are not alone. oh, you are so not alone.
my hope is that we can gain the courage & healing to redeem what was lost. i have a feeling it will look totally different than anything we’ve ever seen or experienced before. for me, it looks like the refuge, but for you it might just look like a few close friends dedicated to hanging out with each other just because. it might look like being part of a ministry or organization or group that you’re really passionate about. it might look like planting a new safe community. it might look like finding one that is safe enough for the real you. it might look like going to therapy or spiritual direction to rebuild strength that was stripped or gain it for the first time.
it looks so different for each of us. but i can strongly say that i think we all need to try to find some little pocket of love & little pocket of freedom where we (and the people who are part) can feel welcomed, valued, loved, honored, restored, and okay-just-how-we-are.
that’s not too much to ask.