Sunday, September 9, 2012

Leaving Church

I wrote this awhile ago and debated about whether to post it or not.  I think it's important to tell this part of my story, even if only one person can be blessed in knowing that, if they have had a similar experience, they are not alone - that we all struggle in similar ways and need people to let us know that what happened to us really matters.

It's been awhile since we left our first church home.  I've been processing a lot of things in the past 2 1/2 years since we left.  There were many difficult circumstances that caused us to decide to completely walk away from a place that we had been invested in for most of our married lives (my husband since he was 9 years old.)  It wasn't an easy decision.  It wasn't a black & white choice.  There were many factors, there were pros and cons in our leaving this church.

We gave up a lot when we left.  I walked away from being on Worship Team and sharing special music - which gave me so much joy.  I walked away from participating in a Women's Care group - which is one of my passions.  My husband walked away from working with the boys in a mid-week program - something he really enjoyed.  We walked away from a place where we would see parents and grandparents each week.  We walked away from being around familiar faces, kind people and good friends.  We walked away from activities that we enjoyed.  We walked away from all we had come to know as church. 

We walked away because we felt it was the right choice - but certainly not the easy one.

We tried to address the issues that we felt were not right.  We didn't do it perfectly - we did it as we thought we should.  Imperfectly.  Humanly.  Flawed, but with good hearts.  We didn't feel that anyone was really hearing what we were saying.  That we were hurt.  That we saw things that simply needed to be changed for the better.  We felt unheard, pushed aside, like we were just trying to make trouble.

I don't say any of this to point fingers.  We all were just trying to do what we felt was right, imperfectly.  I believe that we agreed to disagree.  It didn't make it any easier.  We still had to make the hard choice.  We were the ones to have to go searching for another church 'family.'  A divorce of sorts, when you feel as passionately about your church family as you do about your real family.

"Are you enjoying your new church?" was a sincere question someone asked me a few months after we left.  It made me sad because it lacked a real depth of understanding.  Didn't they realize how hard this was?  Didn't they understand how much it hurt to walk away from something you had invested your heart and soul into?  Didn't they know how much pain we felt?  That we felt abandoned by some we had trusted for so many years?  Didn't they know that simply going to another church didn't make all the hurt go away?  I guess maybe they didn't.  Maybe they hadn't considered how much pain and grief it had caused us.  How deeply it had affected us.

I wish I could say that I am happily adjusted to a new church and that none of this affects me anymore.  I can't.  I still carry hurt and questions as to why.  In this I know I am not alone.  At times I talk with others who have had to make the same hard choice and I hear the same hurt and questions as they talk with me about their own experiences.  This gives me some comfort - knowing that we are not the only ones.  There are others who feel the sadness of leaving church too.  They know how hard it is to open up your heart in trust to another church family.  Knowing that it will take awhile to feel . . . safe.

As I contemplate all that we have been through, I believe that we made the right decision for our family.  I see how we have grown and learned much through this experience.  We are different in many positive ways.  I get that.  I understand that 'all things work together for good . . . '   I have had an attitude of thanksgiving through most of the process.  Sometimes it still hurts though.

There were many kind people that empathized with us and noticed that we had left.  That helped - a lot.  There was even one man who tried to mediate for us after we had left.  What a blessing he was.  We are so thankful for all he did.  He made us feel like we really mattered.  Like we were worth 'fighting' for.  I think one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me through all of this is a sweet older woman who pulled me aside one day.  She said "I wish you guys would come back.  We really miss you."  Simple.  Sweet.  Loving.  Just what my hurting heart needed to hear.

I don't know what God has for us as we continue to follow Him through the process of life.  I know that it is something beautiful and meaningful.  A crown of beauty instead of ashes.  I know that what we have been through has given us strength and courage.  It has built our trust and dependency on Him.  Brought us closer to each other and to Him.  It has shown us that we will be ok, even when life is not.  Taught us to take our eyes off of people and fix them on Him alone.  Helped us realize that it is not about being perfect, but about being completely dependent on Him.  Proven to us (again) His faithfulness and unconditional love for us.

As we continue to look for a new church, what I really desire is a church that feels like home.  A place where people know, accept and love us unconditionally.  A place where people can be open, honest and real.  Where I am free to be me.  No cliques.  No partiality.  Somewhere they are not too busy to notice and reach out to us in our struggles.  Where even on our worst days, they embrace our messiness.  A place where they affirm the potential of what God has placed in us.  Where they help us in following our dreams and we can help them in following their's.  Where they give a call to say that we were missed.  A place where they invite us into their lives.  Where there is no pretense, striving or agendas.  Where people don't give up on us, no matter what.  A place free of religion, but thriving with relationship.  A place that feels like The Father's embrace.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

Friday, August 24, 2012

Results

I've posted on Facebook that the biopsy results came back and everything is fine.  I wanted to write a short blog too because not everyone has Facebook.

It's been a strange week.  I've been thinking about life and death and suffering more than usual.  I think when you face these types of things it brings those things into focus more.  You just can't not think about the 'what ifs' in life.  I felt more annoyed by the whole experience than anything else - just because I didn't like the lack of control that I was facing.  I didn't really have a choice of whether I wanted to deal with it or not.  I had to.  I couldn't avoid it and that made me pretty mad deep down inside.  I wanted to 'write my own ending' but just couldn't.  I had to wait and worry and wonder with no control over the outcome.

Thankfully my outcome was good.  I would be writing a completely different blog if it wasn't.  I would be facing a whole different set of circumstances and questions and fears.  I can't help but think about those who have the opposite outcome from their biopsies and pray for them as they deal with their questions and fears.  I know God.  I know He will be with me through anything.  Maybe they don't.  Maybe they feel completely alone and terrified.  I pray that they come to know Him and His awesome love and comfort through their experience.  I pray that God puts people in their paths to love and care for them and show them His love in very real and tangible ways.

I truly appreciate your prayers and concern for me through my big 'what if' these past few weeks.  I know that this whole experience was more bearable and less scary because of those who love me and showed their care for me.  I am very grateful.  Thank you!

Psalm 94:18-19When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Biopsy

So, I just found out about a week ago that I need to go in for a biopsy to check out an irregularity on my mammogram.  I know that tons of women have to go through this in their lifetime and I know that many women I know have already been through one.  Some have received good news, but some have not.  I am very hopeful that I will be in the first category.

When we go through these types of things in our lives, our belief system is challenged.  Not what we say to someone else who may be going through the same thing, but what we say to ourselves.  That deep down belief system - the unshakable one.  I believe in God.  I know He is good (don't I?)  I know that He will not give me more than I can handle (but how does he know what my limit is?)  So the questions start surfacing and my belief system is put to the test.

I sat in front of a pastor's wife this morning in church who has been going through chemotherapy and radiation for the past 6 months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.  She had very fine hair growing back under a cute black hat she was wearing.  She walked forward at the end of the service and her husband prayed for her as she sobbed - I'm sure sick and weary from all the treatments and fears she has been enduring these past months.  She has a teenage daughter and little 2 year old boy that they adopted.  I spoke to her after the service and she had such a vulnerable look in her eyes.  I know her belief system is being challenged right now too.

As I talked to her and looked into her eyes, I couldn't help but wondering if I would have the strength to endure what she is going through right now.  It all sounds so - - romantic? heroic? - - when the stories are told, but the reality is more - - terrifying,  grueling.  When you see the Facebook posts, read the blogs or watch the movies, it all seems strangely wonderful.  When you are living it, it all seems too hard.

So tomorrow morning I go in for the procedure and then I wait.  The nurse told me that if the news is good, I will hear nothing before the appointment day (10 long days later) - but if the news is bad, the doctor will call so I can bring someone with me to help me process what comes next.  The doctor told me that it doesn't look like cancer, but they have to do the biopsy to 'prove it.'  I'm thankful for that word of encouragement.

I always hesitate to post these very personal things - I am a pretty private person for the most part.  I haven't shared this with many people.  I just know that sometimes we need to share - sometimes we need other people to know what we are going through - sometimes we need support and prayer.  I also know that sometimes others need to hear our stories because they are going through something or have gone through something too and they need to know that they are not alone.  So I guess I needed to share for my sake and maybe for yours too.



2 Cor. 1 (Praise to the God of All Comfort)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.