I am taking a bit of a break from NaPoWriMo today because to be quite honest, I am burned out on poetry. Don’t get me wrong, I love poetry. I love a well-worded piece that’s potent and poignant (alliteration…maybe I’m not burned out on poetry). But poetry in large quantities does something to me that I don’t particularly like. Poetry keeps me focused on how I feel, so writing nothing but poetry this month has gotten me used to feeling my emotions, but it has also gotten me used to not thinking. I’ve been “thinking” about how I feel, but honestly, my own personal feelings are a small world for my mind to live in. It is incredibly restricting, almost to the point of being crippling. Good writers use feelings; lesser writers worship them.
So today, I have decided to write about somethings I’ve been thinking about: Church-hurt. Those of you who have been following my emotional and spiritual journey over the past year or so will remember that I went through a spell where I had to step away from church. I had a fight with God, I had beef with his people, and I was confused about myself. These circumstances drove me to isolate myself and figure out a few things about who I am and who I think God is. That time was well spent, but recently I have begun to feel myself getting weary of my own company, so I have begun to throw myself back into Christian fellowship. Months ago, I would have flown from churches like a bat out of hell. I, like many people today, have had some serious church-hurt. But God has started dealing with me.
No matter how spiritual I think I am (been saved since I was a kid), and no matter how learned I am in scripture (I have a Masters degree in theology), I can’t sustain myself as a Christian. I could try to say “hey, Jesus and I have it covered,” but honestly, Jesus has his end, but I don’t have mine. Jesus never said for me to go it alone with him. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you'” (1 Corinthians 12:21). God’s church is a body, so I would be foolish to try to exist as a single celled organism. God’s will for me is to be a part of his body, and that means that once I heal from my offense and church hurt, I need to plug back into the body.
There is one great benefit to experiencing church-related offense: there is an opportunity for major growth beyond it. No church is perfect, but God is. If I trust him (which is a journey in and of itself), I will trust that he will take care of me in the midst of imperfect people and flawed systems. In fact, how is the system ever going to get fixed if the people who have first-hand experience with the problem all abandon ship instead of using what they know to fix the problem? Offense will come. Jesus said it would, but if God truly works all things together for our good, then offense is more than hurt: it is an opportunity for spiritual maturity.
I have learned and am still learning that none of this process is easy or fun, but it is rewarding when you can begin to see how God is teaching you and growing you. God is working in you, and you see glimpses of his Glory in the process of restoration. If you have been hurt by church, don’t say things like “I’m never going back.” Take your time. Heal and forgive, and keep looking to Jesus. He may keep you out for a while, but as you heal, chances are, he will begin drawing you (against your better judgment) back into fellow ship with the Body. They key, though, is to listen to Him.