Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trusting, healing, and learning to let go

As I have reviewed a number of posts here, I have realized that I am very critical of the church. I feel I have the right to question the things that I see the majority of Christians doing that bug me to no end; things that make me frustrated, sad, and even a bit cynical. I have used this blog many times as a platform for trying to appeal to my fellow Christians (including myself) to rethink the way we operate; to operate more in love, acceptance, and tolerance, and less in judgment, condemnation, and narrow-mindedness. I feel its important to get people thinking, especially about the things I just don't see as right or just. But I am realizing that maybe its less of a call to action for others, and more my subconscious way of venting my anger over past hurts, and trying to let go of my distrust in little bits and pieces.

For a number of years, I attended a church that, ultimately, left me feeling battered and bruised. I know many people who still attend that church who love it and feel at home there. I often wonder why we've had such different experiences while sitting in the same auditorium, listening to the same sermons. But I never find any answer that makes any sense.

I was worn down by the attitudes and words of a number of church members. Ones who wouldn't come through for me. Ones who didn't care when I was going through trials, or worse, would kick me when I was down. Ones that scrutinized everything I did and thought that was different. Ones that got so caught up in the hope of the Rapture, that they forgot about the hurting people around them, including those within their own church. Ones that were so set in their own principles and legalism that they hurt those with "flaws." Ones who condemned those with depression, and especially those on antidepressants. Ones who criticized those who chose not to spank their children for every transgression. Ones who tried to minimize the challenges and difficulties of those going through their own or a family member's addictions. And unfortunately, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

My desire to serve was constantly road-blocked seemingly because my husband wasn't an elder or deacon, and it was sometimes implied that I wasn't "as holy" as other women in the church, and therefore unfit to serve. Things were said by leaders, both to me, and from the pulpit, that were soul-crushing to me. Actions by others in the church only served to make me feel alienated and unloved by them as a community.

I finally left that church when I just couldn't take feeling any more beat down, and didn't find a home church again for 4 1/2 years...because I wasn't interested in really looking. (I, not we, left the church. One day I just refused to go anymore. My husband, while understanding of my pain, didn't feel the same way about the church that I did. I know rebellion was probably the wrong response, and I regret that it eventually took my entire family out of church for a few years, but I had to do something because I was dying inside.)

I hate to bag on that church - a lot of good has come out that church, too. It just didn't for me. But for the sake of this blog - one that I hope helps someone, somewhere out there - I need to be honest about the things I experienced. I can't say that its an abusive church, but I am fairly sure I was abused by that church. And I do know for a fact I am not the only one. (I have talked to a few other people who suffered similar hurts and feel the same as I do.)

Recently, I have been going through some really challenging personal issues. (That not many people know about, and I like it that way.) These are serious issues, with serious implications no matter which direction I choose to move in. And some actions I may take could cause me to be harshly judged and condemned.

But there is a silver lining. And a pretty bright one at that.

The church I now attend has been so much more supportive of me. Because of my past experiences, at first, when the pastor reached out to me and sent me a request on Facebook just weeks after I started regularly attending that church, I was absolutely terrified. I left his request in my inbox for close to a week before I finally decided to take a chance. He is in regular, honest communication with me. He genuinely likes and accepts me. He chose to put himself out there and really get to know me. His compassion and unrelenting desire to pray for me and my family - whether asked for or not - has helped me learn to trust that the leadership at our church isn't out to wound me, but rather to heal me with their sincere love and compassion for me.

Through my recent trials, I have also kept extremely guarded with those who have befriended me. There are some - even my new best friend - whom I wanted to reach out to so badly for support, but was very afraid to talk to for fear of judgment, ridicule, condemnation, and failure to really listen and understand. I was afraid that these friends would abandon me based on my choices, choosing their principles over me as a person, as had happened to me in the past. After an entire month, I finally talked to my best friend yesterday, terrified that all I would hear was rhetoric, Bible verses being used to tell me I am wrong for the way I am feeling, and a complete lack of compassion and desire to try and understand what I am going through and the tough choices I have to make. But instead, she listened - really listened - and validated my feelings, and assured me she would support me in which ever direction I take, even if it pans out as the "wrong" one.

As I hung up the phone, I felt the weight of six long years of extreme fear and distrust begin to lift off me. I felt a new sense of trust and courage beginning to form. I felt a sense of a future that holds healing for me. I felt like it was okay to finally begin to let my walls start to come down.

I'm not going to lie. Breaking down walls I have been building up for so long is going to take a lot of time and work. During those six years, I have built up a lot of resentment, cynicism, bitterness, distrust, and even some unforgiveness. There are literally people I will see in public and purposely avoid, ducking down store aisles and turning my head to avoid eye contact. I am just not at the point yet where I can talk to them face-to-face without feeling insecure and/or angry. I just can't face those who hurt me so badly, especially when they have no idea how badly scarred their words and actions left me.

But I feel a glimmer of hope. I feel myself finally beginning to trust again, and to heal and let go of the hurt. And its so freeing!

I thank God that he has put a church full of people in my life that are restoring every dark, hurt place in my heart. People who don't care if I think outside the box or am a little...um...different. People who don't cast condemnation on me for my weaknesses or vulnerabilities. People who genuinely love and and care for me. And it feels so good!

As I sit here writing this, I am shedding happy, grateful tears. Tears that I am smiling through. :) Tears that are finally filled with hope and not with fear and pain. Thank you, my new friends, for everything you don't even know you're doing for me. Words can't even express my gratitude.

Have you ever allowed past hurts to make you distrusting of new people? Have you let go of those things? How did you finally begin to trust again and move on? I'm curious to know what worked, what didn't, and what the process holds for me. Any advice?

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