almost exactly 7 years ago i lost my job as a pastor on a mega-church staff. it was one of the craziest, weirdest, surreal, dysfunctional experiences of my life and there are some days where i still shake my head and wonder “did that really happen?” but oh, it sure did. it was ugly & messy and i am so thankful for time & healing & faithful friends & a good-God-who-never-gives-up-on-the-brokenhearted.
that’s what i was 7 years ago–brokenhearted. i had given my life & my family & my heart & blood-and-sweat-and-tears to that place and in a flash i was on the outs. their world carried on like nothing had ever happened and i was left crawling on the floor in a big heap of anger & shame & grief. two months afterward, we started the refuge (yeah, not the smartest idea but one of the biggest blessings of my life; thank you, God, that you can use our war wounds for good). goodness gracious, we were nuts!
but it is what it is; now 7 years later, i can look back and acknowledge that it was all a beautiful part of the story.
one of the most painful losses during that season is that my experience rocked my faith, shaked it to its core. it was like the scales had fallen off my eyes and i began to see all of the craziness of what i had been taught about God & the systems that are built in his name. i began to see the realities of believing-just-because-everyone-else-was-nodding-their-head-thinking-it-was-right-because-a-pastor-said-it-was. i admitted that everything i seemed to believe about God had become hooked into the church systems i had been part of. i started to wonder what was real from God and what was just fabricated by my experiences. what if i was wrong and rebellious & unwilling to submit to what was right? what if i was just being prideful by refusing to play by the same rules anymore?
so much felt shaky, uncertain, unreliable. i’d try and read the Bible and have to quickly put it down because everything sounded so ugly & mean. i’d listen to the words to songs and find my hair bristling. if i heard someone say “God says..or the Bible says…” i could feel my blood pressure rise.
i can’t say some of those things don’t bother me now, still, after all these years, but something tilted a while back where i came to this important conclusion that changed everything– they (as in the people who hurt me, the system, the “church”) have no more power over me and i will not let them take my faith.
of course, none of our former church systems (or even the individuals who hurt us) are actively trying to ruin our faith. the truth is, most of them don’t think twice about what happens to us after we leave. we’re losing sleep & tossing & turning & agonizing & weeping & yelling & thinking about them all the time and for the most part my guess is they don’t once look back to wonder how we’re doing.
yeah, the problem isn’t that they try to take our faith from us.
the problem is that if we’re not careful, we’ll give it to them along with all the rest.
we’ll unconsciously let all the wounds “the church” inflicted–the confusion, doubt, disillusionment, ugliness, and all the you-name-it’s–take one of the most important parts of our souls: our faith.
it’s just so hard not to. everything becomes all tangled up together and it’s hard to separate what’s God and what’s people.
i think one of the greatest gifts of a painful church experience or even a slow & far less dramatic disillusionment can be an opportunity to really re-examine our faith, to unravel what needs to be unraveled, to question things that needed to be questioned, to strip away the unnecessaries to find the core.
in the end, that is the hard and beautiful work of shifting to a more meaningful and free relationship with God.
it’s worth the time & the blood & the sweat & the tears.
and it’s also why i get sad when so many people end up giving “the church” their faith and walk away because they think that’s the only choice. it can feel like the only option, but that’s because it feels like we can’t separate our faith from the systems we were part of. it is true, they are so intertwined.
but there’s something i keep learning in the last 7 years that i wouldn’t trade for anything: as we heal, the power the church system had over us begins to dissolve & slip away & weaken, and if we hang on & hold on & refuse to give it away to those who don’t deserve it anyway, the beautiful remains of our faith re-appear.
sure, our faith is battered & war-torn but that is part of what makes it sweet & strong & true & real & free.
i know so many of you are in different stages on this and are hurt & questioning & deconstructing & finding your way. some of you haven’t had a traumatic church experience but more of a slow drain of passion and connectedness. regardless of how you got there, it’s hard to navigate how to move forward. there’s no formula or shortcut to escape the pain and hard work ahead, but oh, how i hope that in the midst of your journey toward healing & change & freedom that you don’t let them take your faith.
you might not think there’s much left, but in the end, a little goes a long way.
yes, it sure does.
happy anniversary to me. i’ve come a long way & have a long way still to go, but i am so glad i didn’t give them my faith along with everything else.
please, whatever you do, don’t let them take your faith.