I hate writing about what happened at our former church. Sometimes I wonder if any of them read these posts, and if they know how much I wish this wasn’t a part of my story.
When we arrived at the church, the three elders knew we were fragile. They knew we had just buried our daughter a few months earlier, and that we had just closed the doors on a church we’d invested five years of our lives into. They knew we needed to rest and recover, and that I was having a major faith crisis. At first, it seemed like a safe place. Everyone was energetic and excited to be there, such a change from the discouragement and exhaustion that characterized everyone left at the church we closed.
The safety was a mirage and it dissolved very shortly after Scott and I joined formally. That’s when the meetings began, the ones where I was told to keep my opinions to myself, or else just confide in the church elders (who would mold those opinions into carbon copies of what was acceptable). That’s when I started to notice oddly-pointed comments in sermons, too many to be coincidence (or the Holy Spirit guiding the preaching – please… I’m not that gullible).
We’ve lost touch with nearly all of the people who carried us through the 8 1/2 years parenting a child with special needs and the 4 years grieving her death. Some have simply drifted away since we no longer see each other at church. I get that, and I’ve come to peace with it. They were friends and supporters for a season, not for life. But others have deliberately cut off all communication, won’t look me in the eye when we cross paths, and avoid us wherever possible.
The thing is: we all screw up. We all draw lines in the sand that later we realize were unnecessary. We all choose what we believe to be “right” or “correct” instead of showing compassion. We all define “right” and “truth” and “correct” too narrowly at times and too broadly at others. It’s part of maturing and being human.
If you need an example, cruise through this blog. I have written all sorts of crazy stuff here, chronicling my zigs and zags through faith and life, contradicting myself and changing positions and confusing the heck out of my family and friends. I am pretty sure that you all do the same zigging and zagging – you just don’t write it down for the world to read and attempt to follow. I roll my eyes or just laugh at some of the older posts still up here. But I leave it because it’s part of what got me here. It was who I was then. And this is where I am now, at this moment. I will be different tomorrow.
What I’m getting at is this: I don’t like these broken relationships. But I’m changing, and the people involved are changing too. This gives me hope that the situation as it stands now – the not communicating, the hurt, the guilt, the bitterness – doesn’t have to stay like this.
I’m not writing these stories to wallow in them. I don’t get some sort of sadistic pleasure in rehashing the pain and exposing the abuses of power. I still grasp a shred of hope that maybe, with enough time, we will all reach a place where we can try to repair things. In my dreams, all of us sit down one day and lay it all out — all the ways each of us totally botched this up. We all cry because we hate how badly we hurt each other, we name those things that we did, we ask each other for forgiveness, and we give it. That’s my hope. I have no indication today that this will ever happen. But I still hope for it.
I joined Hannah and Shaney, Rachel and Elora, and everyone who has participated this week, because I still hope for better things. Stories are powerful. Stories can inform our decisions, our directions, and our responses to others. Stories help us understand someone who has a very difficult perspective – they help us crawl behind someone else’s eyes and see the world in a different way. Stories can propel us to change things for the better, to learn from the experiences and mistakes and successes of others, and to treat each other with more compassion and less judgement. I tell my story, and listen to yours, in hopes that even if things are never resolved for me, maybe in some small way, I can help you. Then it won’t be for nothing.