It's been hard for me to go to church. I've been hurt and have witnessed even more hurt from church leadership and communities. I was oblivious until I began as a Psychology Major; training to observe and to love unconditionally. All I've been seeing has been conditional love and it's made me feel....sick, sad and bitter against the people like-minded to me.
I have been a Christian since I was 13. While in the foster care system with my siblings, I was very needy and felt entitled because of all I'd already gone through. Living in the country was not my favorite thing. I hated to feel left out even more than I had due to missing school for court hearings or mental health days. I demanded to at least be brought into town for youth group every Wednesday.
This was a bit dramatic of me, but I was young. In hindsight, I didn't need to beg or feel defensive. But when you are young and your world seems to be falling apart all around you and you're meant to carry on, everything felt dramatic.
I'd go to court hearings, brave school classes and halls and find peace at youth group. At this church, I felt my sense of belonging. We would play games, worship and find encouragement in Pastor Mike's message. We'd go on trips to conventions and camping retreats. It was fun and it was powerful and it was always my retreat.
Before foster care, I was admitted to a psychiatric ward to be treated for my suicidal ideation and eating disorders. You can ready more about this experience in The Girl Who Cried Forgiveness this summer of 2020! The youth group wrote me, Pastor Mike visited me and even one part of my church family pretended to be my aunt and cousins so they could take me out for an evening. I didn't wear makeup and my hospital style was questionable but when covered by love, my looks were not of my concern as much as I thought they might be.
As life carried on and I moved back in with my Mom, she wanted to start going to church as a family. We were going where it all started with our baptisms. I still went to youth group some but it was beginning to change. People were graduating and leaving town and the my community wasn't the same. Other church drama caused ruckus to affect the entire atmosphere. I was then introduced to another youth group that I could go to after finishing confirmation at this church with my mom.
Ever since, I've experienced multiple denominations. I was on a search for love; a love different then what my family could provided; a love unconditional and not so broken that as reckless and good. This grew harder and harder for me to find. I was shunned from one church; the first of many including the Pastor's daughter. I thought that place was it.
Since picking up my Psychology Major, I have learned so much! I have learned how to set my mind on one goal: To love unconditionally while supporting someone from down to content. My sight was fixated on this mission and disturbed at my heightened observation from one church to the other and within my client coaching sessions. Did you know that most of the girls I coach have been so codependent on the church that they cannot think without group think? They cannot form an opinion or make decisions without already feeling shame before action. They have been taken advantage of one way or another.
This is hard, guys. A place of refuge has become, and seemingly across the board, a place of 20 commandments. Regardless the denomination, I see many churches beginning with beautiful intention and then are swept up in the business and revenue part so much that leadership misses the mark hurting many people and pursuing, unknowingly, manipulation.
I've gone to different churches, just hopping around and I've seen people fake feeling the holy spirit so they'd feel a sense of belonging. I've heard people box God into one idea while calling Him a BIG God. That seems contradictory to me. I've heard people pray for the seemingly lost and sick and once these people were fitting to their convictions, standards were raised higher and unconditional love became conditional. 10 more commandments were the standard or friendships would be tarnished because of this person's toxicity as a black sheep Christian.
I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe that He died and rose again to forgive us of our sins. I believe Jesus is a good, good Father. I believe we call Him a He because we always have and that's where our imagination is but I believe He shows Himself through everyone and anyone, music and movies, the wealthy and the poor. I believe He is the only One actually loving unconditionally while even His own children who follow in His ways, love conditionally.
Seeing the pain and the hurt in the church, experiencing the control and the manipulation first-hand...this makes going to church so hard for me. I just want to save everyone from the church when I decide to go to a service. I'm a natural leader and so I always gravitate toward leadership and I end up seeing so much messy crap that's unnecessary when your mission is just to love and minister. I keep trying to go back. For now, I listen to worship music on my own and go to a 24/7 hour prayer room where no one can talk, we only pray. I'd like a church community but they have scared me and made me feel uncomfortable. No longer wanting to raise my hands because I can't even tell if it's what I want or what's just expected of me.
Have you felt this way? It's going to be okay. I still have community in my friendships. I am not codependent on attending a church in order to maintain my faith. I keep trying churches out, mostly because I don't want to feel so offended forever. I love volunteering and I wish I could with like-minds but we are less and less like-minded and more close-minded to one another.
I'll carry on churching with my friends, listening to podcasts and randomly finding enough humility to attend a service. Today I'll try again and I'll go in with every intention to set my pain and the burdens of those I counsel, and lay it all down to surrender to God's reckless love existing with and without church bodies that control and manipulate.
Praying that the church becomes a safe refuge again.