I admit to you that in the past I’ve never been very sympathetic towards people who had a hard time coming to church or joining a church because of past hurts that had been foisted on them by church members. My attitude tended to be, “Suck it up. Join my church and see how we are different.” I figured those past hurts could be easily put aside and paved over by good experiences in a new church.
I thought those things until I experienced being hurt by a church. In my head I kept telling myself to just suck it up. Keep going to church. The pain and the emotional scars would start to fade. Well, they didn’t and honestly still really haven’t. The sharp pain has lessened but there is still a dull ache whenever I walk into a church. Most of that ache is due to a fear of opening up and being hurt again.
Still, even with that hurt still featuring prominently in both my life and my family’s life, we stepped out in faith and joined a church a couple of weeks ago. In the past when I’ve joined a church it felt much like a formality. Something I did to vote in business meetings or because “it was just time”. There was not a lot emotion attached to the decision. This time was much, much different. This time joining the church meant doing it with eyes and heart wide open. This time we did it having seen the good, bad, and ugly of church life and church membership meant being willing to open ourselves up to all of that again.
So at the end of the sermon a couple of weeks ago we walked an aisle. This time it wasn’t to talk to the pastor about how to become a Christian but it still represented a step of faith as we approached him to make known our desire to join the church. There was prayer. There were tears. It was bittersweet because in a lot of ways it felt like severing the last tie to the church where I had pastored. It also meant a new beginning. A new opportunity for healing. An opportunity to minister and be ministered to. Our church isn’t perfect, and we probably understand that better than most, but it is our church.
The ache still hasn’t gone away and I don’t expect it to fade for some time. The thing is that now we have a community to help us as we continue to walk through this challenging season in our lives. So even if you, like us, have been hurt by the church please don’t give up. There is a church and a community of faith out there who will welcome you, love you, and show you grace. In return, do the same for that community because it too is made up of people just like you and me.
Photo from the IBC Facebook Page