*Disclaimer, I fully understand that this topic may be a little touchy/sensitive for some people. Please read this with an open heart and mind. As always, be blessed. *
When I started writing this blog a few hours ago, it was supposed to go a different way. However, after a quiet word from God, I realized that that message was treading a thin line between church hurt and bitterness.
I am human.
I am flawed.
But I cannot lead you on an incorrect path.
Instead God pulled me aside, gently checked me, and now I am starting over.
Please pray with me as I attempt to cover God’s message, without interjecting my own pain that He is trying to heal/deliver me from.
Again, I am not perfect; I am healing here, too.
I didn’t realize until last month that I was healing from church hurt. In case you have never heard of it, church hurt is emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual hurt that a person acquires from a church. But read that definition again…I will reference it later.
My church hurt came from attending the same church for 16 years and realizing once I left that many people were only tolerant of me because my best friend is the daughter of the church’s pastor. I left the church seven years ago when I moved to Frederick, but I just realized this fact this year after asking the Holy Spirit why my anxiety always rose when I went back to Baltimore. In addition to battling depression, I battled anxiety and other mental health issues for many years…but when the depression settled, and my life seemed to be on track, I could not place why I still had anxiety whenever I would return home to Baltimore. Again, I asked the Lord and His Spirit promptly answered- I still had more healing to do.
As I sit here today, I think on my own church hurt. It was hard enough being the overweight daughter of a Jamaican woman, but I had other issues, too. My skin was darker, accent a bit funny, I dressed differently, and my money was funnier than my accent. I felt bad enough about myself at a young age and I thought that some of my church family encouraged me from a place of love…but then when my zip code changed and the love that I received changed, too, I couldn’t help but assume that the love was never really genuine.
And that hurt.
As some relationships changed, I realized the sad truth- they were only tolerant of me. I was so young and naïve that I did not recognize that what I had viewed as genuine love was actually just the fleeting “church love” that so many others are trying to heal from today.
Every Sunday (or Saturday) morning, at any church in the world, there is a moment when the congregation is instructed to “turn and greet your neighbor.” At this time, everyone will turn to the person next to them and give the warmest smile and hug/handshake combination possible. It happens everywhere and in every religion or denomination of faith. It doesn’t matter what you believe or what the exact words are, there is always a person speaking who instructs us to turn and be kind to the person next to us. My church hurt unknowingly began the moment that I assumed that people really meant the words that they spoke at this time. I mistakenly assumed that when people said nice/kind words in church, that they meant those words…and that time could not change their feelings. I assumed that the love that I received from church members was real and that they were being genuine in their actions.
I was wrong.
I was wrong about church and I was wrong about those who attended churches.
After I left Baltimore City and that church, I started attending another church in my new town of Frederick. Unknowingly, I had created a safety bubble for myself, as it pertained to my feelings. I worked very hard to not get too close to anyone or even have people too much in my business. I wanted a safe distance from those church members because I was beginning to think that all church people were fake. There, I said it. Turns out that I was not the only person who thought church people were fake- many people around the world think the same thing!
As I spent my years battling my mental health issues, I began to see who was really there for me and my issues. Unfortunately, in the black church, mental health issues are seldom discussed and are often dismissed. We tend to see the signs of issues but dismiss them with condemning sins (e.g. promiscuity, alcoholism, a lying tongue, demon-possessed, etc.), never truly working to help the person in need. One thing that I learned in my own personal battle is that there is always a reason for a particular behavior.
What some churches call promiscuity could be a person trying to find and understand love because of pain they have felt in the past.
I know that was my personal story…
What some churches call a spiraling path of sin and destruction could be a person trying to calm the raging storm that is brewing within them because of the worldly hurt that they continue to experience.
I know that was my personal story…
But because we don’t tend to ask questions, we just make vague and damaging assumptions, we never know a person’s truth. We tend to be the judge, jury, and executioner of people and their particular sin, not realizing that we all sin (and it is all displeasing to God) … we just sin differently.
Beloved, remember when I asked you to remember the definition of church hurt? Well, go read it again.
First Corinthians chapter 12 (read the whole thing) says that we, the people, are the church- not a physical edifice. It is perfectly understandable for us to feel pain because of what certain people do to us while we attend a physical edifice…just know this: we are all flawed and jacked up.
All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all a mess and we all need forgiveness for every moment of our lives. Even on our best day, we are still not worthy… but God loves us still. He loves us no matter what. What we must realize is that God and man are two different entities. In man’s humanness, we offer conditional love. In God’s sovereignty, He offers unconditional love.
What does this mean?
This means that even when man acts like man and hurts us, we cannot take that out on God or assume that every person will treat us the same way. We must take that hurt and give it back to God, trusting that He is able to heal and restore us…while also healing the person(s) who hurt us.
Simply put, church hurt is unavoidable. We will always have feelings and, undoubtedly, people will always hurt those feelings. I know, this is NOT where you expected this message to go (well, me neither!)… but this what God sent.
We live in a world where we stop using a particular service or frequenting a business/company if one person is rude to us or offends us. Well, beloved, God is not a service. We cannot simply quit God just because some of His servants don’t know how to act. When people are rude and un-Godly towards us, we must respond with kindness and Godliness… even if that is not what we get from them (read Matthew 5:38-40).
When in doubt, reference the Golden Rule, located at Matthew 7:12 in your bible or below (NASB):
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Recognize church hurt for what is it- hurt people- who need to heal- who are hurting others. Turn them and the situation over to God and continue to seek Him. Don’t run from Him in these times, run towards Him.