I feel I need to write this letter as part of my healing journey. Years of layers of hurt not dealt with have landed me in the place I am in today- with depression. And the only way for the depression to leave me is to face the hurts, and deal with them once and for all. This is the only way to move on.
I know that no church is perfect.
I know that it is made up of imperfect, flawed, wounded people.
I know that I need to forgive because "they do not know what they are doing."
Most of the people that have hurt me probably have no idea.
I also know that I was probably the cause of hurt in many a person's heart, numerous times over the years.
So please hear my heart as you read this letter.....
His church is a beautiful, imperfect, flawed mess - just like me!
This is just part of my healing journey.
I need you to know that you have failed me over the years. You may not have have realised it, but you have.
When I opened my heart to Jesus down the front of the church building I was in, I started on a wondrous journey. That week you invited me to learn more about what it means to be a Christian. You said, "Have you read the book of John?" Embarrassed, I lied and replied, "Of course!", because I didn't want to admit that I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and have never read the whole book of John. You believed me and concluded that I didn't need to do the bible study you had in your hand. (I didn't even know what a bible study was!) And so I spent the next few years stumbling around as a Babe Believer trying to observe your people and work out what I was supposed to do now I was a Christian.
Since it wan't a regular thing for people to be born-again in that first church I attended, you invited me to give my testimony. I didn't realise that sharing in my testimony that I had physical relationships with men outside of marriage before I became a Christian, would cause people in the church to look at me differently. One of you told me that I was very brave sharing that with the whole church, and gave me a look. I immediately felt full of shame and not the new creation that I was. I thought that the church would offer me the same grace that He offered me. I was wrong.
When a move of the Holy Spirit came to the church, I would line up with the others to receive the Anointing. Everyone seemed to be touched by God, and I was left standing there- feeling nothing. You suggested to me that maybe I had sin in my life and that is why I missed out. I believed you and felt the weight of condemnation on me. I didn't know that because I was a new creation in Him, there was now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I thought the only way to please God was to serve Him in full time ministry, so I enrolled in Bible College. I studied books of the bible but came out more confused than before I had entered College. You gave encouragement awards to everyone in my Bible College class. But I was awarded the "Prickly Pear Award" - because I was prickly on the outside and soft on the inside. I looked to the Bible College Staff when everyone laughed at me and my heart was hurting. Surely they would tell them to stop laughing, tell them that it wasn't nice, and give me an encouraging award instead. But when I turned my head, I noticed that the teacher was laughing at me too. In fact, she was the one that came up with the "hilarious" award.
I was offered a position on staff as an Assistant Youth Pastor. I noticed that the harder you worked within the church, the more people seemed to like you. So I took the position. I strived and worked hard trying hard to make God and the church happy. I didn't know that He loved me regardless and there was nothing I could do to make Him love me more or love me less. His love was unconditional. I asked you for a job description so that I could do well in my position and make the church and God happy. You told me to pray and seek God and He would tell me what to do. I didn't even know what that looked like. Nobody ever showed me. I felt like a fraud and a failure.
When a pastor in the church started to act towards me in a fatherly manner, I became sad. I didn't know then, but now know that this man's behaviour had triggered unresolved grief within me from my father dying when I was 17. I booked an appointment for counselling and you told me that I must be feeling this way because I had unforgiveness in my heart towards someone. So I prayed with you that I could forgive someone that had wronged me. It didn't take the pain away. You didn't follow up after that appointment. So I journeyed on with the grief wound in my heart, still causing me to limp.
When I fell in love and was engaged to be married, you gossiped and criticised me because my fiance was several years younger than me. What should have been the happiest time of my life was the worst. You came to my wedding and were all smiles. But when my new husband and I decided that we would take a year off from ministry to invest in our new marriage, you labelled us as "Backsliders." We didn't stop going to church. We still went every Sunday morning. But because we were no longer attending mid week meetings, the night service and ministry training sessions, you made it very clear that you didn't approve. You stopped inviting us to your social gatherings.
When my husband and I lost our first child to miscarriage I rang the pastor letting him know what had happened and hour before the Sunday morning service. I requested that it not be announced from the pulpit and that we preferred for the news to filter through slowly. The pastor agreed. Imagine my horror when I found out that the same pastor had announced it that morning to the whole church. That hurt. That really hurt. I could no longer trust your word. You had no respect for our grief and our request. When I spoke to another pastor about it, he defended you and I was even more confused and hurt.
You tell me that we are family. You tell me that you love me and I want to believe you. But when I do something that you disapprove of, that love seems to be conditional. You "love" me if I attend your 'family functions'. But when I don't , I am treated more like a visitor rather than family. When I choose to leave your church community, friendship is no longer extended. It is a matter of, "Out of sight. Out of mind." Love seems to be a word thrown around, but not really shown in actions.
Women who befriended me never seemed to stick around long. It seems that when they get too close to me, and see the 'real' me, they didn't like what they saw. You never confronted me on something I had done to offend you, or just loved me despite my flaws. Instead you smile sweetly to my face and gossiped behind my back. I was left feeling that I was unlovable. So I tried so hard to be someone that you would like, and maybe even love. But nobody can keep up the facade full time, as it is too exhausting. So when the mask slipped and you saw what a mess I really was, you would run in the other direction. This was repeated time and time again.
You told me that I needed to live like an overcomer and stop having a victim mentality. So I shoved all my hurts way down deep and hoped no one would suspect that they were there. I limped along wounded hoping that no one would notice. Sometimes the lid blew off one of my hurts and I would lash out in anger, and then you told me that the fruit of the Spirit was self- control. I felt condemnation. What I didn't know then, but I know now is that the fruit of the Spirit is only evident in your life when you are connected to the Vine. It is not something I could work on. But I worked hard on trying to conjure up the fruits of the spirit in my life, only to fail time and time again.
When I became a mother you told me that you can't stop ministry just because you have children. Even though I had no help from my extended family, and was exhausted, you told me stories of how you had given birth and was in church that Sunday. I felt guilty that I wanted to rest and enjoy the new experience of being a mother. So I pushed myself, I started a playgroup and that became my ministry. After the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. Nobody in the church understands depression and you say things like, "Look around you and be distressed, look within you and be depressed, look to Jesus and be at rest.- Unknown" And I felt like I don't have enough faith, or didn't pray enough, or I didn't read the bible enough, or didn't do enough for God, and this is why I have depression. (What a lie!) This makes me feel even more depressed.
So many times I wanted to run away from you church. I have run from church community to church community with hope that this will be the church that I will find authentic community in. But I am always let down. So many people are afraid to live authentically. I am constantly battered and bruised by you. But then Jesus reminds me that I have hurt so many people over the years too. As a representative of the Body of Christ, I have wounded people unintentionally. And so church, because I love you, I will forgive you. Because you are so important to the Lover of my Soul, I won't give up on you.
Give me time to lick my wounds and get back up onto my feet again church. Jesus is very close to me and is attending to my wounds. Don't condemn me if I don't attend church every Sunday or turn down things that you invite me to. (I am aware the Enemy of my soul loves to stick his finger in my wounds and wants to turn me away from you.) I just need you to be patient with me. You are my brothers and sisters. I will learn to trust you again. I will forgive you. But this may take some time. I will learn to love you unconditionally, if you do the same for me.
Jo - His Grace xo