That’s a long title, huh?
Figured I’d go out with a bang for the New Year! So here we go!
You know, I’ve gotten along fairly well without going to a regular “church service”, it’s been a relief actually.
Yeah, I said it.
It’s pretty nice sleeping in, it’s nice not having tensions rise as my wife and I strive to get ourselves and the little tribe of kids ready. Seriously, I’m raising a small nation-state! It’s nice not having to get ourselves fed and coffee’d up, get the kids fed, dressed and even re-dressed if there was an “accident” and then everyone out of the house so we can make it to church on time (while listening to church music on the way to church to make sure we are in the mood for church) and shake hands with people who sing our praises on how faithful we are and tell us how much they love us, yet when shit gets real, they really don’t give a flying fuck about us anyhow and won’t deliver on all that love they were pontificating and verbally vomiting on us in the first place.
Oh, wow, Tom…I appreciate your honesty, but, that was kind of…strong…
It was, wasn’t it? I know I can be a bit abrasive at times.
I am disappointed…and kinda pissed. In the light of recent “oh, wow” moments I have had (similar to Harpo’s “Aha” moments, but cooler…) and other reflections I’ve been making/having over the last few months or so, my anger or pissed-offedness is more akin to when someone pokes a healing, yet sensitive wound and like an idiot goes, “Hey! Wha’ happened?”. And then, calming yourself and mentally reminding yourself that it’s not their fault for pointing it out and touching the wound. Maybe it is more akin to when you are minding your own business and you accidentally hit your wound as you are going through your day. At that moment, you realize, “Man, I know this thing is healing, I can see the wound healing, but it’s taking longer than I thought!”. You’ve changed bandages, washed it, let it air out, applied medicine and bandaged it back up again. But you haven’t been wounded like this before, so it takes a little longer of a process than, say, a scrape on your knee. My healing wound has been bumped a few times in the last month or so. So, call the above a reaction to me getting bumped on my wound. Below would be removing the bandages, so to speak, revealing a good part of the wound to you as I clean it and redress it.
It’s time anyway to change the bandages. The New Year is upon us and I want to start it with a fresh wrapping, so to speak.
People wonder why I have forsaken the so-called church-family that I had, some have gone so far as saying that I am trying to “tear down” all that I once loved and stood for. Some even going further and telling people who used to come to me for advice or to hang out with me that basically I’m no longer a good source for those things. Seriously.
Church family? What part of family did they really fulfill?
When I said something or shared something that seemed odd to my “family” or maybe it was opposite or against their viewpoint, did they come to me, try to contact me or try in any way to talk with me and understand where I was coming from?
Did they accept that as part of a family, that I might have and will have differing views?
Did they call me or try to visit when I resigned from the one thing I loved doing at church more than anything? After I stopped coming, did they call?
Nope and nope.
Their silence spoke volumes to me.
The only contact made was accompanied with the tone of “why are you being divisive/attacking the church/destroying/dividing/etc. etc.”. It was never to know my heart and mind. They didn’t look at what I presented objectively, they just seemed to hold on for dear life to everything they knew and interpreted my actions as attacks. A good friend said it best though: The dog that barks the loudest is the one that got hit. Or, as Han Solo once wisely said: “Must’ve hit pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?”
Of all the people who went to the same church I did, the ones I respected, loved, thought were mighty in the Spirit, wise, loving, an example of Jesus, the prayer warriors, the one’s we called “family”, the one’s I defended when things were “hairy” at church, the ones that I would share some of my fears and concerns to…
Those people, when shit got real, were in actuality far from being family.
All the “talk” ended up being just that: talk.
Just a big, fat, sloppy sandwich of talk.
Talk is cheap, as the saying goes, but the damage done by cheap talk can be expensive. Honestly? It’s OK, now. I know part of the injury came from my view of these people. People so anointed of God could do no wrong or harm after all, right? I trusted too much, especially since this was my second dysfunctional church experience. I learned from the first one, but apparently not enough.
About a year ago, almost two month since we stopped going, we came across a group of people who used to go to the same church as us at the local mall. We had just come out of the movie theater with the kids, they were doing some project or another for the church. To be honest, I saw them long before they saw me. I try to keep a certain level of situational awareness when I am out and about, it is the protector in me. I told my wife and told her that we should go, I really didn’t want to see them. They still hadn’t seen us up to this point, she wanted to go look at a few things at a few shops on the other side of where they were at. So, we moved forward and eventually they became aware of us walking their way. We got a generic smattering of, “Hello, how are you?” and, “We miss you guys!” from the adult leaders present. They missed us…a bold-faced, keeping up christian appearances lie, I could see it in their eyes. They didn’t miss us. My response to them? “Thank you.” I didn’t miss them. I wasn’t going to lie and say I did. I just said thank you and held my tongue back.
I was tempted to imitate Doc Holiday…Forgive me if I don’t shake hands, but I refrained.
More than likely, they were relieved of not having to deal with me. I was a pain in the ass near the end, I’ll admit it. I mean, come on, it’s kind of a pain in the ass when you can’t control someone and they refuse to just blindly do what you want them to. It’s kind of a pain when someone won’t just go along with whatever you want to do and asks questions. Especially if you believe that person is trying to tear the things down that you stand for or have had a hand in building.
The pastor called us…almost FOUR months after we had left.
I was told that they still “felt” like God wanted us to stay there and that we belonged there, we “had a place” there. I was told that they look at us like a son and daughter…
Let me ask you something: would you let your son or daughter go almost four months without talking to you? Would you wait that long to reach out to them?
If my oldest child was of age to move out of the house and we were having a handful of disagreements, I’d try to figure out where the disconnect was. Hell, I try now to figure out where the disconnect is, being mindful of the fact that I can be a complete hard-headed ass sometimes. If I came home one day and I found that my oldest child had packed up and moved out, would it be natural for me to just let it be and not try to speak with her? To just go on without her, as if nothing had happened? Everyone close to me would call me out on the carpet for that, I guarantee you!
You know who did come to our side to see what was on our hearts and minds, to see if we were O.K.?
A pastor from a different church, and he wasn’t there so he could cannibalize me in to his fold either! I had breakfast and coffee one morning with him; we shared our stories. He listened and he shared some of the heart breaks that he had gone through in the past and I listened. Man to man, we related. He knew my passions and what I had done at my former church and encouraged me to find another home-church, get some rest and healing and “get back in there” and keep at it, at what I was passionate about, namely teaching and encouraging.
People that used to go to the same church as I did, but had left for various reasons (some similar reasons too) before we ever did have come along side us here and there to encourage us and listen. They weren’t bitter, they didn’t throw down the place we were coming out of, they were loving, kind, open. Neighbors and some friends came too.
A nice, precious handful. To them, I am very grateful.
But nobody, nobody who had talked all that talk came.
A few younger men who I used to mentor and teach have come to me, miserable or not satisfied with life there at the church and yet they choose to stay… I don’t get that. I understand their reasoning, but at the same time I don’t. I respect it nonetheless, they are men, it is their choice. My door is always open to them, regardless.
You know what really sucks? All the women that my wife thought were her friends at the old church…gone.
Every. Single. Woman.
Not a single woman reached out to her.
It hurt her, and thus it enraged me. My wife started noticing it after our son was born, about six months before we left. He was hospitalized, she was operating on 2 – 3 hours of interrupted sleep, per night, handling the kids and house while I went off to work everyday. Every single one of the women who professed their love for her and said they’d “be there”… she saw them never come. For the sake of honesty, there were a few, “hey let us know if you need help” type of calls coming in a little too late. And of course, there were others who I’m sure would’ve come but they were tied down with their own obligations, so there is grace for them, I assure you. By that time, though, I was already in “fuck off” mode. None of these women, with all of their “bless you’s” and “oh we love you’s” and other proclamations of love and affection came to my wife’s side to help her out. Nobody tried to “rally the troops” and make an announcement at church or get on social media saying “Hey, Tom & his wife are really struggling right now and they need some help.”
So yeah, the old wounds are still healing.
We’re dressing our wounds, putting on medication, undressing the wound, cleaning it, letting it get some air, etc.
We move on.
From what I’ve shared before, we are meeting with other believers here and there.
I noticed that I get really nervous about going to anything remotely close to a church. Kinda makes the wound ache. Thankfully, I have a small handful, a small band who welcome us when we gather together in the name of Christ. I have a few men that I look to, who I respect and can bounce ideas off without them thinking I am attacking them. I’m starting to think more about gathering frequently with small groups of people. Nothing too big, just in homes and as life flows. The whole definition of church and life in Christ has changed.
More love, more grace, more understanding, more signs of healing.
Being able to speak to other christian men as men without doing the church dance of appearing godly and not saying what is actually on our hearts and minds, that helps.
Beer helps too, I love a good beer or Mike’s Hard Lemonade for my wife.
A final thought:
When you work out and you don’t practice proper form, even though you may see gains, you can really mess yourself up. Then, when you end up actually getting hurt, you really get hurt. It takes awhile to recover. You have to rest. If you don’t correct the mistakes, you’ll end up injured again but worse this time. Some people go years and years on incorrect form, and wonder why things aren’t working or why you aren’t getting the results you want, you end up trying to reinvent the wheel instead of going back to the beginning, to the basics and see where you went wrong.
This is a good description of the last 10+ years of my life in church-ianity. There were a few things I was doing “right”, sort of. But I was doing a whole hell of a lot with really, really bad form and continued to do for years. So, when I got injured, I really got injured. Now I am resting, recovering, and watching my form. Focusing on quality instead of instant results. Going back to the beginning.
I think it’s working.
So’s the beer.