As I was sitting with her, I kept waffling over the choice to publicly talk about a part of my journey I am now in.
"Jenn, I have shared my affair, my rape, my deepest fears and my greatest insecurities on my blog but I don't think I can share the fact that I haven't consistently been in church for almost a year. For years I've heard the mantra from the pulpit;
- " Three to thrive- you must be in church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night."
- "Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together."
- " Those who leave church will lose God's Hand of blessing on their lives and end up on a very slippery slope of disaster."
Admitting that I've struggled to be part of church is akin to waving a freak flag and telling everyone my spiritual condition is hell bound.
Though God has brought me full healing from the physical and emotional scars of painful circumstances and choices in my life, the wounds brought on by spiritually abusive teachings and situations is where the pain and hemorrhaging is still at a critical place. Sorting out the Truth from the lies I've been taught is a monstrous undertaking.
The truth is -I don't do plastic Christianity well, I can't share my journey and leave out such a major piece of it and expect to continue to blog with integrity.
And so, here I am leaping with you, the reader, into -The Dark Night of the Soul.
The part of my the journey where I've been carefully stripping away the traditions of man one by one.
The hard questions I have been asking myself and others, the questions that most American churches never allow or even talk about. (God can handle our hard questions. He wants us to seek Him.)
A crisis of faith, a cynicism of those who carry spiritual titles.
A disillusionment of organized religion.
A look at my own heart and a desire to remove selfish motivations tied to my walk with Christ- Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I do what I do in the name of Christ?
Let's not even talk about the fear of exposing my questioning, wandering journey.
Might I add that this part of the journey is not a "woe is me for I am undone", not a weepy, placid or passive giving up, but an aggressive, active search for Truth.
I want to walk in and own my identity in Christ but I don't know how to incorporate it it into my past religious wounds and my present view of the American church.
I feel like I am running to Jesus and in the process losing my religion.
How could that be?
Do not the two go together?
"Experts" say it is common for folks to drop out of church for three to five years after leaving an abusive religious institution.
How long for me I wonder?
Part of the issue I have with my lack of church membership is that we are in a remote farming community with few choices of worship- a larger issue is my current struggle with organized religion. I just cannot figure out how to incorporate Jesus into such a box.
Oh how I crave to be part of an authentic, grace-filled community.
How desperate my heart is to be part of the body of Christ in action.
The thought of sitting in a pew either being taught a moral code, manipulated by guilt into service for Christ, being entertained once a week without affecting change inside and outside the walls of the church or just putting in time to placate the god of " We have always done it this way." makes me ill.
If I am going to to be part of Christ's body I will no longer settle for a masquerade ball every Sunday. My heart yearns for more. I want Jesus in the midst of worship, for love to be unconditional and grace to be radical. But at this crossroads I find the path is barren, with promises of hope burning brightly in my heart. I know that there are solid gospel driven churches out there. I am not hopeless.
I wonder if I am the only one who has found myself here?
I believe the day will come when this stripping away of all that is not Jesus will bring me to a place where I am left stronger, with motives not tainted by fear or shame or a desire for reward or justice but a strength of heart. A strength of faith, put into a fire of testing, purified.
Desires to do right, to serve Him, to love others simply because of the abundance of overflowing, unconditional love of Jesus. A love that is offered to me, even when my walk does not look like the Christian American dream.
How about you?
May I add that you have permission to speak freely here without fear of condemnation. You may speak the real questions and share your journey. I always pray that your heart feels safe, welcome and loved.
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