About ten years ago, I was a part of a group of people who were licking their wounds after being severely tossed about and out by the church. We were an angry, hurt lot that did a lot of encouraging and a little bickering as we worked through our issues. As that group dissolved, my dissolution with the church froze into a bitterness I would carry around for a long time.
As my bitterness was slowly dissolved by the love of God I found myself starting life over again. A new state, new friends and, oddly enough, another group of people who are where I was ten years ago. Hurt, confused, and tender-hearted towards others who are hurt and confused. All of us bound together and reliant on the unremitting, undeserved kindness of God.
The Dizziness of Freedom
I’ve found that going through this time in my life was much like my late teenage years. There were times when you realized you could think for yourself, do things that were considered taboo and find that the world didn’t end, and basically breath without the help of the organization that you had considered indispensible for so many years.
Also like one’s teenage years, there is a lot of emotion in psychological healing. It seems that almost every act of freedom comes with an equal and opposite dose of anger at recalling the chains you were bound to for so many years. Every time someone in a place of spiritual leadership says something even close to that awful message of bondage, you find yourself shrinking back, welling up with anger and frustration.
Healing and the Occasional Snake Oil Salesman
It can be a lonely place. It can also be a confusing one as those who haven’t gone through what you have, yet believe the message of God’s love, find it difficult to understand your anger. Some people who have never gone through a bad church experience find it almost impossible to relate. Sometimes, these kind but clueless family members make you doubt your sanity. Maybe you’re just overreacting. Maybe you’re universalizing one bad experience.
But it does get better. Like all wounds, it heals. And like all illnesses, everyone thinks they have a quick cure. Kindly nod at their impatience and keep trusting God’s Spirit. Know that there will be kicking and screaming, angry takedowns of angry people, honesty that’s so raw it hurts to hear, simply because the voice that was muted finally realizes it can speak without the former consequences. Expecting perfection in yourself or others that are healing is a pointless endeavor. But we’ll still expect it because of our deep seated neurotic need to be and see perfection in all Christians.
Allow yourself to be human. Allow others to hurt and feel and cry and scream. Allow them their anger and don’t to lecture them out of their bitterness. It’s a wretched place that mistrusts everyone, including God, but you can’t fix it by yelling for us to stop. Love, that’s what we need. The patience and understanding of love is the only thing that will quiet our hearts and eventually see us to the shore from the raging waters of bitterness. Be patient, with yourself and with others. Trust the Spirit to work forgiveness and healing in you (even when you don’t want it) and know that even the biggest mistake is not fatal in God’s economy.