So the emails and messages in response to my Facebook “bomb” the other day are still trickling in. I’m up to 91 reactions and 118 comments. I haven’t even counted the messages and emails.
And here’s what I noticed – those who are cautious and simply say they will pray for the family tend to focus their comments on the fact that my husband was asked to leave, as if they stopped reading at that sentence and missed the point of the post. Those who are pouring out love and support tend to move past that part and focus on the fact that the church leadership responded with more “fix-it” focus than empathy and healing, and when that failed to elicit whatever response it was they were looking for, ignored me and my kids.
I’m not sure what that means. But I noticed a pattern. It makes you wonder.
At any rate, this week I have been told countless stories of others who have been wounded by church leadership (not just at my previous church) treating them in a similar way in their time of need.
And two precious women have both tentatively come forth to say that they too are in emotionally abusive marriages and are on the verge of separating. Each one said that she hasn’t told ANYONE this because she is afraid they will be judged. I so get that. I held on for 27 years because of that. I’m meeting one woman for breakfast tomorrow and another on Sunday after church.
And after that my calendar is pretty much booked with daily coffee/lunch/walk dates with women who have been in my shoes in one way or another, either on the abusive marriage end or the abusive church leadership end, and want to share their story and encourage me along the path to healing and forgiveness And also with women who just want to love on me and provide the support now that they would have offered months ago had they known my condition.
The guys are holding back (apart from the previously mentioned doctor recommendations, funny memes and carrots and beets), no doubt out of a sense of Christian propriety. And wisdom. But they are still letting me know they are here if I need them. One friend put it, “I’m 300% behind you!”
But going back to the two women who spoke up, I said the other day I had not an inkling of the response that would ensue when I posted my story on Facebook. I wasn’t doing it in a bid for sympathy. I just wanted it told so that people knew what was going on.
But as much as I didn’t foresee that, I also didn’t foresee the coming forward of these two precious women who are in a very scary, alone and dark place right now, knowing their marriages are crumbling but feeling voiceless and helpless to do anything about it. I didn’t foresee ministry opportunity in the midst of my own suffering.
Which is very short-sighted of me because of COURSE the Lord will use the comfort we receive “in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” (2 Cor. 1:4 ESV). But, you know, it’s one thing to QUOTE that verse and quite another to live it out.
At any rate, I am floating right now on the wonderful support and encouragement I have received AND the thought that I can turn around and dole it right back out.
THIS, my friends, THIS is the level of connectedness that Jesus told us to have. Confessing our sins to one another, loving one another, spurring each other on to love and good deeds. This is the love by which they will know we are Christians.
This is love, as opposed to that foolishness fleshed out in programs and rules and formulas behind which an institution hides so that no one can point the finger and possibly cut them off from success/donations/influence/insurance coverage.
THIS is how we’re supposed to live as Christians. Real, authentic, messy, not covering up but letting people in.
Yes, some people will abuse that. Those are the people 2 Tim 3:1-5 talks about – “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” Those are the people about whom Paul then says, “Avoid such people.”
It’s a risk worth taking – as long as we understand that those who abuse our openness are the ones who have a problem, and set boundaries accordingly, then we can be free to reach out to and receive from those whose hearts are in the right place.
There are many who rise to positions of authority in the Church who are there because of their hunger for power. The Church attracts such people and foolishly paves the way for them to get into power. But as long our our focus stays on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we will spot these people fairly quickly and move along. No need to engage with someone who is playing by a different set of rules.
Which is why, I think, Romans 12:2 says “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
Not by the removal of your mind.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matt. 10:16