Dear Friends wounded by the Church,
As I write this, each of your faces come to mind and tears fill my eyes. For you.
And for me. Because I am one of you.
Maybe it’s because I am that you’ve felt safe to share your pain with me.
You’ve experienced exclusion,
poorly handled conflict,
truth-telling with out grace or hope of redemption
from a church you’ve loved.
And a church I’m sure would say is trying to do its best.
But I think of the particular circumstances each of you have endured at the hands of people who say they love Jesus and mostly I just can’t believe it and I want to rail at the injustice and shake “someone” and make it right, and undo the pain. But instead, maybe I could tell you a story.
Last summer when I was on a bike ride through my neighborhood on a beautiful warm breezy day, my shoelace got tangled in the gears of my bike and I swerved and was stuck and took a wicked bad fall, gashing my knee gruesomely and dripping blood everywhere leaving quite a trail of evidence for the CSI folks should they choose to investigate. It felt scary and unexpected and I felt out-of-control.
To add to my humiliation, a bunch of my friends, men, women, and children, were out in their front yard and witnessed the whole awkward debacle. And I couldn’t even get up because my shoelace was still tightly tethering me to my gears. The whole group of them ran over to me all concerned and one of them ran back to get a wet towel and a super-hero bandaid which was so sweet.
For days and weeks and months, that wound was tender and though it scabbed over, it got easily bumped and would start bleeding all over again. I’d experience set-backs in the healing process and I learned to not be around the people who would carelessly stumble into me and my fragile wound. Instead, for awhile, I needed to choose gentle friends and counselors who loved me and would be patient with my ugly scab and listen to the story of how it happened.
It was some of those same people who, as I began to heal, were able to help me ask about my part in the wounding and where God was, and what He might be teaching me. In the process I realized that my fists were clenched a lot – clenched in determination to fix things quickly. And they helped me to unclench them and patiently trust Jesus to do His work.
I believe we get better if we want to. But today, I still have a very noticeable scar that will probably never disappear. This scar is my reminder to be careful, wear my helmet, and try to be gentle with other riders. Oh, and tie my shoes more tightly.
The other day, a friend who’s recently been hurt and disillusioned by the church said, “I don’t see how you have hope and why you keep showing up.” The church does, often, make me sad, but it’s not the church I trust in. It’s Jesus.
To my many friends who, like me, have been wounded by the church I would say don’t give up on Her. Because Jesus hasn’t given up on Her. Or you. Or me. And we are the church.
Speak the truth. Be gentle. Look for Jesus. Admit your own brokenness. Forgive. But don’t give up.
For whatever reason, Jesus has said the Church is His Plan A for loving the world.
Ahh but we’re a messed up bunch, aren’t we all? So it’s a good thing that included in Plan A is the cross and forgiveness for all of us.
Have you been wounded by the church? What has God used to help you heal?