I'm feeling left out. Surprisingly, what I'm "left out" of is a huge church split. Just why I'm feeling left out doesn't make total sense to me - but I think I'm figuring it out.
Let me share my heart...
Three years ago, after God opened our eyes to many things (primarily the warning signs of a manipulative/controlling pastor) we left our church home of nearly 9 years. It was a hard decision. One that we've shed many tears over. In fact - one that my heart still isn't totally healed from. It hurt on many levels - not the least of which was the ostracizing we felt from the people we used to call friends. The way we were treated was nearly identical to every other member who had chosen to leave before us - as well as nearly everyone who has chosen to leave since.The long and short of it was that if you chose to leave the church body, you were no longer allowed to be friends with anyone who was still at the church (per the pastor). None of our church friends wanted to know why we left or how we were doing. We didn't go around town telling all the people still at the church how the pastor sent us a letter that was neither kind nor truthful. We didn't try to drag everyone away from the church and try to get them on board with how we were feeling. We really tried to let God deal with the lies being told...and to only have discussions if we were asked what happened. Sadly, the only people who cared enough to check up on us were other "former members" who had been treated the same way. Not only did we have to leave a church we loved...but the people we thought were our friends no longer called. No longer seemed to care.
You can see why this hurt. You can see why I'm still healing. Maybe you can even see why I've been in NO hurry to make friends or jump into being involved with the church we're now attending. Because I WAS involved. I was an AWANA leader, a Sunday school teacher, I attended Ladies' Bible study, for years had co-led a Mom's group twice a month, our kids went to VBS (and I was a leader), I had been in the ensemble. I was involved. But no longer. I just can't bring myself to fall in love with our new church. I can't bring myself to want to put myself out there to invest in all new friendships. I've really had the wind sucked out of my sails when it comes to church. And that makes me sad. And angry.
Fast forward to now. That church has let go of its pastor. They are going through a painful church split. We can sympathize. All the pain and hurt that they're feeling...we get it. But how could I possibly be feeling left out? Because the difference between how things were when we chose to leave and now is that we were dealing with the hurt and pain from the outside. All those still at that church are leaning on each other every Sunday. They're walking into familiar surroundings and friendly faces...and they're sharing the whole painful experience together. They're sharing hugs. Sharing tears. Sharing the whole healing process. I wish we had that. But we didn't. We don't.
Even though I probably shouldn't - I want to go back to this church. I want to walk back into those church walls and be able to be part of what we have missed out on for the last three years. I'm praying that the church can work through the hurt and remain strong. I pray that all the holes now there will be filled and restored with just the right people. God knows what that church needs. I trust that in time He'll provide it all.
But I - like many other former members/attenders - sit here on the outside wondering where to go from here. Did God take us out of there three years ago with the intention of us finding a new church home and never coming back? Or did He providentially keep my heart from jumping fully on board at where we are now so that we could return to our former church and walk with them through this time of healing? I just don't know.
The thing is, I wish we could go back to the way things were - when ALL of our friends were still there and all seemed well. But now - even if we did go back - it's not like going back in time. Many of the familiar faces are gone. Moved on to other churches in the area where they're connected and plugged in. Going back wouldn't really be going back. But I think about. I wonder what we're supposed to do.
I would love to hear God's will on this one - like just to be able to call an audible and hear what He wants us to do. But instead - I'll keep praying. Praying for healing for my heart. Praying for healing for our former church body. Praying for God's direction in the midst of it all.
Thanks for listening to my heart today.
Until next time...