She really did. Of course, she wasn’t my wife then… but she is now. Back in high school I was socially awkward, shy, and really struggled with relationships. So I was just like I am today only much better looking and younger.
We dated for a bit and then she decided it was time to move on. Over 20 years later, we reconnected and got married. Our wedding photo sits next to our prom picture. We often talk about the ‘what ifs’. What if we had stayed together? What if we married 20 years ago?
As the victim in the breakup, I have certain liberties. I get to talk about how heartbroken I was. What if I had responded to that heartbreak in different ways?
- What if I decided that because I was hurt, I would never date again?
- What if I chose, that since a person hurt me, I would never trust people again?
- What if I blamed her parents for how she treated me, and broke the relationship off, permanently, with everyone even remotely involved?
Doesn’t that sound lovely? No more dating, no more extended family, and no more people… ever. Is that a tad extreme?
Some of us respond the very same way to the church when it hurts us. The church is supposed to be this safe place. We expect judge-free zones and places billowing with love, peace, and acceptance. But it’s filled with humans and humans are flawed. So we get just a fraction of what the church is supposed to be. And, to be honest, it’s a shattered fraction at that.
Maybe you were one of those who entered the place of worship with your life tank on empty. You were broken. You were desperate. That was the very last straw. And when you finally conceded to the love of the church, you got a cold shoulder rather than a warm heart. You saw sneers instead of smiles. That pat on the back had a knife in it, didn’t it?
Sadly, this is common. There are a few reasons for it. The blanket statement is simple. We are the church. We are sinners. We make mistakes. We will continue to mess up until Jesus returns to set things in line with what they were intended to be.
So why bother with a church at all? Why subject ourselves to an imperfect plan? Why make ourselves vulnerable to others who could potentially hurt us again?
There are many answers. Several are better than the one I’m going to give now, but I feel its important to ponder this aspect as well, so I’m going to give it anyway… My answer is that we do it for the same reason we keep dating, even after we leave a failed relationship.
We were built, from the ground up (literally if you know your old testament), to have companions in life. God saw that Adam was lonely and He created Eve for Him. So even when Eve tosses Adam the apple, or when my high school sweetheart friend-zones me, we have this inbuilt desire to have a companion that overrides the warnings and danger signs around the thought of another possible failed relationship.
It’s who we are. We are meant to be together, misery and all. Most of us learn, early in life, that when one person doesn’t work out, we keep looking until we find someone that can accept us and deal with us as we are. This is what God does. It does not matter where we are, its the same path and distance to get back to God for all of us. No one has any farther to travel than anyone else.
Because God never leaves us, we all only have to turn to Him. We often think of this long, arduous journey… that is in our heads. God is one prayer away for every last single one of us.
Turning away from God because a Christian hurt you is like blaming your spouses parents because your spouse did something wrong. Most likely, their parents taught them better and they would be on your side anyway. Isn’t it odd that when people act in defiance of God… we blame God? When a Christian gossips and says hurtful things, they are ignoring the love and wisdom of God. And our reaction is to flee from God, the very one who says, ‘don’t gossip and say hurtful things’.
I don’t want to encourage church hopping, but some people need to find a church home. A community of believers that will accept you the same way God does… Just as you are. That doesn’t mean you don’t have some work to do and some changes to make. It means that they won’t judge your past. It means they understand that they are sinners too. Ultimately it means that they want to walk with you and share burdens along the way.
Why? We need the church just like we need our Adam or Eve. We are in-wired with a need for community. There are actually churches out there for atheists, satanists, and all manner of commonality that does not center around God. We know we need each other, we just forget why. When it makes absolutely no sense at all, we find ways to gather together in any semblance of likeness that we can muster.
Why can we forgive our exes, but we hold God eternally guilty? Why can we give a free pass to humanity, and forever condemn the church? Hurt after hurt we go to jobs that don’t appreciate us, seek friends that don’t honor us, and commune with strangers who don’t love us… but the God that defined love and created companions just for us gets a hard pass. We use terms like “never”. I will never let the church hurt me again. I heard someone say to their 4th wife.
God doesn’t need a second chance. He needs the first chance. Our best chance. Your relationship with us humans will always have its ups and downs. One of the problems with going ‘into’ a church is it puts too much emphasis on the people in it. If we seek God first, every thing else seems to fall into place rather nicely.
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
I don’t want to be an example of the church. Especially when I’m driving. Oh how the hatred flows when I’m in the car. No blinkers, late mergers, getting cut off, slow drivers in the wrong lane, speeders, tailgaters, If you are in another car around, I may not like you very much. I don’t like this about myself… how I let the rage step in when people drive like jerks… but it happens. And I don’t want God to be held accountable for when I mess up. And I don’t want anyone else to be either.
If I dressed up like Tom Hanks and did an impersonation of him, but it was terrible, would you stop watching his movies? Would you blame him because you didn’t like the work I did? This works both ways when it comes to Christianity. Not only is it odd to blame God when others are doing poor impressions of Him, but it’s not good when we ourselves claim Christ and then don’t act like Him at all, knowing how the world will react.
So I’d like to make a recommendation. Clean the slate. Has God wronged you? Or has a fallen world taken its toll? Crack the pages of your Bible, open your heart to it’s author. Seek His followers as equal companion and sinner. And, don’t walk away from the cure to the pain you are feeling. I know how happy I am that I dated again. It let me find my wife and life has never been better. Plus I get to remind her that she dumped me and that has its advantages too!