I learned what it meant to be on the other side of the fence.
The fence between hoping to be a part of a church, and being part of a church.
I learned what it was like to be the outsider. An outsider trying to find a church family.
Beyond feeling welcomed, but truly accepted.
There is probably a handful of you who can understand this because you’ve gone through it yourself. The other handful who have never experienced this hardship, I’m thankful you haven’t because it isn’t easy.
Setting the Scene
My husband joined the Air Force in 2011, and it was his second year being in. After he joined, I usually only saw him two to three times a year. I graduated college in May 2013. Spent the summer planning the wedding with my family.
He had surprised me a few weeks before our wedding to spend time with me in our hometown.
Our first week being married went like this.
Got married on a Sunday.
Packed things for the movers (from both of our parents’ houses) on Monday.
Movers came on Tuesday.
Went to one last Bible Study at my home church with my newlywed husband on Wednesday.
Thursday, we said goodbyes to our families and drove over 800 miles to a small apartment he found in Little Rock, AR. Little Rock was home to the base he was stationed at.
It would become my new home.
I had no friends and no family there. It was a completely new area.
Sights On A New Church
So right away when we were in town, I noticed a church that was the same doctrine of my home church in OH. I was ecstatic.
New friends. CHRISTIAN FRIENDS! Hope and excitement filled my heart. I thought surely this was meant to be. That God had this planned out for me.
(He had something planned out, but not what I set my hopes on. But that’s God for you. It isn’t always about us believe it or not.)
When we first visited the church, there were a lot of things that reminded me of my home church. But what stood to me the most, was that it reminded me of my church right before, what I am going to refer to as, “The Purge.”
You see, when I was a child, as I spoke of in my eczema post, my pastor had gotten into an accident and passed away. So around the time, I was eight, almost nine, my church was searching for a new pastor. And eventually, the church board decided on a man, who I believe was definitely selected by God.
But people…didn’t always like what he had to say.
In fact, the majority of them didn’t like what he to say in sermons.
The Bible is not always bubbly and fluffy. There are some strong pieces of scriptures, specifically meant for believers that are hard to swallow.
As the blogger BeautyBeyondBones, I admire on here, has said, “God refines us.”
(Check out her blog post – Refining Process )
Refining isn’t easy. This is why the Holy Spirit pricks us and convicts us when we need to change our ways, give up past activities or thoughts, etc.
But the majority of Christians only want to hear the good stuff. Just Jesus loves you, not what He went through, or that we are to follow His footsteps and take the hard road known as the narrow path.
They only wanted to hear the milk scriptures, not the meat.
Many of them conflicted in their hypocritical ways of being a believer, and being of the world as well. They didn’t want the Spirit to prick them anymore through the word of God, so they left the church.
A Message For The Past Members Of That Church
Which brings me back to where I was in Little Rock. (Dear God, please fight against any feelings of bitterness that may arise from this retelling. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.)
Yeah…my experience sometimes still stirs up some darkness, which is why I’m leaving this prayer here. Cover my work through Jesus.
Everyone at the church, especially the first day, was extremely welcoming. This only further got my hopes up. I LOVED what the pastor preached. It was the same kind of material I would hear from my home church. Holiness. Sanctification. You get the picture.
What I was to learn, however, broke me into pieces.
Now, for anyone who knows me as a visitor of that church, who still remembers me, whatever the reason, and you are reading this. I do ask for an open mind because as believers we won’t get anywhere if we are constantly defensive without hearing another out.
And regardless of how anyone else feels of my situation, my emotions, and my experience, these are all valid because this is from my perspective.
Purpose Of Sharing This Story
Furthermore, I am sharing my experience NOT to downgrade, and NOT to cause judgment. We will be judged as we judge, remember that.
Instead, I’m sharing this because there is a lack of understanding from those of us who have never been outsiders. (I used to be one of them) Those of us who don’t know what it is like visiting a new church, trying to find a place that is our community.
Those of you curious about how to make someone feel welcomed in the church need to understand it isn’t just about “feeling welcomed.” It’s about feeling like you belong. Being only courteous in the church will not give a sense of belonging. It can be very disheartening when people only speak to you or want to see you in church. Especially if the newcomers were similar to my situation.
Which I will cover in next week’s blog…Toxic Church Experience (Pt. 2) | Confusing Deception
(Can’t get enough posts? Check out my second blog Peeking Beneath)