Yeah, my church experience left me with a lot of feelings.
Everyone seemed nice, but no one really invited us outside of church. The “friends” I thought I made were too busy for me. Broken promises, and shattered hope I had put in the church.
Even after my husband and I stopped visiting, it took me several months to deal with what I felt.
One of my “friends” texted me. She was curious as to why we left, and I was honest. I could tell from her response, she took my answer personally, and sounded offended.
But…what do you expect when you directly ask someone, “Do you mind if I ask, why you left our church?”
Another lady from the church had requested I update her on when my husband and I found a new church, and honestly, it really, REALLY bothered me.
It felt very nosey of her because she didn’t make any effort to be in my life outside of when I saw her in the church.
So why should she care?
What entitlement did she have to know my life outside of the church, when it never concerned her before?
I tried to maintain friendships with the girls I thought I connected with, but it went no where. One only contacted me for a pyramid scheme in body/beauty care, which hurt me. She would start off the conversation asking if I found a new church, and how I was.
I believed her.
I thought she was generally interested.
But as soon as I talked to her and answered her, she immediately gave me a quick, “Oh, that’s nice,” and then dived into her business inquiry. She did this once a year for the past few years.
I battled for a long while after leaving the church if I should tell these girls that they were stumbling me up as a believer. I trusted their words, and 97% of the time their actions were not reflective.
I never did. I asked myself, “If you told the girls this, what would be the purpose?” And I couldn’t come up with more than I wanted them to understand and become aware they hurt me.
But that was more for my own selfish reasons, and nothing productive could have come from that.
But that’s okay because I was able to let it go.
The time frame was from November 2013- to April 2014.
I had no church family where I lived.
Made no friends.
My first time moving to a different state, and at that time, I was hardly Skyping my friends up home. I had my husband, and I had God.
I may not have been going to church, but God was continuing to guide me in scripture. He was helping me pour out my heart to Him, even if it was hard.
I remember one night bowing my head, I asked Him, “If You have to humble me, I’ll go through it to get closer to You.”
I’m telling you, if you ask God to humble you, He probably will. BUT remember, it WILL be on HIS terms.
My loneliness from having no friends was getting to me.
I had wondered repeatedly whether or not I made the right choice, in leaving the church.
And then, in April, I had a dream that freed me. It wasn’t anything like when God physically lifted my feeling of burdens in the dream I felt I met Him.
This was very symbolic, and my God knows me so well. I love symbolism.
In the dream, I was living with my parents and my brother. I was aware I was back in high school. They had apparently moved to this beautiful wooden home.
It was at least two stories. A steady rain pelted the windows, and it was cozy. Natural dim light filled the house through the multiple siding windows.
We were in this massive kitchen. Near the corner of the wall, a shiny wooden booth was the kitchen table. It was gorgeous. Soon afterward, I was in a hallway, and at the end of the hall I saw this bright, but slightly faded, yellow wall. One window facing out towards trees. I knew this was my room, and I loved it.
The house/cabin(?) was perfect.
And then…towards the end of the dream something was odd. Not scary, no worries. Just strange. The door to the bathroom was opened, and my younger brother was on the floor with one of those placemats (kids would use at the kitchen table). It was a placement of the world continents, but that’s not the weird part..
It was what was crawling on the map.
Just a few, not grotesque in anyway, but it stood out to me. And as soon as I was aware of what was crawling on the map, I woke up. Like I said, it wasn’t creepy or anything, just odd.
But, God did give me an immediate answer. When I woke up, I wondered about if the dream had any meaning, and it did.
The two main things that stood out to me. Was the beautiful woodwork the home contained, and the odd worms crawling on the map.
And then it clicked.
Which, if you didn’t know, wormwood is bitter, and used in scripture to depict bitterness.
When I woke up, I knew then and there, I was bitter.
I hadn’t fully forgiven the toxic church experience, so I struggled with healing.
Anger still clung to me, and before I knew it, the experience and the people got to my heart, and not in a Hallmark moment way.
But through the awakening (haha, literally), God opened my eyes, and gave me the answer I needed. I knew what to give to God. I knew what to work on because before I didn’t. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I felt.
But God knew.
I’m pleased to say He healed me from the bitterness. He used the experience for me to understand what it is like to look for a church. To understand, it isn’t easy for everybody. To be aware of how we treat visitors in our church, and just what kind of person are we proclaiming to be to others.
Do we keep our word? Or do we talk in excess to be nice, with no intention of going farther than that?
Life is more than an appearance. No matter what decor walls have, it doesn’t matter. And no matter how we want to be reflected on the outside, God will always know the truth.
May we not be toxic as a believer, or as a body proclaiming to be of Christ.
Till next time…
~T. R. Noble
(Images From Pexels)