Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Made {w}hole

Let me begin with this statement: I am grateful for my childhood in the church. My fondest memories involve fellowship halls, pot luck dinners, Uno with the youth group, church buses, flipping the light switches on or off. I firmly believe that I would not have the adoration of the Scriptures if I hadn't been born into the very family to which I was given; it's a love that my father, grandmother, and I share. I thank God that He has given me this trait as I know it's the one thing that sustained my soul through the years of doubting.

I've been reading this book... {w}hole by Lisa Whittle. If you've ever had negative experiences with organized religion, I urge you to read it. It's cathartic and reassuring. It's cleansing and hopeful. As I read the pages, processed the thoughts alongside my own memories, I felt as though I had put on a pair of prescription lenses made just for me. See, I, for so many years, looked at the Lord and His people through the lens of my own experience and disappointment. That doesn't work well. Take my word for it.

I've spoken here about Delores before. I don't even hesitate to use her real name, nor do I offer any apologies for doing so. She was Satan's first tool in my life at the tender age of eleven. My father was a dynamic preacher in those days. I have memories of him practicing his sermons at home, pouring over yellow legal pads of notes and his marked up Bible. I adored listening to my father preach, and I loved being churchy. Dresses below the knee, taking notes in my notebook in the pews, and acapella hymns. It was our life. We had packed up all our possessions and moved to a tiny town in Louisiana to follow my father's passion to preach. I don't remember and can't say I ever understood what Delores and my father had not agreed upon, but it was something, and she made her thoughts clear in front of the entire congregation after Sunday evening service. I was devastated. I can still feel the raw emotion in the pit of my stomach that welled up that night, the anger mixed with nervous frustration and disappointment, as I ran out of the building and into the parking lot. My little world was crumbling, and so was our church. My mother and I stayed at home one Sunday morning as my father went alone to formally resign to the congregation from the pulpit. Afterward, a small group of my father's supporters gathered in our home, and we sang together, prayed, and cried. I didn't understand all the details, but my heart knew one thing: even God's people cannot be trusted.

We built a church out of an empty space in a shopping center with a big grocery store, a little boutique filled with clothes my family couldn't afford to buy, and a vet clinic. We painted walls, cleaned things up, bought chairs, and named it. It was our life, and its members were our family. But something shifted, and my adolescent mind didn't understand those details either. My dad said it was time to go, so we packed our things and moved to Florida, out of the pan and into the fire. After a short year in a tiny town in the panhandle, my father decided to leave the ministry altogether.

Looking back through my fresh pair of glasses, I hurt for him so deeply. His passion for the Scriptures and the Truth written in them was undeniable. But the sad reality is that most Christians don't even bother to read the Word for themselves. They simply believe doctrine that's been handed down to them through generations of stiff, suit clad leaders. To those men, my father was a radical, one who believed in such things as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The first time I read through the New Testament, I was shocked to think there were people on the earth who would argue against that point. But there were a hand full to argue back then, and we ran into them all.

And so we went home. Back to our place of origin. No more moving. No more preacher's daughter for me. No more trust in Christianity. The picture of a Christian in my mind had become a man who walks several yards away from the church and hides behind a tree to smoke a cigarette, the Sunday school teaching woman who can't control her temper in front of the church on a Sunday night, the elders who straighten their ties as they deny the Inspired Word of God that's in plain black and white before them. I was confused to say the least. Confused about God, about why He would allow all of this to happen, why He would turn His back on us like this.

I had no faith in God. I felt abandoned by Him. I tried to find things to believe in, all the while maintaining my pretty little picture of goodness. By the time I graduated high school, I realized that no one was really who they appeared to be, that no one stood up for what was right. None of the Christian world around me made any sense, so I began to play the game myself.

Satan sent the perfect one to work on me, too. Handsome. Charismatic. Charming. It was as though Satan scripted it all for him perfectly, what to say, what to do, how to get me in the lowest position I had ever been in my life. He took me down. He sent my soul into a pit, and for years, even after I had finally rid myself of the embodiment of that demon, I remained in that deep dark hole.

I'm out now. I finally stopped scratching at the sides of the pit and just let the hand of the Lord Almighty lift me out. He has rested me on the edge of the pit in the soft green grass. I can still see the hole, but I am no longer in it. A part of me wants to get up and run toward the goal I have in my heart. But I am learning that I need rest, this time to learn and ponder, for Jesus to tend to my wounds. See, when you have wounds from every angle, the healing process is all the more complicated. I've got holes in my soul from Christian locusts and from the Devil's advocates as well. I'm trying to reconcile how they can come from both sides and hurt equally the same. One thing I am grateful for is that my Savior has experienced it all and even more than I can fathom. This verse in Hebrews resonated in my soul most of all: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (2:14-15).

Jesus didn't have to. He chose to. He shared in my humanity. He lived in a body just like mine. He lived alongside the Pharisees, even argued with them. He witnessed the hypocrisy of people, the lies, the pain, the bitterness. But you know what else? He healed the ones who came to him with the worst of the worst. He ministered to those that the Pharisees wouldn't even speak to. He reconciled the law. And He is currently reconciling all those years of disappointment in people that bore His name and the scars left behind from Satan's attacks.

I have a purpose. Just as the suffering of Jesus in His flesh was not in vain, neither is the sufferings of anyone who proudly carries the name Christian. I can't say when or how it will all come about, but I have a clear vision in my mind of what He wants me to do with all I've been through. But for now, I am resting. I am feeding my soul. I am waiting patiently. I am leaning on a fresh faith in my literal Savior who has lifted my soul from the deepest, darkest hole... I am longing for the day when my story is made {w}hole.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

I left you a super long comment and then the computer fritzed on me!

So I will shorten it a bit:
Thank you for your story! Our little home church of 3 years has been going through issues that were occurring long before we ever joined, and it's quite an experience for us. We are young and not familiar with these issues or problems, and we've been confused, angry, sad and undecided on what to do.
We have seen church members, Christian people act just as you described, and we have let ourselves be disappointed...but I am learning through many revelations from God over the past year, that it really is about His Son, Jesus Christ and not about the church members, the money in the bank, the pastor, Sunday School attendance...
It is about trusting Him to pull us out of the pit...

My other comment was way better, but this will do. :)
Thank you again Tamara. You blessed my day and I plan to check out that book!