I wasn’t raised in church. My dad worked on Sundays so we didn’t go often.
I went with my great-grandmother on occasion and even attended VBS a few times.
As a young girl I felt uncomfortable at church. I sat quietly in Sunday School. I didn’t know much about Noah or Moses. My Meme would give me two shiny quarters each week. I would seal the coins in an envelope and place them in the offering plate as it passed by.
Church intimidated me.
God was out of reach.
Back then I thought I had to be perfect in order to fit in (sometimes I still do).
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I began attending church regularly. My best friend invited me to a youth event and it wasn’t long before Jesus got a hold of my heart. I was at church every time the doors opened – like any good Baptist girl. I gave my life to Christ and was baptized. Not long after my parents started attending church, too.
I came face-to-face with hypocrisy during my freshman year of college. In the same church where I’d given my heart to Jesus, I watched as a dear friend was shunned for being unwed and pregnant.
Around the same time I was cornered and interrogated by my pastor.
“Are you having sex?” he asked.
I was, but there was no way I was going to admit it to him.
“You need to date the boys from youth group,” he said.
You mean the boys who were drinking in the church parking lot and making passes at my best friend?
The church turned their back on my friend.
There was never any grace.
I decided to turn my back on the church.
I never stopped loving Jesus, I just hated the hypocrisy.
It was years before I stepped foot into a church again.
John and I became members of a church not long after we were married.
We were there mosts Sundays. We tithed and gave to the building fund. We were on the prayer team. The preacher and his wife sat around our table for dinner on more than one occasion.
I thought I was finally experiencing how church was supposed to be.
Then we adopted Jackson.
What was supposed to be the happiest time in our lives turned out to be the most difficult.
We had a baby who cried all the time and a marriage that was on the brink of divorce.
We cried out for help, but nobody came.
The times I’ve admitted my struggles are the times I’ve been left alone to deal with them.
Thirteen years have passed since I left the church where I gave my heart to Jesus.
It’s been two years since we’ve had a church home.
I long for community, but I’ve built up walls.
I’ve prayed to forgive.
I’ve asked God to take away the bitterness.
But there’s still hurt.
When you’ve been burned by church, it’s a process. One of healing and grieving. Letting go and forgiving.
Just because you choose forgiveness doesn’t mean it’s easy to trust again.
Sunday morning we went to church.
The pastor read from Ephesians 2:20….
You belong here with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what he’s building. (The Message)
God spoke over me.
You Belong Here
The tears fell because I want desperately to belong.
As we picked Jackson up from the nursery we were told he had bitten a boy who was trying to take away his toys.
There was judgment in her voice.
Shame and guilt fell over me.
How can we come back here?, I thought.
Then His voice reminded me…
You Belong Here
My entire imperfect self. My hurts and my struggles. Even my biting toddler.
We belong in church.
Psalm 1:3 says, that person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.
Church isn’t for perfect people – there is no such thing.
It’s for imperfect people in need of a perfect God.
He wants us to come just as we are.
He says we belong.
This post was written as a response to Holley Gerth’s Coffee for your Heart link up prompt: For more encouragement click here! I am also linking up for Three Word Wednesday. You can join the fun here. And for the first time today, I’m linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee for Tell His Story.