I am a Twitter follower or more like a Twitter watcher. I follow some prominent people of faith, and one of those people is Beth Moore. She recently tweeted out a photo of this t-shirt her husband bought for her, and the message caught my attention.
“The House (the church) That Built Me.”
Such a simple sentence but can be interpreted differently. She responded to the photo, “And it’s the dang truth. While all hell was breaking loose at home, there was the church. I took out a lot of my aggression on handbells.”
If you don’t know Beth Moore’s story, I recommend you read, Get out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance. In the book, she touches upon her past sexual abuse as a young girl and her healing journey. She found refuge in the church during the tragic events of her upbringing. Praise God for her healing journey, the church, and how God has used her to speak healing into the lives of other women.
But I read that phrase with a different perspective.
I recently had lunch with a friend, and I had to apologize to her. Several years ago she reached out to me during a very dark point in her life. I directed her situation to the leaders of a church. It was messy, and she needed more than I could offer for help. The summary of her story is that the church did not help her and I wasn’t there for her either. She is now on the road to healing, but the church deeply wounded her. I am sorry to say, that I include myself in being a contributor to her pain and resentment.
Growing up in the church, I know this type of pain all too well. My friend is a part of a group of people who read the message on that t-shirt and interpret it very differently than Beth Moore. For some of us, the church has been a source of pain, and it hasn’t been pretty. Scratch that! For some of us, it’s been downright ugly.
If I could take you down the history of the church in my own life, it would contain sordid details of hurt, abuse, adultery, hypocrisy, pride, legalism, false teaching… And that’s just me as a bystander, not the pain and stings I have felt personally from the church. And by the church, I mean the community of Christ-followers I or others were among; be it an individual church, ministry, or community.
I have seen family members and friends deeply wounded by fellow Christians. I have witnessed blatant sin not addressed in the church. I have felt let down over and over again by the church. Yet, here I am laying that all down to say I am beyond grateful for that “house” that built me.
Every sting, every wound, every misstep by leadership, each painful experience among the community of Christ-followers has brought me closer to Christ. I could have chosen to get bitter and let my heart find those dark places of resentment that Satan uses to pull people away from Christ and His followers. But somewhere along the way, I realized what God was teaching me. I let Him use every painful church experience I felt or witnessed to draw me closer to His Word, His will for my life, and (yes!) to His imperfect, sinful, mess of people He calls His church.
I found freedom in the knowledge of “The House That Built Me.” I found it by embracing my growing up in “the church” and how God has used every experience (good and bad) to continuously shape my faith, my character, my interactions with people, my view of Christ-followers, and my spiritual journey. And let me tell you there is freedom in letting go of the pain and loving God’s people despite the hurt.
Now I am not excusing bad church behavior. God hates sin, and he wants the church to rescue people out of sin. Loving people is loving them out of their sin. I am merely pointing to the fact that eventually, we have to come to terms with our personal relationship with Christ within or outside the walls of the church. That means dealing with our bitterness and forgiving.
I know that not everyone is ready to find that place of letting go of the hurt and pain that the church may have caused you. But I recommend you take the journey to get there- in your own time. God is patient! I guarantee you there’s freedom on this path.
My faith journey will continue with old and new friends, churches, and faith communities along the way. I can also list all the wonderful blessings, experiences, teachings, and people that God has brought into my life through the church community. I am still learning, still growing, and still asking forgiveness when I fail to be “the church” to others God has put in my life. I pray I will continue to grow more in the knowledge of God, follow His Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life, and let the house of God (the church) continue to shape who I am in Christ through the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s building me day by day, and I am forever grateful.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10: 23-25)