If you have read by blog on a regular basis, you have read my Divorce in the Church series. As my readers, may or may not know, the blog was very personal to me. It was precisely what was going on in my own home church when I wrote it.
Unfortunately, one of the things that I mentioned in that post that might happen, has happened. I am referring to the following excerpt.
6. The Casualties: These are number 1-5’s, but number 1’s will think they won if they get their way, as will number 2’s. Number 3’s will continue to go along and the 4’s and or 5’s may or may not be the same. Many will become the “walking wounded” and will have to leave to just survive. They will be permanently damaged by the whole process and may not be able to commit to another relationship for years to come. No matter who wins, these people will find themselves losers.
My husband and I have found ourselves casualties. Honestly, it was something I sort of expected, but didn’t really think, down deep, would happen to us. I knew there would be some upset, some grieving of what we had lost, but I also knew that God was on his throne and we would be able to embrace what we had and move on. After all, we love and care for the church we have called home and the family that has surrounded us in good and bad times. We have had no intention of walking away from that.
To our chagrin, it has not been as easy as that.
So for those not intimately involved with this struggle with us, I hope that our journey will help others. We pray that you will be able to glean something from this post that relates to your life. Because, as I am wont to say, “Its going to get personal, and going to start raining some cold hard facts.”
This morning as I rose, I felt, as I have most Sundays since this all happened, a sense of emptiness. I have been deluding myself the past few months that it was related to the myriad of life struggles I have been facing, not about this. I have gone through cancer, surgery, my Dad being found nearly dead, loss of a pet, changes in work, loss of another relative. I had convinced myself that once these things had resolved, I would be able to get back into my congregation and be a participating and active member. This morning, I realized, and starkly as tears streamed down my face, that none of these things listed above were the source of my intense sorrow. It was the grief I felt about the “divorce.” I likened it to the almost callous way most people deal with death and loss in our society. The well-meaning friend who glibly asks a grieving mother who has lost a child, “Will you have another?” Or the oh so kind relative when you are upset about the loss of a pet, “When are you going to get another cat or dog?” Or when you lose a spouse, “When are you going to date again?”
My husband and I have gone through something traumatic. We feel a loss, we feel grief. We have gone along with our society and have tried to dive back in as if nothing has happened. But something has happened. Its like a limb has been detached and we are still feeling its presence. To the non-christian or the non-congregational Christian, this may seem really dramatic and over sensitive. To the devout it may seem like straight up sin. For we are called not to forsake meeting with the brethren. So on top of grieving, we are feeling like sinners and drama queens. Nice.
Nothing I am writing here is meant to hurt and shame anyone involved in this situation. I write this blog, to help others, but I mainly write it as a way to deal with deep issues. I know its a very public way to deal with it, but I have never been accused of not saying what I think.
Do we feel any less close to those still there? Not at all. If anything we feel closer in many ways. But what those that remain need to understand is that we just are not able to move past everything. Not yet. But what we are now asking for is the grace that was given to many. The ability to grieve, reorient ourselves and tap into God’s goodness. This may be in a private setting for now. My husband, specifically, feels a great deal of personal responsibility for some of the outcome of the “divorce.” He was intimately involved with it and feels somewhat sullied by the whole experience.
So where does a Christian go from here? What happens when you are involved in the following: Either a break in a church congregation, a dismissing of a pastor, or simply a disagreement between members that has drawn in those around them.
1. God hasn’t abandoned you.
The Lord didn’t want this to happen anymore than you did, but He also isn’t going to leave you in your hour of need. The Lord can take the brokenness of anything and make it beautiful. Even if you feel like a cracked vase, God can glue it back together with no cracks.
2. God still loves you, and the other person too.
You may still hold a lot of residual anger over what has happened and much directed at the person or persons you deem responsible. But God still loves you and love the person you are angry at too. Just as a mother still loves a child that is throwing a tantrum, God is waiting for you to stop kicking and screaming in the grocery aisle floor of life and realize his decisions are best.
3. Time away is ok.
This one may get some serious backlash from the faithful. For it is written in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
we are specifically told not to forsake the assembly. There is one word though in that passage. Habit. As is the habit of some. To me, missing church isn’t a habit. On the contrary, I feel an upset in my soul when I cannot gather with people. Are you sick sometimes, yes. Are you unable to come due to emergencies, yes. But to repair your soul and heart, I believe that God allows us time to heal ourselves. If you find that you are not attending worship because you want to sleep in, hang out with friends, then you have a problem.
4. Don’t forsake time with the Lord.
As you heal, don’t stop doing the things you did before. Read your Bible, pray, do your devotions. Personally, I listen to Christian radio. It helps me stay on track, the sermons and teaching. On Sundays, I make sure to spend quiet devotion time, then I usually watch Christian TV. I personally like Dr. Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, James MacDonald and John MacArthur. These are not substitutes for worshipping the Lord in a church, but they will help you as you heal and their doctrine is sound.
5. Don’t over do it.
If people who still love you wish to reach out to you and talk to you about what is going on, allow them. It may be painful at first, but healing isn’t always roses and sunshine. Allow positive interactions with people who care about you. Don’t allow judgmental people who want to shame you into doing things you aren’t ready for, however. But if a Christian brother or sister wants to admonish your behavior in love, don’t necessarily close the door to it. They may be able to see more clearly what is happening to you than you might. It also may be a sign that your grief may have turned to indolence or sin.
I’m no expert at any of this. Sometimes the best way to deal with grief is to be quiet and alone with your savior. He is the only person that knows what you need, including yourself.
He will let you know when it’s time to rejoin the congregation. He will also let you know if the divorce needs to be final, and you need to seek another home. But that is for another time and another post.