The church I have begun attending encourages what they call “Try 5,” which means to try 5 weeks of the church (so 5 Sundays) to see if it is for you. Well, today was my 5th week, and I’ve decided to make it “my church”. It was also the 4th week of the series God for the Rest of Us, and the message, like the past 3 weeks, resonated with me. The topic was those burnt by the church. Have you walked away from a church because you felt you were being judged? Did you walk in feeling broken and leave feeling even more so? Were you told you couldn’t share your story to seek guidance?
This is for you.
. . . . . .
I wasn’t burned by my previous church necessarily, but something went wrong along the way that I began to feel unworthy. My husband and I were continually asked about when we would be having children, because others who had been married for a similar length of time already had at least one child. (We were in no place to have children. When we expressed this, people seemed disappointed, and I could see some sort of judgement in their eyes.) When I expressed anxiety or depressive symptoms regarding anything, even before all this happened, I was continually given the verse “be anxious for nothing.” (While that can be a peace-inspiring verse, it felt like I was being dismissed.) When things did begin to happen, I sought advice and the advice felt judgmental; no one offered up their story to establish their credibility with me (which, for me, is huge), and when stories did seem to begin being shared, it was “we shouldn’t focus on our past.” When more things happened, I was flat out told to give up, and it didn’t feel like it came from God; it felt like it came from that individual. No hope was offered, and nor was prayer.
I became disoriented and lost. I had trusted these people, and now I felt they were abandoning me in my time of need, in the time I most needed to hear and feel God.
. . . . . .
The message today focused on Matthew 7:7-12:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
What came out of this passage was the message of the 3 ways the church should respond to those who are asking, seeking, and knocking.
The first thing is that anyone who wants to find Jesus should be able to. Simple as that. Individuals or church-specific rules should not get in the way of allowing and helping others to find Jesus.
The second thing is the church should not throw stones. Again, simple. We are all broken in some way, and no one person’s brokenness is better or worse than another’s.
The last thing is the golden rule: the church should do to others what you would have them do to you.
While my pastor spoke strictly from the perspective of this church and how our church, I felt it was a good message to take to heart for anyone in the church—anyone who is a follower of Christ.
. . . . . .
The first two verses of this passage tell us if we ask, if we seek, if we knock, we will receive, we will find, the door will be opened. Reading that, my initial thought it great! I’m asking for this thing, it’ll happen. Of course if I am asking, I desire that. Like now. I desire reconciliation above anything else, and I know God does not wish the destruction of marriage.
Here’s the thing, though, that keeps reverberating in my head: ask in faith, in honesty, to seek Him.
Am I asking, praying, having faith that God is a good God and is capable? Am I being honest in my prayer? Am I truly trying to seek Him and not simply satisfy my flesh?
The truth is, I’m not 100% certain. Not because I don’t have faith, but because I have been burned.
Because people have told me I’m too far gone. Because no one else offered the encouragement I needed. Because no one showed me compassion. Because I felt like I was just a problem to be solved. Because no one prayed with me to help me find the answers. Because I was left to do it all on my own.
And that’s what this message came down to for me: when you’re left to do it on your own.
. . . . . .
Have you been burned by a church? By people? Do you have a similar story to share?
Have you questioned your worth?
Have you loved God but hated Christians for these very reasons?
Unfortunately, people get in the way of a lot of things, and church and faith are no different.
. . . . . .
I’m glad I have found this church. I am glad I have been attending the small groups. The people seem open and honest. They seem willing to see and understand brokenness. They seem truly willing to pray with you and for you. They focus on their community, just eager to show love and compassion in any way possible. They just want the community to know there are people who care.
The last time, I became involved in church very quickly. This time, I’m going to take it slow. But I can feel God moving (I think), and I feel like something is about to happen. I can feel the excitement building for church things and these people.
I just hope I don’t get burned again.