Tuesday, February 07, 2006

failures of the church

A couple weeks ago in church they did a skit that was really unique. A college student was sitting in a chair with a sign that said "Confessions." A skeptic walked by and scoffed and the Christian said, "No you don't understand. I want to confess to you." And the guy was like, "Say what?" And the Christian went on to talk about his personal failures in holding up his own values, the way he may have made non-believers criticize the faith due to his own hypocrisy and mistakes, and the failure of the church as a whole - the Crusades, etc.

And I related to it for my personal life in many ways, but to turn the tables, it would be nice if the church actually did this for its members rather than just performing a skit. I like much about the church I attend but the whole thing would be more powerful if it were more than a skit. I feel like my church failed me in many ways during my divorce and separation. Nobody ever said anything to me, but that is just it. Nobody said anything to me. Both pastors have seen my ex and I in counseling. One met with my husband regularly. Why didn't either of them ever call me and see how I was coping? What about the dozens of times when in church tears welled up in my eyes, or that I cried so hard during the songs that I looked like a mess.

When I laid on my carpet curled in a ball desperately crying, because I had no choice, I was so physically desolate, feeling the weight of a lead blanket of depression over me for months, what about when I found a lump in my breast and my blood pressure was up and I thought I might have cancer. Did anyone ever once even check on me to see if I was ok? There is only one woman in the whole church who knew me both before and after the divorce who I can think of who I never felt judged by - because she acknowledged the divorce and told me about a group at the church for "single again ladies." Maybe the judgment was my own projection and my own feelings of failure for most people, but I don't know - the non-acknowledgment may seem politically correct but really it's a judgment.

I would have liked to think that our church was warmer and more forgiving a place. It's one thing to say it and preach it (i.e. the skit) and it's another to take the action and go out of your way to reach out to the individuals who need love, forgiveness, grace. And that includes every person in the church. Divorce is one of the most difficult things most people ever go through. You experience a real grieving - unless you just deny its pain and lessons. I fully recovered from the depression which I consider a natural grieving - without any antidepressants or "self-medication." I healed through time, enduring friendships, knowledge of God's grace, and self-love. But you know at the same time, I forgive the church. Like me, it is imperfect. It is just a body of human believers doing the best they can to follow the Way.

I relate to these lyrics from a Casting Crowns song. Although in contrast, I would not say I pretended to be strong or ok. I openly cried in church. And yet still the pastors nor the care ministers nor most anyone said a single word to me to see how I was, and if they could pray for me or help.
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

1 comment:

Wendee said...

Wendee –
It’s amazing to have to go through something like divorce and see the reactions of people around you, the failings of what you thought should have been a real support system. For you, the church; for me, my family. It’s amazing to think that a family would worry so much about the stigma of divorce, saving face, rather than just have compassion and express direct emotion and concern. And yet, that’s what mine did. To this day, my father hasn’t mentioned a peep about my divorce, my ex, or asked if I’m okay, really okay. My mom dealt with it by first rattling off, for a good 30 minutes, all the people she knows that have gotten divorced, and that it seemed to be reasonably prevalent, so maybe there’s not as much stigma attached to it as there used to be. Feh! Stigma? Hard to deal with the idea of stigma when you’re the one going through the gut-wrenching reality of it all; and also having to realize that you’re really going to have to do it all alone. Sigh.
It’s all reinforced in me who I am, and how I’m so very different from the rest of the family and the people aroung me, and how I need to respect, feed, and nurture all that is truly ME. Doing this pretty much alone has been tough, but the thing I got out of this is that I know on the darkest of nights and bleakest of days, that I can depend on ME.

You are indeed a strong, strong woman.
Loving wendeepower to you, Holtcamp!
the other Wendee