I hesitate to write what I’m about to write, for fear of misunderstanding and repercussion. Words can easily be twisted by perspective while gracefully mangled by perception. My fear lays not in church members reading this, no, I’m okay with that. My fear resides in the ongoing battle of- Will people misunderstand? Am I hurting people? Will they judge me? Christians are saved, they are not indefectable.
But that’s why I’m here right? Not to hurt people, but to face my fears, letting it all go with a sense of raw honesty. I never want my family to question what I stood for in life…
I met the love of my life at church; a marriage I never saw coming. A man who had been by my side from the very beginning. A love story made for Hollywood scriptwriters. A life of unrequited love, a friendship, and a silent comfort – He was always there. For years He held my hand and picked up the pieces of a shattered life, but I never saw Him.
For 38 years he waited, patiently aware that one day I would allow a piece of my heart to open to His prodding. I don’t remember the date, I wish I did, but I know it was a beautiful Spring day in early 2012. The day He sat next to me, fully present, and full of compassion. Holding me while I lost myself in tears salvation. Of course, He was always there, but for the first time in my life I ‘saw’ Him. I ‘felt’ Him. I ‘knew’ Him.
It was a beautiful marriage made in the place I would call home for six years, and still do. The first place I ever felt accepted for who I was, rather than what I could offer. A sanctuary from the incessant darkness life. A light cast, a full year before being catapulted into the dark recesses of circumstance. I found my heart in church. I found the love of my life there.
Serving or Seeking?
I found God, then I found distraction…
An answer-seeking journey of spirituality, eventually adapted itself to my shaky foundation. A moment of being noticed started a cycle of servitude. Not Godly servitude, but the kind we use to serve ourselves. Not for profit or gain, no, we trade our self-worth for worldly acceptance. It’s an easy trap to fall into in an environment promoting Godly goodness.
I never thought I would seek purpose and approval at church….
When I was first called to serve at church, I had no doubt that the Holy Spirit was moving. I knew I should listen. I knew exactly what I was supposed to do; God had given me two options – the product table or our children’s ministry. I chose the children’s ministry. I have an affinity for interacting with toddlers – the best years of my life were my son’s toddler years. Kids are like sponges at that time; so eager to learn. There is nothing more enjoyable than interacting with a toddler.
I tried to be mindful of my abilities and expectations, only signing up to help with the two-year old’s one service a week. As with any ‘job,’ I have a pattern – I have to prove myself, show my worth, and then I have to live up to it. That’s the problem these days – I cannot live up to it! Something so simple, quickly transformed into me leading a class of three-years old’s two services a week.
Between pre-service meetings, service, and my serving responsibilities, I was away from home for six hours every Sunday morning/afternoon. This became a problem for three reasons; the first being my body. I’ve spent five years trying to convince my brain that my body cannot tolerate it’s incessant need to perform, but I take the bait every time. My achievement seeking monkeys dangling opportunity and acceptance in my face.
A Loss of Innocence
Six months, that’s how long it took for me to implode. My body had taken a beating, a self-imposed beating of too much. Too much time, too much responsibility, and too much fun. Yep, it is absolutely impossible for me to be around children and not hurt myself. I want to hold and comfort them in their time of need. I want to run, and jump, and dance. Embracing life through the immersion of childlike faith. I can’t help myself.
Toddlers haven’t learned fear yet – think about it…
Time was the another factor. While I spent my Sundays at church, my family was sitting at home waiting. They had no problem with what I was doing, they were happy to see me happy, but I always felt I was neglecting my responsibilities. At the time, Sunday was the only day I could spend with my husband. Our time was limited while I served.
Finally, I started resenting the entire situation. I felt like I was being taken advantage of; like I was allowing people to walk all over me, for the sake of Christianity. It’s amazing what we will allow. It’s not that anyone was mean to me, quite the opposite. But there were moments, little reminders that church is as much a home to imperfection as the world is. Gossiping. Judging. Secret whisperers unaware that voices carry, and ears listen. Some placing their wants over other’s needs, all while pretending to do the work of God.
Maybe they’re unaware. Maybe they’re so caught up in proving themselves, they stopped noticing who they were serving. I can’t know, and I can’t judge. I can only tell it how I see it. That’s’ the point. What started out as an act of service for God in my life, was easily muddied by my need to fit in. Those who deny they are capable of the same, well, they can tell themselves what they need to.
The truth is, I found myself trading the sight of God for the acceptance of my church family.
I had to pull away, reset and refocus. I knew something was out-of-balance and I had to allow myself to heal. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I stayed dedicated to attending church, but it became increasingly obvious that I was far too concerned with what others were thinking of me. Did they think I was a flake? A failure? Worthless? Useless? Could they see my pain?
….. to be continued
‘For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.’ (Galatians 1:10)
Photo by Steven Wang