Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Church

Shane and I have been attending church. (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?!)

It's not been consistent, and we haven't expressed any desire to make any sort of commitment, but we have been making an effort to go.

Church is something that continues to be extremely difficult for me.

Since Joshua's death, my faith has changed. My love for God has changed. My trust has changed. It's still there, but it looks NOTHING like what it used to. In some ways, it's better, in other ways, not so much.

In the early days after Joshua's death, I literally felt God's love enveloping me. It surrounded me, carried me, and gave me strength to make the decisions that no parent should have to make.

In the months following Joshua's death, my attitude towards church started to change. I had major questions of faith. I was frustrated that everything that I had learned about God no longer matched up to what I now experienced. I was angered to hear sermons about reaching the lost of the community, when my family was sitting right there, in the 4th row, screaming out for help- yet no one seemed to notice. I was torn between longing to sing lyrics of love and worship while my heart wanted to scream and curse at the very same God who allowed my baby to die.

After a few months, I couldn't take it any longer. It became too hard. It became to painful to continue on. We became the black cloud in worship on Sunday mornings. So, we stopped going. We left the church that we had been going to for years. A church that I had been on which I had been on staff. A church that had loved our family and supported us through some of the darkest days of our lives.

The absence from church was actually really good for me. I continued wrestling with my faith and after a while realized that I had to make a choice. I had to choose whether to keep this faith of mine, or give it all up and figure out how to live this life without God. I chose to keep my faith, knowing deep down in my heart that Jesus loves me enough to die for me. God's love for me runs deeper than I can ever understand. I knew that His grace covered me when I truly asked for forgiveness for my ugliness and anger.

Even with the decision to remain faithful to God, my heart didn't feel right in church. It felt very superficial, lonely, and like faith was supposed to fit in a nice neat little box. Mine, however, does not (and probably never will, ever again.)

However, after a year of being out of church, Shane and I decided to give a couple churches a try. One of the churches we attended, we both felt extremely comfortable. The pastor is a very kind hearted and gentle person who welcomed us with open arms. The congregation is big enough to get lost, but small enough to know a few people. The kids loved the children's programs and even had a few friends that they knew. The style of worship is just our style- modern and all about Jesus.

But, I still struggle. When Sunday  morning comes along, I have no desire to go to church. Shane has to drag me, sometimes kicking and screaming. I sit through worship, surrounded by strangers and bawl my eyes out with every song that we sing. I listen to the sermons and beg for God to love me and forgive me for my awful ways. I beg Him to take my burden and carry me through my pain. I leave every. single. Sunday. exhausted, but uplifted- my Hope renewed, knowing that the trials of this life are temporary and that God continues to love me despite my struggles. I feel connected to God through my tears, knowing that He hears the cries of my heart and understands my pain.

We are meeting with the pastor of this church some time this week. He knows our story. He knows our struggles. He knows the questions of faith that I have dealt with. But he doesn't care. He welcomes us and loves us and is willing to walk along side us to help us heal.

Isn't that what church is, after all? Walking along side the sick and hurting. Caring for the less than desirable (of which, I think I have become.) Encouraging and helping foster a relationship with a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us.

Small steps, my friends. Small steps.




6 comments:

Ashley said...

You just explained my feelings about faith and church to a "T". I've been more involved in church since I lost my son, but it's because I've been searching for answers, which obviously aren't going to be answered. I question God's existence, but at the same time, I have to believe he's real and that I WILL see my son again.

(((HUGS)))

leah said...

Jill, I'm so excited for yet another new chapter in life for you. Life for you and in you is forever changed, the good and the bad. I hope thru this pastor and God's love that you can get answers to questions/feelings. I miss you. Life is too busy. We need to schedule a time to get together! Tons of love and hugs to you, Shane and the little ones!

Beth said...

I am glad you have found a church that is a safe place for you to heal. Recently, one of my friend's mom moved in with her. I have been getting to know Betty and have learned some things about her that I would like to share with you, hopefully to encourage you. Several years ago she divorced her husband, who is a pastor. Her reasons are godly and I will leave it at that. However, she still went through a mourning process when she went to church (not the one he pastored). She told me that for the first six months straight after her divorce she balled her eyes out at church. EVERY Sunday she would sit in the pew and cry through the whole worship set and sometimes the sermon. She felt awkward at doing this but refused to stay away from church because she knew she had to persevere in her faith. The one thing that stuck with me the most is when she told me "it took a long time and a lot of tears but God healed my heart and I eventually cried less and less until it stopped."
My point, persevere, the healing is still happening (as you know), there will be a day when you won't cry at church. When? Only God knows. I look forward to hearing (or reading) about that day in the future. I know that if you stick to it, that day will come. Blessings.

Auntie M said...

Honey...I used to be ashamed of my tears, til I realized they were a ministry both to me and to Christ. Remember when Mary of Bethany came and ministered to Jesus annointing him with the expensive oils and her tears? And how Jesus praised her for that...because she was really the only one who was in-tune with his heart at that time?
That being said, it's MORE that ok to weep during worship: tears are a form of worship in addition to be a release and a form of healing. You just let them go and let the worship of others around the throne comfort you and let Jesus reach down and comfort you. One of the things I love best about our God is that he is "a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief" (Is 53:3).
I am so grateful for Books in the Bible like Isaiah and Psalms and Lamentations~they are full of mourning and grief: showing us a God who understands our deepest emotions.
I don't know about you, but for some reason I am oddly comforted by quotes I run across...maybe because it's nice to find others who understand how I feel. So here are 3 of my favorite ones on tears.
Love you, Jill. I think you are very brave!!!!
XOXO~Mary

“The Bible was written in tears and to tears it yields its best treasures.” ~ A.W. Tozer

“Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.” ~ Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

“The closet communion with God comes, I believe, through the sacrament of tears. Just as grapes are crushed to make wine, and grain to make bread, so the elements of this sacrament come from the crushing experiences of life.” ~ Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul

Lisa said...

I have often heard of churches of all denominations be referred to as hospitals of the soul. While God loves us at our best, he loves us even more when we are lost and broken.

Danielle said...

I walked away from church 9 years ago, and it was the best decision I ever made. I think most of us go out of fear and guilt. I think most of us even believe in God out of fear and guilt. Why don't you try other denominations of churches? One of them might be just what you need

 
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