(Quick disclaimer: This is longer today and a bit heavier. When you read this, please remember there is more to the story yet to come and not all churches look like the one described here. I was reluctant to share some of this, for fear it would only affirm what some people think about church already. But I assure you, there are healthy, loving churches. Find one!)
But, what if you fell and were severely injured? What if everyone with you had the same "event" and you were left dazed, wounded and incapable of helping yourself, let alone, others? In a car crash, this can happen. The injured need the aid of bystanders just to get to safety. They need a medical team to bind up their wounds. They'd depend on others to help them while they regained their strength. Eventually, though, the occupants of the crash would heal, gain strength and move on with the daily grind of life, even though their bodies may show the scars of the "event" for a lifetime.
We had an "event" in our family that likens itself to a "spiritual car crash". My dad was a pastor in Hermiston for almost 2 years. There were so many sweet people there and the highs were awesome! We saw God do some amazing things in people's lives and have some very precious memories there. But in this church, there was a secret undercurrent that had severely wounded several pastors before us. The pastor that was there just before us ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Now, it was dad's turn and it didn't take long before the "crash" began to happen.
I remember hearing my parents talk late at night (I'm sure they thought I was sleeping...sorry mom!) and they both shed tears as they questioned whether or not we were suppose to have ever moved there. How could this be God's will? How were we suppose to live this life if it wasn't about seeking the Lord, but pacifying the needs of a few? We had also never been so poor. But that was not the full source of our affliction. It came in the form of two (the ONLY two) deacons of the church. It seemed the puppet shows we'd put on became a picture of the strings my dad was told to move to. He never measured up in their eyes. There was criticism for bringing the "low-lifes" into our church..."how is that going to help bring more offering in?" Dad saw them as people who needed Jesus. There was criticism if dad preached past noon. Actually, one of the deacons would start pacing the back of the church and point to his watch. There was criticism that mom didn't host more people in our home for dinner. What no one knew is there was hardly food enough for us some days. Often, Dad, Mom and I ate one meal a day. Had it not been for government school lunches my siblings would have felt this hunger, too. The high school didn't have a cafeteria so we had open campus. They say, necessity is the mother of invention. So, out of hunger, I started giving piano lessons to buy my lunches. It still makes me sad when I look back at those pictures because we were so thin. One lady asked my mom what "diet" she was using because she saw that it was really dropping off pounds.
The tragedy in this situation was that there was an invisible war being waged. It was a spiritual one! I can not see the heart and motives of a person anymore than you can see mine. So the WHY behind this can not be answered easily. To see what someone is made of, we can tell a lot by the fruit of their lives. There was a vein of distortion in the leadership and it was hindering to the Body. Our family was just the next in a line of casualties.
When the crash hit, my dad was so deeply wounded he was rendered helpless for a time. My dad had always been strong and confident. But he was a man crushed under the blow of disappointment and pain. He had wanted to be a vessel used by God to tell people about Jesus through full-time ministry and walked away broken and confused. He took us home...to Montana. This was the summer before my Senior year.
Back to my initial question about falling down... what do you do when you fall, get injured severely and it is suppose to remain a secret? You swallow hard, learn not to cry and get back to being busy for Jesus (a.k.a. busy at church). That's what we did. Looked around, hoped no one really saw we'd fallen down, wipe off the dust and throw some new clothes over top the ripped ones and keep walking. I don't recommend this, by the way. It leads to bitterness and a diseased heart. Not to give away the ending, but I know the Great Physician and he eventually did surgery to remove my bitterness and repair the wound in order for healing to begin!
This chapter of my story was difficult though. I grew more confused about what God wanted from me? Did I even need to go to church? I didn't like what had happened behind church doors. Couldn't I just toss out church-life and love God? A root of bitterness sprang up towards anything "church", yet I found that the next phase of life was more busy "for the Lord" and at times, more "fake" than anything I'd previously experienced. I wanted genuine. A genuine God, a genuine faith, a genuine family and genuine friends.