Church, humility and grace

My love for the church runs rivers deep. Sunday has long been my favorite day of the week.

But then this year happened. This year was the year I got sick. I had a schizophrenic episode for eight months before I finally got diagnosed.

And the church failed me.

At my absolute worst, I was an obsessive emailer who wrestled through bouts of paranoia and shame.

I didn’t walk away from the church. They kicked me out.

I didn’t threaten anyone. I wasn’t physically abusive. I was just scared. And suicidal.

At my absolute worst, I was an obsessive emailer who wrestled through bouts of paranoia and shame.

When I finally did get help, the chaplin summed it up for me: They gave up on you.

I’m grateful every day for God guiding me to the hospital. I’m grateful for good doctors and kind nurses. I’m grateful for medication that works and the friends that didn’t walk away.

But I’ll never forget those pastors. For the rest of my life, I’ll carry those pastors and what they did to me.

A popular story in the bible is the story of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know the story, basically a Jewish man gets beaten up and left to die along the road. Men of status, from his own community, see this man dying and ignore him. Finally, a Samaritan sees this man and gets him the help he needs. Which is mind-blowing because Samaritans and Jews were enemies.

Pastors use this story to illustrate an important point: It is our responsibility to care for our neighbors.  

But what if the problem is not that the person is beaten up or struggling financially? What if the problem is an illness? How do we respond to a mental health crisis?

Do we know how to care for the neighbor that is clearly struggling with a mental illness? Do we know what resources are available?

The pastors responded in fear. They chose in that fear to remove me from the church. There were a multitude of other actions they could have done, actions that would have conveyed Christ-like love. But they didn’t. They chose fear.

I credit one person for saving my life. I would not be here if he had not seen me hurting and interceded. A gay man who doesn’t have a relationship with Christ saved me from taking my own life. I will be forever grateful to him.Where others walked away and even shamed me for what I was experiencing, he walked alongside me.

That might rub people the wrong way but that’s  what happened. Religion and your position in the church does not make you holy. Faith does. And faith, without works, is dead.

Humility is not about thinking less of yourself but in taking ownership of your identity in Christ. Acknowledging my worth as a daughter of God brings me back every time I experience despair over what happened in that church. And each time I’m brought to that understanding of humility, I extend grace to those pastors a little more.

I found a new church to attend after months of having nowhere to turn and wrestling through months of isolation. I was sharing this part of my story with a new friend recently when I was asked why I would come back to church after such a heavy rejection.

I explained quite simply that to punish the global church over the actions of the local church is unfair. The church is the bride of Christ, beautiful and effective when healthy. I geniunely believe that God allows bad things to happen in our lives for His glory and our redemption. If we all walked away from the church body when things go badly, the church won’t be changed. It won’t grow without pruning sin. Sometimes I think God allowed me to experience excommunication while I was in a mental health crisis because He knew it wouldn’t break me. He knew how deep my love for the church runs.

If you love Christ, love His bride well. 

Don’t walk away.

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