Sunday, July 21, 2013

A confession

I went to a new church today after a almost a year of taking a break from the church I’d belonged to. The break had been necessitated by my becoming involved with said church’s activities. I had joined up with the youth and music ministries in good faith, thinking that I could really help and make a difference, but ended up three years later, angry and embittered because of being ignored despite the fact that the current methods being employed helped absolutely no one.

The experiences brought along by my involvement exhausted me emotionally and spiritually to the point where I withdrew from church entirely. I didn’t feel like being friendly and civil to anyone in church. I didn’t feel like doing anything for anyone, since no one there appreciated it anyway. No. Correction. No one even wanted me to do it.

So I shook the proverbial dust from my ankles and walked away.

But the damage had been done. Because although I didn’t know at the time, the experience did much more than just tire me out. It planted a seed of bitterness. Or maybe poured water and fertilizer onto it so that the bitterness could once again take root in my life and infect every aspect of it. The big thing is, though, that I'd allowed this to happen. In fact, I didn't even see it happen. 

The only reason why I do now is that I went to the new church and spoke to the pastor there. He told me that once there’s bitterness in my heart, it’ll deliver fruit according to the tree that’s there. So anger, resentment, impatience, frustration with my life and so on will all be there. They’re bringing my life to a standstill. Which actually makes things even worse. Because nothing adds to my frustration, impatience etc like not moving forward in my life.

It stops now. I’m going to address this bitterness with prayer. I’ve forgiven the people who’ve embittered me, but I know I’ll need to do it again and again and again. For as long and as often as it needs to be done until this anger and resentment I have is rooted out of my heart and get replaced by something healing.

I know it won’t be easy, because it’s been a fall back position to me for so long. But I have to start. And by the grace of God, I know I’ll succeed with His help. 

Do you have bitterness rooted in your heart? Do you want to get rid of it?


Andrew Leon said...

Oh, one day, I will talk all about my church experiences.

Julie Luek said...

My husband was a senior pastor at two different churches over the last 25 years. He just recently moved into a new non-church related career. People are incredibly human-- which means, Christian or not, they make bad judgment calls, are unkind sometimes, and do incredibly careless and selfish things. I also know that church folks can be the first to offer you money when finances are tough or cook a meal when there's illness or death. Ah-- a mixed pot we humanity are.

Over the years of his pastoring, it was so easy to get wounded, when someone left in a huff because something didn't happen the way they thought it should, or they were offended by my husband's perceived lack of response or when they didn't like a particular decision he made. While there, they wanted to be part of the family, but how easily they "divorced" their family when wounded.

It's tempting to throw it all away in disillusionment, except when I look in the mirror and am too aware of my own humanity, faults, foibles. Then, I grow more compassionate with others and realize, that even with our faith, we are humans stumbling our way through life, faith, friends-- sometimes we do it well; sometimes we don't. I'm no less guilty than anyone I ever judged.

There are still people I wouldn't say I have a relationship with, but I know God has them in his capable hands, which means I get to let go and continue to love on my church family. I also realize church is about what I give to God and where I focus, not about what is coming back to me. Those two perspectives have helped me to remember why I go each Sunday, even in the midst of the hurt feelings sometimes.

All the best to you-- I know, know, know how tough it can be.

Margo Kelly said...

Great thing to realize and to change, but sometimes the journey through change can be tough. Good for you for taking on the task, because you deserve happiness. :)

Mike Keyton said...

I am bitter over some things. Who isn't? But things die without water or thought.

Wendy Ewurum said...

I recently started at a new church three years of staying out of it because of a female pastor I looked up to abused me emotionally in such a bad way that my faith was severely affected. I started a new church 4 months ago and already the leader has done something questionable but I decided that this time I am making it about God.
So I said to Him: This time I am going to have no expectations of anyone, good or bad. If only whatever I do pleases him. If anyone should benefit, bonus, but I do not expect ever again to trust, expect or have faith in people in the church. Because when they betray those, it is my relationship with my God that suffers, they move on.

Wendy Ewurum said...

Oh, Hi Misha

Melody said...

I've experienced something extremely similar. I'm still kind-of "on break". It has caused me to think about church completely differently. I don't think I am bitter anymore - I don't think the people meant to hurt me...and I did eventually confront them about it, took responsibility for any part I may have played personally in the misunderstanding (or whatever it was), and we parted peacefully. It is possible to move beyond the bitterness.