Alone

too many questions

Graphic by David Hayward, The Naked Pastor

From your earliest recollection you remember the church.

You remember the preacher, the piano player, the deacons, and your Sunday School teacher.

You remember the youth group and all the fun activities.

You remember getting saved and baptized.

You remember being in church every time the doors were open.

You remember everything in your life revolving around the church.

You remember praying and reading your Bible.

You remember the missionaries and the stories they told about heathens in faraway lands.

You remember revival meetings and getting right with God.

You remember…

Most of all, you remember the people.

You thought to yourself, my church family loves me almost as much as God does.

You remember hearing sermons about God’s love and the love Christians have for one another.

Church family, like blood family, loves you no matter what.

But then IT happened.

You know, IT.

You got older. You grew up. With adult eyes you began to see the church, God, Jesus, and the Bible differently.

You had questions, questions no one had an answer for.

Perhaps you began to see that your church family wasn’t perfect.

Perhaps the things that Mom and Dad whispered about in the bedroom became known to you.

Perhaps you found out that things were not as they seemed.

Uncertainty and doubt crept in.

Perhaps you decided to try the world for a while. Lots of church kids do, you told yourself.

Perhaps you came to the place where you no longer believed what you had believed your entire life.

And so you left.

You had an IT moment, that moment in time when things change forever.

You thought, surely Mom and Dad will still love me.

You thought, surely Sissy and Bubby and Granny will still love me.

And above all, you thought your church family would love you no matter what.

But, they didn’t.

For all their talk of love, their love was conditioned on being one of them, believing the right things, and living a certain way.

Once you left, the love stopped, and in its place came judgment and condemnation.

They are praying for you.

They plead with you to return to Jesus and the church.

They question whether you ever really knew Jesus as your savior.

They say they still love you, but deep down you know they don’t.

You know their love for you requires you to be like them.

And you can’t be like them any more…

Such loss.

The church is still where it’s always been.

The same families are there, loving Jesus and speaking of their great love for others.

But you are forgotten.

A sheep gone astray.

Every once in a while someone asks your Mom and Dad how you are doing.

They sigh and perhaps tears well up in their eyes…

Oh how they wish you would come home.

To be a family sitting together in the church again.

You can’t go back.

You no longer believe.

All that you really want now is their love and respect.

You want them to love you just-as-you-are.

Can they do this?

Will they do this?

Or is Jesus more important than you?

Does the church come first?

Is chapter and verse more important than flesh and blood?

You want to be told that they still love you.

You want to be held and told it is going to be all right.

But here you sit tonight…

Alone…

Originally written in 2010, slightly edited and corrected

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7 Comments

  1. Becky Wiren

    Poignant. I felt a little choked up.

    Reply
  2. Brian

    Is chapter and verse more important than flesh and blood?

    Yes, of course it is! (Was that rhetorical? Sometimes I miss things!) Chapter and verse is not only more important, it removes natural love and replaces it with Denial. Would you not trust God as is required and sacrifice your own child if He called on you? Or is all that stuff just talk to prove that you really really need to be on the team! As for me, I say, like Rodney Dangerfield, Take my wife, for instance, take my wife. No, seriously, take my wife. 😉
    To be sure, I am a simple fellow. I love my children and my wife. I would not ever give them up to a God or a government. It is a simple thing for this simple man: You want me to prove my love by sacrificing those dearest to my heart? Fuck you, and your church. Such great wisdom as that is utter nonsense to me, complete and utter nonsense.

    Reply
    1. Eva

      I was told that my church family and all my fellow Christians should be more important to me than any unbelievers, even if those unbelievers were members of my family; even if they were my own children. I was already teetering on the edge, but that was the push I needed. I walked out that day and never went back.

      Reply
  3. Michael

    When I first backslid…actually left the faith (in the mid 80s) my family’s Pentecostal church and all the people that I grew up with and in their presence, thought it was a phase. They would constantly witness to me “in love” and tell me that I had to come back to the Lord. My family was on my ass about it. My 48 year old sister crying to me…concerned that when I die, she won’t see me. My mom thinking I’m gonna be in hell. Now…things aren’t that bad. Parents leave me alone about it (except my mom has to say something’s like…”I know you don’t believe this but god told me…” or ” you should really talk to god about that”). My siblings know not to debate me about the particulars because they know I’d bury them. I think they all cringe at Christmas dinner when grace is gonna be said. The only one who sits close to me is my daughter. The others fear lightning or something (that was a joke).

    Reply
    1. Brian

      It really is amazing how many people have been struck and lived…. Now, I am not recommending a strike for you, Michael, because I have not researched how many survivors of the Penetecostal church who have been struck and benefitted by it, as opposed to begging for readmission at church. Anyway, I shall research it further if you like but in the meantime know that I sit with you too at Christmas dinner, only I am with the Baptists if not among other, more reasonable folk. (I chuckled about your poor sister crying over you: My older brother did the same for me, only at the time I was not only leaving the church but shacking up with a man! Lordy, Lordy…. we give believers such a load to pray about!

      Reply
  4. Troy

    I wonder what would happen…if a former believer stopped in at his old church from time to time. Inquiries like, oh he’s back! Met with, Nah, I don’t actually believe it, but I like and miss you guys.
    I suppose the akwardness one would feel doing that is mirrored by the church members and that is why even though it would seem a mandate of the Bible (when has that had any effect on someone’s behavior anyway?) they don’t want anything to do with you.

    Reply
  5. Steve

    Story of my life

    Reply

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