gifts from the wars

Posted: November 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

I slid into the back pew of the church.  it was a church I had been hearing about for years from a friend, but I had never been there before.  But the previous week, after months of agonizing and complaining and praying and often BEGGING God to release me, I had left my church. 

This turn of events was unexpected to me.  I had watched person after person grow close to the pastor – become an “inside” person of favor – only to end up leaving.  I considered these people betrayers.  Imagine my surprise, then, when my turn came:  I became one of those inside people of favor.  I encountered things I never expected to encounter.  And eventually, like the others before me…I left.

That’s what had landed me in the back row of this church.  I wasn’t ready to give up on church in general.  I was just done in that particular place.  My emotions were raw and I felt like the the walking wounded, quietly shuffling in at the last possible moment.  I wanted to be invisible.  I didn’t want to meet people or make friendships.  Most of all, I didn’t want to be invited to serve, most especially in any sort of leadership position.  I just wanted a place to heal quietly and unnoticed.  My friend had been counting off, week by week, the number of people who were coming to Christ by public profession.  It seemed like a safe place to land. 

This church let me take my time and heal.  People were friendly, but not pushy.  The pastor went out of his way to say that people should not be pushed into service by the perceived need – that the Lord could call them in His time.  After a year or so of staying as invisible as I could manage, I plugged in and started helping.  Eventually, I had a number of roles.  This church was home, and that old, bad stuff that had happened at the last place was an anomaly. 

Only it wasn’t.  Eventually, something hard happened at that church, too.  There was a disagreement that pitted friend against friend, family against family.  It was painful.  I didn’t leave over it this time.  I had learned, since leaving the last place, some of what I had done wrong in the way I had left.  I wouldn’t do that again. 

I stayed pretty bitter about church in general, though, for a long time.  It seemed to be true everywhere:  you stay somewhere long enough, you see the ugly underbelly.  Bad stuff happens.  People get hurt.  It shouldn’t be like that!  Not in church!  Should it?

Living at JPUSA did an amazing healing work in me about what I call “the wars.”  This morning I thought of all of that as I worshiped with my JPUSA family.  The visiting pastor shared about some of his own “wars,” including taking over at a church where the pastor had sexually abused parishioners…gaining the confidence of many, but eventually being stabbed by one of them…and even after all of that, finding out someone had been embezzling from the church all throughout the “healing” time.  A social worker had told him, on the day he was stabbed, that he probably wouldn’t believe this but,  “These things will make your life.” 

It’s really true.

I thought of my own “wars.”  Of how much shallower my relationship with God and with my fellow church family was BEFORE all the pain.  Of how I grew in patience, compassion, and stamina through the series of discouraging passages.  I realized that if I had never been through the wars, church would still be a separate thing from everyday life for me…just a thing I did on Sundays.  The pain of the wars pushed me to new places of intimacy with and reliance upon God.  They taught me how to wait on Him.  How to listen to Him.  How to stand, when all I wanted to do was run. 

These things will make your life.  God’s ways are not our ways, that’s for sure.  Do I think He ORCHESTRATES all of these pains and miseries?  Probably not.  Do I think He finds a way to work them for our good…to bring beauty from ashes?  Absolutely.

I would never have wished for the wars.  But I wouldn’t be who I am – some of the very GOOD things, certainly better than I was things – that I am today. 

  1. laurie says:

    Ty for so much truth here. I relate to the years of bitterness, leaving the church, figuring out that broken people are the church and to let the Lord heal me.

    It is a process too. That trusting people again – I don’t trust people. I trust Jesus. I can’t look at people and what they do. That is a daily decision. He’s got this.

    People are going to do what they do.

    The Gospel Changes Everything and I pray it keeps changing me……a broken, messed up like a soup sandwich follower of Christ.


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