O Lord, You have heard the desire and the longing of the humble and oppressed; You will prepare and strengthen and direct their hearts, You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man, who is of the earth, may not terrify them any more.
Psalm 10:17-18 AMP
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.
Proverbs 29:25 NLT
“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 NLT
Yesterday, I went to church alone again.
My husband had to work, and I didn’t think I could bear another moment in the house staring at the walls again, especially on Father’s Day. I feared I’d get lost in my thoughts and spend another day numbing myself in front of the TV. There’s only so much of that I can do of that before I feel like my life is passing me by.
But there were moments when church was exceedingly uncomfortable, especially when the time came during the service when the pastor encouraged everyone to greet someone around them.
I don’t know what it is about a lone woman sitting in church on Sunday on a row all by herself, but it’s like people are afraid to cross the aisle and talk to me. I’m almost tempted to look at myself, and see if I have a sign on that says stay away!
The lady in front of me, however had spoken to me earlier before the service. She was alone, too. She said her boyfriend liked another church, so they divided their Sundays between two churches. She was very friendly, so it made it so much better. One person really can make a big difference.
My tendency is to get irritated that others don’t speak to someone new at church. I am tempted to be judgy. But then I cause myself to remember those times when I was a member and a part of the ministry of a local church, and how many times I let a visitor pass me by without speaking. Usually, it was because I was afraid.
What are we so afraid of when we meet a stranger, especially at church; the one place that is supposed to be where loving our neighbors as ourselves is supposed to be manifested? Why does Sunday morning feel like the loneliest hour for so many?
I cannot speak for everyone else, but I can speak about the things the Lord is showing me about my own heart.
Others have hurt me – badly.
And honestly man scares the hell out of me.
But God knows and understands this fear, and the great pain it comes from.
In Psalm 10:18 He says, You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed so that man, who is of the earth, may not terrify them any more.
God has seen and heard all that our family has experienced. He knows what trauma has done to our brain. He promises to do justice, to make all the wrongs right, so that we will see that we do not have anything to fear ever again.
He knows what you have been through, too.
Steve Brown likes to say that Christians are like porcupines huddled together in a storm, and it’s impossible not to get hurt when we are together. But then he says if we hang around, that we will get loved. He also says that 90% of the people in church aren’t out to intentionally hurt you, and that there’s usually only 10% you need to steer clear of.
Steve has been around a long time, and knows more Christians than I’ll ever meet. He has much more experience with people than I do, but at times I question his wisdom on this subject, because when my fear is speaking 90% of the people in church seem dangerous, and maybe 10% are ok.
Because that’s what it feels like when you’ve lost your whole church.
Is it any wonder why God puts such an emphasis on reconciliation?
But reconciliation cannot come unless the truth is heard, conversations are had, and forgiveness takes place. Even then it’s incredibly hard, because the trust that was broken has to be rebuilt.
And the whole truth was never told to my former church about what happened to me. My elders edited my letter to the church, lied and then apologized for doing so, but never made any attempt to correct what they’d done. It was ok for them to expose my sin to the church, but not ok for them to admit their own. It was impossible under those circumstances for reconciliation to come.
It is easy for me to feel like the whole church was against me, because so few actually reached out. Also, our family didn’t give them much of a chance, because we moved away three months after it happened.
But the truth is, others in the church didn’t intentionally hurt me, only those men in leadership who thought lying would protect the church. Their minds did not want to accept the truth that their former pastor was a predator. They didn’t want the church to hear that either. It was much easier to allow people to assume it was an affair, because that was easier to comprehend and control.
Can I really be so merciless towards those leaders? I didn’t want to believe my former pastor was a predator either. It took me ten years to accept it. It seems to me that we were all deceived. And the truth was, the former pastor was the most deceived one.
We all shared a common enemy – the biggest liar of all, the master deciver, and the one who sought to divide and destroy us all. He doesn’t want God’s love revealed to the world. He doesn’t want truth to be told.
But God is greater than he.
And He is working behind the scenes to bring good out of every thing that evil does.
So I will look to Him to right all the wrongs, to help me with my fear, and to direct our family to those who He wants in our lives.
I will attempt to move forward and forgive again and again as the painful reminders come. I’ll try to remember that we are all in a process, and that very few of us learn the easy way.
I will look to Him even when I question every belief I’ve ever had about anything and plead with Him to help my unbelief.
I cannot do any of this on my own. I need Him every moment like the air I breath.
Embracing the truth is difficult. A lie is often easier to swallow. Only when it has turned bitter in our stomach and is coming up through our nostrils do some of us find the courage to finally tell the truth.
I abhor the years that I lived a lie and deceived others. I especially grieve over the lies I told myself about the things that I was doing that grieved the Holy Spirit. He tried to tell me it was wrong, but I couldn’t bear to hear what He was saying. I believed I’d lose too much, because I feared what others would do if I told the truth. But I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was killing me.
So I ran to Jesus and He forgave all of it. He wiped every single bit of it away, buried it in the depths of the sea and remembers it no more.
But I still remember, and maybe that’s for a reason. Not to wallow in shame and condemnation – God has no part in any of that. But maybe so I can be merciful to those around me. So I can understand where their fear is coming from and not take it personally. So I can maybe reach out to others and take the first step.
I have to be patient with myself and others.
Sometimes going to church will be an obtainable goal.
Sometimes it will not.
Maybe I’ll find the courage to stay in one long enough to actually get loved, as Steve says, and maybe I won’t.
But I know no matter what God has not called us to do this thing called life alone, so I will continue to look to Him and ask Him to bring those others into our lives that we need.
That He will cast our fear and bring perfect love.
That He will deliver on His promise to right all the wrongs and one day take us home where we’ll never be harmed again.
Happy Father’s Day, God.
You are the safest place in this world I can be.