Sunday, June 04, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Crisis of Faith

I finished washing dishes recently and sat down in the living room chair with a cup of decaf tea.  I was beyond tired as it had been a long day, filled with distressing news and hard work.  Not to mention the continued... edginess.  That feeling that all was not right with my world.

I had been chatting with God off and on throughout the past few weeks, telling Him that something was wrong but I couldn't put my finger on it.  I was having a crisis of faith but at the same time I felt closer to Him than ever before.  I knew He lives and that He really does watch over my life.  Even when the world seems upside down.  Something different was causing my distress.

The darkness I felt began during the election as many that I once shared so much in common with began to talk and write with such... hate.  I have always walked the two worlds between what I would call a hippy nature and orthodoxy.   Between John Denver (secular) and Rich Mullins (Christian).

I care very much about many of the same things my online friends and acquaintances care about... organic local food, eating in season, slow cooking, taking care of the land around me, making things by hand, enjoying nature, and so much more.

For a long time, our mutual interests did not clash with my orthodoxy... the fact that I base my life and morals on what the Bible says.  After a lifetime of studying God's Word, I believe Jesus is who He said He was and I believe in the Truth of God's word.  Forever and ever, Amen.  No amount of shouting in my face will change that firm foundation.

At the same time, I began to notice that some of the people I admire but who have an intense dislike for conservative Christians had grown up in the Church and made that decision at one time to give it up and along with it... often Jesus Himself.  I'm sure there are as many stories as there are individuals living them out each day.

So what does all of this have to do with sitting in a chair, sipping decaf tea, and turning on the television?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  I perused through the shows playing at the time and saw an interview I wanted to watch with an author on Book TV.  (Yes, I even watch television about books.)  I enjoyed the last part of the interview and I was going to turn the TV off when I heard the intro to the next interview.  I was intrigued.

For the author being interviewed was one who had once been a part of Christian TV and had left after very bad experiences.  I decided to watch the interview.  Parts of it made me sad for the person had left the faith entirely and I never quite caught whether they returned or not. Then there were the parts that I understood only too well.

It was while listening to this interview, at a time I had not planned on watching TV, that I heard that Still Small Voice speaking to me.  "There is your real source of that edgy feeling.  You haven't dealt with your own feelings toward the Church."  I'd just as soon not think about it, thank you very much.

However, I absolutely knew for certain that God had led me to view the interview at that time.  For you see, He is not angry with our honest questions.  He understands when we are confused or upset... even when we try to nudge those feelings below the surface as if they don't exist.  We can't get away with hiding them, or else we become depressed or... edgy.

As I listened to the author's story, I felt God was opening my eyes to how I could relate.  Oh, various facts were not the same.  Their first spiritual and emotional attack happened when they were still very young in Christ and it was before a watching world.  Mine was more the drip, drip, drip of water that eventually erodes even the strongest of rocks. 

In many of the churches I attended, I was made to feel different than those who had been there all their life.  I was fortunate that my first long term church experience was wonderful, in a large Presbyterian church that had a loving staff and great teaching.  Having come out of the Jesus revival, I thought this was the way the Christian life would always be. 

I was wrong.  Very wrong.  For as we changed churches through the years (mostly due to moving), most of the churches we attended were not so wonderful.  Most of the time I didn't fit in.  Quite often because we were the new people and in the mind of those who were in charge of the church, this was their home away from home and only those who grew up in that congregation or who grew up in the tradition belonged.

As I listened to that author speak, tears came to my eyes.  Tears because I knew watching this person speak was God ordained.  He loved me so much that He wanted me to hear this, as an answer to my question as to why I was becoming more edgy about so many things.

It was because, since the election, I had to dig deeper into my faith to stand up for what I believe while, yet... I could understand how some of those who leaned toward spiritual things outside the Church had come to find their way there.

I wanted to sit with them, sipping herbal tea and nibbling organic cookies, and tell them I understood.  I have walked where they have walked.  On different but similar paths.  I wanted them to know that Jesus understands how it feels to be rejected.  He who gave the Law and created the Sabbath and birthed the Church... he didn't fit in with the religious of the day, either.

God used that interview to remind me of where I have been and what I needed.  Instead of finding the places we disagree, I need to be praying for them to finally find Him.  The One who loves them more than they could ever understand.  He loves me that much and them that much and you that much.

Will I ever return to the organized church?  I'm not sure.  Exhaustion that is both physical and emotional caused me to finally stop attending many years ago.  I understood the physical at the time, I didn't realize the emotional until later.  I'm sure if the right opportunity came along, I would at least give it a try.

In the meantime, I will catch myself when I'm being judgmental towards those who think differently than I do about God and politics and social stuff.  I'm not going to agree with their beliefs but I'm very willing to love them in our disagreement.  Never watering down the Gospel of Christ but also hoping to never represent it with anything less than love.  Never returning hate with hate.

I'm sorry about the rambling here for I have rewritten words and removed paragraphs and changed around sentences all day but it is now time for this baby to land.  It has been circling around in my head, not unlike the jets which circle O'Hare International Airport... waiting for their turn at the gates.

So I leave my musings and pray that they are understood.  With grace.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh child you are specking what I have felt for so long. I have tried so many different churches thinking I must fit in some place. But that was not the answer I received. My Mother was Catholic my Father Mormon and I was Methodist. Long boring story about that ! Anyway my Parents got married in Las Vegas in 1947. So you can imagine what the church thought about me. I have felt guilt for far too long. Time to let go. Thank you Brenda. You are a breathe of fresh air. Gratefully, Cecile

lejmom said...

You have such a beautiful way of expressing what many of us feel...but we just can't put our fingers on it...thank you for sharing your wisdom. At nearly 70, I am still learning. Jane

rebecca said...

Oh, sweet Brenda. This post makes me sad at so many levels. I AM happy that you were able to identify your discomfort. I will not try to defend the indefensible. I WILL continue to pray for correction and purity within the organized church.

Vee said...

Sounds completely coherent to me. ☺️ Except for the Presbyterian part, I might write something similar. The church is not a building and my fellowship is almost exclusively with fellow Christians so I feel well "churched." I have always said of my lack of attendance that it is a me problem not a them problem. I imagine that there are a few of us "oddballs" out here. Not that you, my friend, are odd!

Carol said...

Dear Brenda: Thank you so very much for sharing and for proclaiming the love of Jesus too. (MD)

Karla Neese said...

Brenda,

Thank you for sharing this. Know you are not alone - not just because Jesus is with you - because so many of us are in the same place you are. We have belonged to a "church" for the past 4 years that is so unchurchy it doesn't attract a lot of people. Our sole purpose for being there is to worship Jesus and dig into His word. Our "sermonds" are usually about 15 minutes long and yet so full of the truth of God that it will knock your socks off. We do not have programs because every one of us in the body of fellowship and leadership have been hurt and exhausted by the church as it usually is. It is refreshing to step back and push the reset button.

Praying for you. I love what Vee said about "oddballs". We oddballs have to stick together.

Marie said...

Dear, dear Brenda, I am so sad to read your post. I wish you were near us (NC) so you could attend our church--great doctrine, people from all backgrounds and of all colors, and loving and accepting. I wish you could come, for I know by reading your blog for years that we agree on so much! You would fit right in. Thanks for your writing--love it always.

Anonymous said...

It hurt my heart to read of how you were treated in some of those churches! I'm so sorry! I just returned from a women's retreat this past week-end put on by another church. Our little group of six invited ourselves to their retreat when we learned the speaker was the author of the book we had just studied in our women's group. Our leader contacted them and asked if we could attend their retreat. Our churches are not of the same denomination or organization, however they welcomed us with open arms and made us feel very welcomed! They were very warm and friendly as a whole, and they invited us to come back next year! We met in small groups after the main teaching sessions and I learned more about the lives of the women in my group. No one had a typical, "normal" life! I realized recently that if a church was filled with "normal" people who had no issues, it would just be a social club! We are all broken people redeemed by His love! I'm thankful God helped you see where you've been hurt so He can help you heal. I pray you will be able to find a church nearby, where you feel totally welcomed, loved and accepted! After all, we will be living together with other Christians for eternity in heaven!
Hugs,
Laura C. (WA)

DanielleB said...

I so know where you are coming from. In the many years I have been a Christ follower I have truely only felt at "home" in one church. Every other church we have been involved in I have felt like you do where if one wasn't born into the congregation one wasn't a part of it. This last church I have felt invisible for quite some time and we stopped going. It took 6 months for someone to notice and message me. My sons church is wonderful but as it is 6 hours from home not available except when we come to visit the children. All this to say, I felt like a balm had been applied to my wounded heart reading today's post. Bless you.

Jean Fleming-Kehler said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I am an oddball also. The churches where I live are all family/friend churches. They are all either related or have all gone to school and activities together. My family did not feel comfortable in any of them, to the point that none of us are presently attending any church. It seems so sad to me that so much of the church has gone more worldly than choosing to stick with biblical truths.

Anonymous said...

You are NOT alone, Brenda...but with time perhaps GOD will show you more of what HE has planned. Truth is, for me and hubby, we don't seem to fit anyplace...even now, with the faith path we are on, we have even been shunned by nearly all our kin. But nothing changes truth and we got here by a lot of things, including extensive study even going back into the original languages... I could say a lot...but I would not worry about being in a church frankly...most are a weak copy of what was or should be...and it may be that those of us who are more or less cast out...well it might be for our safety in days to come...that those people do not know much about us and maybe won't be sold out in even causing us worse hurts later on. I have learned that GOD allows things for a reason...and in the end, maybe not on earth, but at least by the Kingdom, it will have been ultimately for our best!! I agree with how Jean phrased it too..it is hard being different...but the final report card ain't in yet ladies...it will be ok!!
ELizabeth in WA

Melissa said...

I have often wondered why you never speak of a church in your area or of those people helping you in your time of need (for that is one of the reasons for belonging to a church). Now I understand why. Please don't give up on the local church yet, YOU could be of benefit to another lonely person or a young mom just starting out in her early years. Blessings on your life and thank you again for sharing with us.

Ann said...

I have to agree with (anonymous) Elizabeth (WA). My husband and I have searched out the Scriptures for years, attended many churches and found them lacking in one way or another, and have now been "alone" for a good number of years. But our faith is strong and we continually strive to remain close to our Heavenly Father. Fellowship would be welcome -- that's the one thing we really miss -- but our beliefs based on what we found in the Bible are different than most and so we find ourselves on the "outside" of organized Christianity. God says to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling so that is what we have done and trust that He is in control and knows what He is doing in our lives.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Yes! THIS!!! And yet, in spite of our tendency to want to despair about the condition of the church today, we are told not to let our hearts be troubled (Jn 14)! Why? Because of the same hope that Jesus offered his disciples at that point in time (when they were becoming disillusioned because the kingdom they had envisioned just wasn't happening and Jesus was foretelling his death). After all, our hope is in HIM, not in an institution, and He is unchanging and steadfast. But about the church ... several things occurred to me. This is nothing new. There have been people despairing about the state of their churches for centuries ... imagine the shock when the pianos that had formerly only been used in bars were *gasp* brought into the sacred sanctuaries! Seems funny to us now - it was anything but funny to our ancestors. Also, we must remember that there are so many tares among the wheat/wolves in sheep's clothing that we would likely be shocked to discover how many masquerade as believers in the organized church. When you feel slighted and rejected by others or like an "oddball", perhaps you truly are because we are in a sense "aliens". As believers, we are called to be "lights shining in the darkness". I wonder if we recognize that we must shine our lights in the organized church setting as well, to help dispel the darkness that resides there? Finally, remember that Christ LOVES His bride, the church - that is, the body of TRUE believers who make up his bride - and He will not forsake her. That bride may not appear very lovely right now because of the sin that continually surrounds, but someday she will be radiant! He has gone to prepare a place, and will one day come back to receive her unto Himself. Two old hymns come to mind that express so well the hope that we have in these uncertain times:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

My faith has found a resting place - not in device nor creed: I trust the ever living One - His wounds for me shall plead. I need no other argument, I need no other plea; it is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me!

-Joy

Anonymous said...

Dear One. I get you. I too am walking thru what i would call not a *crisis of faith* but, a crisis of church. Oh the pain, the insane pain wrapped up in being hurt by the church. I am so sorry you are walking thru this. God alone is faithful. I tell myself this daily. He alone is our hope thru Jesus. Lord bless you and keep you (and He will) as walk thru this pain. with love, grace and understanding~tammy

Sandi said...

I hope you do decide to find a church to join. I attended a very old church when I was in my early 20's. I mean, everyone there was at least 60 years older than me. But it's where God let me. It was a great place to be. You never know, your place to be could be equally surprising...! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I read with interest your post. It's sad that you feel you don't belong.

I am a cradle to grave---womb to tomb devout practicing Roman Catholic. I could go anywhere in the world and go to the Catholic Church for Mass it will at its basics be the SAME, anywhere any time. No matter who the priest is, what sermon he gives, what music is played or even the language that is spoken we are at Our Lord's Supper and He is giving Himself to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity just as he did around 2000 years ago. We as Catholics aren't there to be entertained or to get. We are there to be fed the word and to GIVE to God our all. Catholics-the faith, the Church, the Mass are misunderstood by many. I am praying for you to find your place of worship that is the best for you. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Oh and to add to my post we as Catholic have the "pillars" of our Catholic Church: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. It's all there.

mdoe37 said...

No, you are absolutely not alone in that thinking. The churches in my rural community are quite close knit.....meaning they do not have any sort of outreach to the community. I'm Lutheran. Well let's back that up. I was a Missouri Synod Lutheran from an old school congregation. Then I was chatting with a member who had switched to the ELCA brand of Lutheran. Why? He was a pillar and life long Missouri? They had some friends visiting from out of town. The minister informed him that since the friends were ELCA and not Missouri, they would not be able to participate in communion.

Really?!? Sooo, was that "God" rule or a "Man" rule? That's where I start to struggle...all the little wording and nuances, the hundreds and hundreds of years of translations. I can debate it all, but feel that one loses sight on the real purpose of "Church and Christian" when they get all balled up in their own clubhouse rules.

My dad fell and broke his hip a couple of months ago. The minister from the tiny church in town saw the sirens and showed up. She said she felt it was her duty to minister to anyone who might need. Bless her. A few days later, I chatted with her about how refreshing that was. That was NEVER anything her predecessors would have done...ever never. She went out of her way to visit him and my mother. And in the end, she held the funeral.

Will I ever attend another church? Maybe. I feel, though, that my "Christian" will be exercised in the way I live my life and how I serve others, not just polishing a pew spot every week.

No dear, you are absolutely not alone.

(and don't get me started about what seems to be the 20 different brands of Christian Reformed we have around here. And don't mix them up....someone will bite your head off)

carlahoag said...

I'm terribly curious about the interview you saw on Book TV. After going to their website, I did a search and couldn't find it. I'd really like to watch it; would you mind emailing me the person's name?

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I think this is the interview.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4672159/danuta-pfeiffer