Confession Time: For the last 10 years or so now I’ve been working through some issues related to my experience of church. In the process, I’ve also been working through some issues related to personality, identity, family-of-origin, and calling. All of that has kind of come to head in the last few years, during which I’ve been in a fairly consistent funk. Some might be tempted to call it a mid-life crisis, but since it doesn’t involve motorcycles, ponytails, or piercings, I’m just going to keep calling it a funk. One could, perhaps, say I’m funky! 😉
Anyhoo, it’s no secret to those who know me that I’ve been hurt by church. I often refer to myself as a recovering church minister, and some would say that a certain amount of hurt just goes with the territory. But the idealist in me bristles at that. ChurchHurt (yes, you can hashtag that) should not be a given, something we just expect. God’s people shouldn’t hurt one another, I think. Perhaps it’s naive of me to believe that, but nonetheless, that belief persists. It’s often said that part of the Hippocratic Oath for physicians is, “First, do no harm.” If doctors can pledge that, why can’t Christians? Anyway, that’s a part of my baggage. But there are other parts.
So since I often process things best by writing, I’ve decided to begin a little blog series here in which I get some of my inner monologue out into the light where it can be weighed and measured in a way that’s healing. I intend to explore the best and worst of all my church experiences, starting as a child and moving forward. The goals are to come to some clarity about where I’ve been, to discover God in the good and the bad, to make some degree of peace with it, and most importantly, to perhaps give me some direction going forward.
I intend to try and be as honest as I’m capable of regarding how I’ve been personally impacted by my interaction with churches and church people. But I also intend to be as fair as I can. People often hurt others unintentionally. And I’ve found, especially in the fairly conservative churches I’ve mostly inhabited, that we’ve frequently struggled with projecting both Truth and Love at the same time. In trying to be as charitable as I can, I think most people in churches have good intentions, even if those intentions often play out in unhealthy or unholy ways. So this is NOT about bashing certain people or certain “camps” of believers.
While my experiences will certainly be seen through my own eyes, I will try my best to see my experiences through the cultural norms that existed at the time (things were quite different in the 1970s, for example, than they are today). This will allow me, I hope, to extend some grace to people and situations that I didn’t have the capacity to extend grace to at the time.
So I don’t know where this will all lead. First and foremost, I hope it brings some clarity and healing to my own soul with respect to church. But maybe along the way, you’ll find something useful in it as well.
Next: Growing Up Methodist