Let me start by saying this to clarify when I’m making reference: The church (little c) is a place. It’s a building. The Church (big C) is made up of believers in Jesus. The Church is people; Christians.
We, Christians, are The Church. How we treat people is important.
Now, I’m trying not to rant, but I just might a little. I’ve waited a week before coming to write. I’m recognizing that I’ve been extra tired, there have been extenuating circumstances, and my feelings are very raw. I might also add that being extra vulnerable isn’t my position of preference. I’m not even sure at this point if I’ll click “publish” on this when I’m finished.
I made a post on Facebook about my grandson, as most of our friends and family knew at least something of the circumstances, I didn’t go into great details, but I did vaguely mention the event we “attended” and left. I’d like to let it go, but I can’t just yet. In the moment I wanted to grab a torch and a pitchfork. Hurt people hurt people, and I was hurt, and Grandma Bear wanted to roll some heads. I also really, really wanted to cry.
I’ll share the Facebook post and the pictures that go along with it now…
“This boy. He recently had his entire world upended. His little brother was very, very sick, so his momma and daddy were at the hospital with him for several days. I want you to look at these pictures all the way through. I’m going to tell you a little story….
At three years old it’s not easy to understand why we can’t just go where Mommy and Daddy and Bubby are. Why can’t we go to the “hotel” with them? He can understand overnights in a hotel, but not the hospital. But he was very good at handling it most of the time. The evening these pictures were taken, he had been asleep on the sofa for a good, long nap, so I woke him up to get ready. He was crying the whole time, but I knew he’d be ok once he got good and awake. There was something important I thought we needed to attend. Well, I thought it was important. He cried for his mommy from the time I woke him up. I told him we needed to go to this place. He just wanted to go “do something fun”. The place we went turned out to be hurtful rather than helpful, and we left. I pulled over into a parking lot. He video called his momma and felt better. He and I both were at the end of our ropes and exhausted. He handed me the phone from the backseat. As he did, he “accidentally” dialed my bestie. I put the word accidentally in quotes, because it wasn’t an accident. [I don’t believe in coincidences, and neither does my bestie.] I needed to talk to my bestie in that moment. I had just been kicked while I was down. I told Gray he could get out of his car seat, and we would go inside in a few minutes and grab a bite to eat. While my friend talked me off the edge, this baby lifted my spirit as he stood on the console with hands in the air through the open sunroof saying, “THIS is FUN!” And it was….”
So that’s the post. Have you figured out yet where we went? We went to the church (little c). More specifically, a “healing service” at this church.
Sigh….how much do I want to elaborate?
My daughter had attended and learned of this upcoming healing service. My mother had just been diagnosed with cancer when my daughter heard of this upcoming service. She said we should take MawMaw and all go. Little did we know that the day before the service my daughter’s son was going to be taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital two hours away to the PICU and spend the week there with pneumonia. She said to me…from the PICU, after an ambulance ride and being up all night, “You’ve got to go to that healing service.” So I walked exhausted and broken into a healing service with my newly diagnosed mother, my other daughter who has RA, and a crying three year old. We were a broken, hurting bunch, and it was just about 3-4 minutes before time to start. Gray was crying for his mommy. I was trying to act like I didn’t notice the side-eye looks. He didn’t want to be held, touched, or trifled with. He sat at the end of the row, and I gave him some space. I was waiting for the music to start expecting that to be the change he needed, when a man appeared at the end of the row, crouching down, and asking Grayson if he wants to go play with some toys. I get it, letting me know child care is available…but he continues on telling him he’s going to have to be quiet when the service starts. Reminder: He’s crying, “Mommy….Mommy” and had now come down to me because a stranger was in his face…., so since we were at a healing service, I took this opportunity to tell this man in the suit that this crying child’s mommy is in the hospital with baby brother. (My heart is pounding with the recalling of the moment.) He completely ignored what I just said to him and began to walk away saying, “Well, he needs to get quiet when the service starts.” At that time I spoke aloud the words, “Get behind me, Satan.” I was determined at that moment to dig in, because I knew the enemy was using that man as his tool.
The music began. I noticed a woman two rows in front of me, no one was between us, she immediately extended her arms and turned her face toward heaven and began singing along. I’m not sure how she, in the next moment, almost immediately….I mean, she had been right there in front of me….but now she was crouching by Grayson, who had moved back to the end of the row. I had moved that direction near him. I must have been talking to him when she made her move. She asked if I wanted her to take him out. I told her he’ll be fine, and there’s no way he’d allow her to touch him. She said again that she would just take him out. Now, maybe she was just trying to be helpful. Maybe I was already salty over that man, but whatever. I was friendly to her and told her no thank you…again. At this point, it was time to go. It just hit me…forget digging in. I was outta there! Apparently, this service wasn’t for actual hurting people. Not if they disrupt the service. I gently took that baby by the hand and whispered, “Let’s go.” We walked out into the lobby where he was ready to let Grandma hold him and carry him out.
My mom and daughter had driven together, so Grayson and I left. I hoped they could salvage something from the message. You see, I’ve been to this church…many times. The man in the suit knows who I am, even though he always acts like he doesn’t. So, you see, there are multiple layers to this thing. Also, I really love hearing the pastor at this church speak. So I bowed out gracefully sans the torch and pitchfork. I even managed to hold back the tears.
I’ve attended this church many, many times, but we hadn’t become members or gotten involved in small groups or anything like that. My husband works on Sundays and when other services are available, and we were essentially church homeless. If someone asked me where I go, I’d tell them I like attending this particular church…but I knew in my heart I was unsettled.
Let’s back up to the previous Sunday…My older son had been invited to hear a young man, who is an associate pastor he knows from the gym, preach the sermon at a church I wasn’t familiar with. That week my husband happened to have Sunday off work, so we all attended together. (Remember what I said before about coincidences?) I sat there the whole time thinking about how I could really go to this church. I wanted to jump in right away. But then doubt crept in…if my girls and their families were going to be going to that one church, maybe we should all just commit and go there.
Cue the healing service.
As I was driving away, more broken than I had been when I walked into the healing service, I thought of that church we had attended the week before. (We hadn’t been able to go that morning, because we had been up all night at the hospital with the sick baby grandson and the three year old.) The car clock said 6:17, and I wondered if that little church had a Sunday night 7:00pm service. I could literally picture myself walking in there with the crying three year old and my own tears streaming down my face. This was the part from the Facebook post when I pulled into that parking lot. I looked up that little church’s service times. Nope. No 7:00pm service. But that’s when we video called Grayson’s mommy and then he handed me the phone that was already dialing my bestie who answered just as I realized the phone was making a call. That’s when we got calmed down, and when I realized a few things.
1) The Church can hurt people really, really badly. I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I’ve been around enough to know that none of us are perfect and neither are our churches….little c. But even as a seasoned Christian and someone old enough to be a grandma, I can still be hurt, but I know Christ is where I place my trust.
2) What if I’d been a new, baby Christian and not the Christian from number 1 above? What kind of impression of the church and The Church would that leave with a young, hurting momma with a crying toddler? My heart breaks to think of it. Would she ever step foot into another church and take a chance on being hurt again? Maybe. Maybe not.
3) When my heart was hurting, I wanted to be with God’s people. I was ready to be vulnerable with those people in that little church with no 7pm service.
4) I am a child of God, and no matter how old I become on this Earth, I’ll always be a child….His child. My Father knows this. He knows I’m hard headed and sometimes a bit unruly and rebellious. That’s why sometimes He uses the extreme circumstances of the storms of this life to get my attention. Sometimes that’s what it takes. When I realize I’m caught up in the storm, trying to do things on my own, that’s when I’ll get still and listen for His still, small voice. He is always there.
1 Kings 19: 11-14 says…
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Hebrews 10: 23-25 says this …
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
I’ve got nothing against the church or The Church. Not one one of us is perfect. But to the world and even to new Christians, we are expected to be different and to look different from the world around us. I’m not proud of myself for allowing myself to be so hurt and disappointed. I had an idea of what this healing service might be, and it wasn’t that. I certainly didn’t expect to walk out feeling like I’d been kicked while I was down. I had allowed myself to be vulnerable, and it hurt. I think I’m learning a lesson right now as I type this….I can’t NOT allow myself to be vulnerable because of past hurts. The pain I experience is something that can one day be used to help another. I’ll just file that away until I need it.