For the next several days I will be working on a new book project. During that time I will be posting some excerpts from the previous books. We begin with a chapter from “Bring’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for Those Wounded by the Church”. This chapter is called “Your Bleating Heart Will Tell On You” and it deals with the uncomfortable truth that sometimes we choose to remain in victimhood.
We have unrealistic expectations regarding how our church experience should be unfold. The church is where I least (or at least used to) expect to be hurt. Perhaps we expect attack and have our defenses up when we are out in the “world” but are extra vulnerable to attack at church.
For example, you likely would not hurt a boxer if you took a swing at him in the ring. He would be wary, fists up and ready to defend and respond. You might hurt that same tough individual if you walked up and slugged him when he was totally unprepared and defenseless, never dreaming that an attack might happen in a supposedly safe place. That is how some churchgoers view the church…as a safe place where no sucker punches could possibly be thrown. They believe they are not at risk and defenses can be let down. And because the punch is so unexpected it will likely inflict more damage than the same emotional punch would deliver outside the church.
For many of us church is a final attempt to find community. For others the church is a last bastion of hope that there is a place where they will not be hurt. . Some believe, and worse yet, have been told that their every wish will be met in the body of Christ, from finances to fellowship to health. Mature believers know that every need is met when we are seeking God’s will and growing in our relationship with Christ. But not every desire is met.
Some churchgoers expect members of the flock will always be at their side when they experience a rough time. And that should be true. But what often happens is they get involved in a church filled with people like you and me who have our own problems. Oh we care, but probably not enough to jeopardize the alignment of our own universe. I believe with all of my being that God will bring an individual, group or church into my (and your) life that will meet those deep seated needs and bring about healing. But the reality is that you have a responsibility to make that happen.
To achieve that type of relationship in the body takes a commitment on your part. You must give time and invest yourself in the lives of a small group of people in the church. I have found those relationships will result in brothers and sisters who will return the favor. The best experiences that Joni and I have had in a church body not surprisingly coincided with our involvement with a dynamic small group. It takes work and time but I can tell you it is worth the effort. Joni and I know there is a group of ten that will be there if we need them. We have no
doubt. But that didn’t happen by just waltzing through the church door on Sunday mornings. We have invested in their lives and they in ours.
Without that kind of support from the flock I think we are more likely to blame God for the failure of His people or, for that matter, for our own failure. I am guilty of evaluating God just like I evaluate friends and neighbors. I think Stacey Padrick gets is correct when he writes in Discipleship Magazine that “We call people good if they do what we want and make us happy. We apply the same criteria to God.”
To blame God for our wounds from others effectively ends our pursuit of spiritual healing. To blame God shows a lack of belief or lack of knowledge of His promises to meet our needs. To blame God shows that our prayers and desires do not always reflect that His will be done but sometimes that our will was not done in a timely fashion and according to our requests.
….to be continued