I’ve not blogged here for awhile. I think I was trying to desperately to forget about church and abuse and all the negative feelings that go along with it. And it worked, somewhat. But pain doesn’t go away completely.
I still believe in God, but I falter in other ways. I can’t seem to pick up my Bible. I don’t want to pray. I think I’m still working things out in my head about what it is I do believe. Because for years, I was told what to think, what to feel, how to talk and was shamed if I didn’t do it THAT way. That’s what church, religion, and the Bible has become for me. And I’m trying to find my way back to what I’m supposed to be. I think though, if God is loving, kind, and merciful, He’s ok with my struggle.
In the back of my head, I still hear old pastors, leaders, and their wives. Some of their comments come to mind when I think about how I’m struggling.
Are you gonna disobey God and doubt his word?
You need to be more loving, more serving, more forgiving.
It doesn’t matter what you feel. Feelings aren’t important. God’s word is!
We are sinful and deserve hell, so you think too highly of your own self.
I could keep going. You get the idea. In almost every church I’ve ever been, I’ve been told to squash who I am, my thoughts, my struggles, my feelings. It’s the way of the church. They don’t want to address real issues or have them come to the surface. They want you to hide them, cover them up, and say a quick apology to God and be done with it. And after 40 years of that, I’m struggling to know how to relate to other Christians, to my family, and to God Himself.
Even in churches like my last one, where they said one thing at the pulpit and another behind closed doors–I still feel the sting of their actions. My heart still hurts. Sometimes it’s the things that were never said that hurt the most too. Showing up in tears and being ignored. Being secretly gossiped about and shunned and people avoiding you every Sunday. When your entire life has been “the church” and you release yourself from that lifestyle, it’s very hard to figure out who you are.
I find most of what comes out of the church is repulsive. I can’t handle the corny sayings and the fake concern. I can’t handle the group think. I can’t handle the cookie-cutter lifestyle that we all *should be* living. Because one thing that I do know–one good thing that’s happened to me–is that I found peace with myself, even when I’m struggling so much. I’m happy to be alone. I’m happy to do my art. I’m happy to live in loneliness sometimes. I’m happy to not be apart of the group think, the abuse, the insane thinking that goes on every week in most churches. Yes, it’s lonely–I wish I could find friends, hang out, and be apart of something. But I’m mostly just apart of the world which I had to make for myself where I take my pain and wrap it into an art project. That’s all I feel I’m able to do sometimes. Relating to almost anyone these days seems too hard.
I don’t miss church. I miss the thought of lying to myself and saying I was apart of something. The truth was it was just a smoke screen. Yet, I know there are people who still go to this church who think it’s great. They write reviews on Facebook and say how much of a family my old church is and how welcoming they are. I start to feel like I am, indeed, the problem! But I know that isn’t true. It’s just a photoshopped version of the truth. It’s how they’ve maintained their image. It’s a big, fat lie.
I guess what hurts the most is it feels as if they go on happily, never knowing the damage they caused. Never understanding how every day is hard; how I struggle more and more each day with my faith. They will never comprehend the damage done to my heart, to my soul, to my emotions. Yet, I’m thankful that I am no longer being duped, being lied to, being subjected to their abuse. I’m thankful I am free. I’m thankful I can take my pain and turn it into art instead of just squashing my feelings to save face. It all hurts, but not as much as when I was there, dying inside each day I was told I wasn’t enough.
If I know anything about God, it’s this: He loves those who are on the outside–the fallen, the broken, the hurting. He loves me. I know this is true. And maybe today, that’s all I need to know.