I am a hurt, scared little girl. I am a brave, overcoming woman.
I am both at the same time.
I’ve been hurt by controlling church leaders, by judgmental Christians, by religious people who wanted me to look just like them. For years, I let the hurt eat away at me, slowly severing the cord that held me to God. I’m so scared afraid of offending people, afraid of being talked about behind my back, afraid of what friends will think. But in braveness, I am speaking up.
Sometimes when the hurt mixes with the brave, it looks a lot like anger.
The spiritually wounded are often just too much for Christians to handle. They see the hurt and the bravery but they confuse it for anger. We are told anger isn’t productive. They want us to find healing, but they want it done in a timely fashion, and they want to put pretty little bows on their finished product. In the meantime, we are asked to not speak out too much, lest we cause someone else to “stumble”. Around Christians, I worry my language is too rough, my perspective too secular, my hurt is too deep.
This is why I’m anxious around church leaders.
A few days ago, my husband and I met up for dinner with his childhood pastor. He is also the pastor who married us five years ago, when I was a different person. We’ll call him Pastor D.
I fretted the whole drive over whether Pastor D had seen my post about how I think pastors need to come down from their pedestals. Joe assured me he probably hadn’t, but that it shouldn’t matter if he had.
Of course when we walked in the door, the first thing Pastor D said to me was that he reads my blog.
“Oh you do?” I asked, nervous.
“Yes, I saw the recent one about pastors.”
The brave-hurt-scared-girl-woman rose up, all the parts in equal measure, and I braced myself for what was to come. A part of me was ready to apologize and tell him how I didn’t mean to offend All Pastors, and assure him I wasn’t talking about him. It is so much easier to hide behind a blog and tell my stories to a screen. When face-to-face, I am really just a little girl terrified of hurting people’s feelings – also of being rejected, written off, judged.
The other part of me prepared for battle. I was ready to defend myself, to stand behind my words, to deflect whatever judgment might be flung at me.
“I thought it was great, and so true, and needed to be said,” he said. ”Keep writing.”
Instantly, I crumbled. The scared little girl felt safe. The brave woman was humbled. And a little part of me was healed.
Pastor D is just the type of person I thought my writing would offend, and just the type of person I thought wouldn’t understand my story. He’s nothing like the toxic church leaders I lashed out at last week, but I thought he’d have a little lesson for me on not denigrating the Bride of Christ. Perhaps he’d throw in some applicable scripture.
Instead, he listened, he affirmed, he showed grace.
As we were saying our goodbyes, after an evening of catching up from the last few years, looked me in the eye.
“I mean it. Keep it up,” he said.
Those of us on this path are lonely and grasping for acceptance. We’re pushing back insecurity to find our voice. We speak from deep places of hurt, and sometimes our words are ugly. We have heard all the scriptures; in the past, we’ve used them as weapons against others.
Our hurt is too much for many church people to deal with. We are told to sanitize our stories, to just get over it, to forgive. When we don’t, we are chastised – or perhaps even worse, ignored.
Do you know someone who is struggling in the faith journey?
To be a part of their healing, tell them to keep it up.