I am not one to believe in coincidences. Nor am I one to willingly start a conflict.
Two years ago, I published my second blog post on this website, only to have to go back a couple of days later to add a short statement to the bottom of it stating, “Shortly after this post was published, I experienced quite the life change. At this time, I cannot post about it, but someday I will write an addendum.”
Maybe today is that day. You see, today, two years ago, my husband and I got back from a day trip to the beach with some close friends. It was eleven o’clock at night. We already dropped one friend off at home, and the other was getting in her car. She watched my parents, parked on the street, waiting for us to get home, get out of their car and walk up to our house. My friend messaged me, asking if everything was okay, but when I messaged her back what felt like a lifetime later, I could not say it was okay.
I knew my parents were coming, but I didn’t know why.
I can’t remember all the details from that night, but I remember paying close attention to how the plush blue rug of my living room felt under my bare feet as I tried to find something outside of myself to ground me. The carpet felt cool compared to the hot sand I had been walking on only hours before. Soft. Cozy. Something I could wrap myself into and hide away in. Except I couldn’t. Someone was saying my father got kicked off the board at my childhood church — my second home — and that couldn’t be true. How could it be true? He was always overly cautious in everything he did and tried his best to get others to be, too.
But somehow, the impossible was true. They wanted him out of all leadership roles, even down to running the soundboard. Nothing made sense to me. Even now it doesn’t make sense to me.
All of us were at church the next day. My husband and I had not been attending that church on Sunday mornings but had planned to transition there. That was something the preacher knew because a couple of weeks prior, Andrew had him over to our house, and they talked while Andrew worked in the garage. He advised Andrew not to move too quickly and allow plenty of time to transition out of his positions at his church. We wanted to do everything right and thought he did, too. Instead, a couple of weeks later, we found ourselves sitting together as a family, one row of people sitting and listening while another row of people faced us and were speaking. There were a few yards and a million miles in between the two rows.
It was thought out too well. Too dramatic and scripted. The facade covering what was supposed to be about truth and life in Christ cracked, and suddenly, the put-together people I was watching, some of whom I had looked up to my entire life, were nothing more than the devil’s advocates standing where men of truth were supposed to be. Words like: “It was done Biblically,” “We are all at fault,” and “Putting programs over people” fell flat when everyone said they were equally at fault yet pointed the finger at one person.
In the past two years, I’ve learned that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but he does want us to do the best we can with what we know at the time and trust him to handle the rest. I’ve spent part of the past two years wishing I had voiced my opinion before hiring the preacher that I wasn’t comfortable with the way they treated me when they didn’t know who I was. I was invisible until I was someone of importance, and then suddenly, as if a switch was flipped and the light came on, I was seen and paid attention to. Seventeen-year-old me didn’t know any better. Twenty-two-year-old me didn’t know any better than to blame herself for not knowing better. Twenty-four-year-old me is still trying to learn, trying not to point fingers or place blame because perhaps people only acted upon what they knew at the time. But I know some people knew better then, and some people know better now.
We are not called to be Christians to be better than others. We are not called to preach the gospel to be popular or get famous or be seen by those we consider to be more important than ourselves so that one day we can be that more important Christian and see our name in lights or in print or even to claim we ourselves changed someone else’s life. God calls us to be Christians to spread his light and love so that people can see Christ through us, not so that people see us.
For two years, I’ve lived in a town where I feel others judging my family for lies spread about us. We refused to do the same, or even the similar, by spreading the truth because we didn’t want to slander anyone accidentally. We now know who our true friends and family are simply by the way we are greeted or avoided when we meet on the street. It bothered me a lot at first. I was afraid to go into local stores for fear of being treated differently by people I would have once considered a friend. Instead, I’ve gotten over that and feel sad for those who don’t know the truth. They have been led to believe lies and are still being led by people who use others to their advantage. However, I possibly feel worse for those who knew what they were doing and now have to live with the guilt, yet still cannot own up to their wrongs and ask a simple apology. Was anyone involved a wholly innocent person? Heavens, no. We all are flawed, imperfect people. Have some people been made out to be heathens while others act “holier-than-thou”? Sadly, yes.
We started a home church, following the examples of the New Testament church, and I am amazed at the difference. I no longer dread waking up for church and feeling like everyone around me is faking how extraordinary their lives are. I still believe that we are to meet with other believers regularly, and I believe that Sunday church is important to me for the rhythm of my week, but now I know it’s a rhythm, not a rule. We do not have to go to church every Sunday and exhaust ourselves teaching or leading while never getting poured into. God doesn’t call us to burnout and bitter feelings but to reflect his light steadily by keeping our eyes on him. I am responsible only for doing the best I can do, and for the days my best is not what I or others expect out of me, there is true grace to cover that.
Why did I decide today was a good day to write about two years ago? (Let’s be honest, is any day a good day to write about difficult, complicated things that may never be fully understood?) Today I found myself reading Jeremiah 18, and I thought, “This can’t be a coincidence it talks about spreading rumors and ignoring what Jeremiah says.” Then I switched to my New Testament reading and found myself in Ephesians 5. Verses 1-20 talk about how we should live, especially as Children of Light.
“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'”(vv 10-14 NLT)
We ask for God to speak to us, but it’s easy to want to ignore when he does. I am not one to seek out conflict but usually hide away from it to the best of my abilities. Even typing this makes me sick to my stomach, but I believe God works through us and asks us to do things out of our comfort zones so we trust him more. I pray over all of this that I will not misspeak or be misunderstood. My family has stayed mostly quiet for two years, watching and waiting. In that time, God has gifted us with a new church family and a renewed way of thinking about church and spending time with fellow believers. I cannot speak for everyone involved, but I can speak for myself when I say I know God differently now and see his goodness much more than I could have if we hadn’t been pushed out the door and forced to fall into the everlasting arms of God. Not for a moment did I blame God for any of this hurt, but I firmly believe that what man planned for evil, God intended for good.
Growing beyond the clutch of four walls controlled by men has opened my eyes to a whole new world and the light is coming through. The light exposes evil intentions and makes everything visible. We are not called only to be still and know, but also to be bold and tell the truth.
If you are reading this and want to know more because you are seeking the truth, what keeps you from reaching out and asking for the truth? Perhaps this is your sign to act.
To this day, I can’t remember what the accusations were beyond a prideful heart. But whose prideful heart caused the fall from grace?