I find it interesting that when we become vulnerable enough to “confess” to something we’ve done, all kinds of people come out of the woodwork to confess the same thing. I find that:
Lately I’ve been surprised to hear how many people have been kicked out of, or more politely stated, “disfellowshipped,” from church. I can understand a person’s hesitancy to share this detail about their lives as there is usually some reason for this practice. It is something I myself was ashamed of for many years.
Welcome to FREEDOM FRIDAY – A devotional, emotional, spiritual and sometimes hysterical series that I will be sharing on occasional Fridays, in addition to my regular Old Things New posts. Why? Because though once bound in chains Christ has set me free – FREE to live, to love, to dance, to sing, to be who God created me to be!
It was twenty-five years ago that I was disfellowshipped from my church. After the action I was given an audio tape to listen to the church meeting where they discussed the reason for my oust and told the congregation that if they ran into me they could say, “Hello,” but they could no longer be my friends. As I further listened I felt crushed to hear church members being told things about me that weren’t true, but the manufacture of the one and only person who ever came to speak to me about the situation. When I later tried to get church leadership to hear my story, my request was met with silence. I willingly admit my part in making bad choices, but the lies and the refusal to be heard hurt deeply.
Over the next couple of years I tried to find a different church, but everywhere I went I ran into someone who knew, or thought they knew, my story. At one church we visited I saw a couple I was acquainted with, and when the husband saw me all he had to say was, “I know who YOU are!”
Then there was the church that I thought might be the one, except for this one woman (someone from my old church) who felt it her duty to say to me every Sunday, “I’m still trying to forgive you.”
Really? Forgive me for what? What did I ever do to her?
I longed for someone to hear my side of the story, but the 1 or 2 church people I shared with chose to keep me at a distance. I longed for truth yet who was I, the guilty one, to be believed?
It is no surprise then that I became church-shy. So afraid of being called out and so hurt by the lies that people believed that I stopped going to church altogether, along with my husband and two daughters. I’m sad to say that I stayed away for several years. And my daughters? I still wait for their return.
When my hubby and I eventually did settle back into a church it was a place that accepted me (us) just as we were, even knowing our full story. They had a huge part in our healing and, boy-oh-boy, did I need healing!
With healing came a call to share our hope with others and we started directing a ministry called Freedom Session. With my own forgiveness toward the church I eventually came to a place where it didn’t really matter who heard that part of my story or even that they believed me. It still amazes me that: When we share our faults with one another, the devil's power to shame us is shattered into a million pieces. Click To Tweet
It was a couple of months ago when we took a trip back to Seattle. Hubby and I were sitting in a restaurant with two other couples, both Pastors of churches.
Somehow the grand subject of the time I was disfellowshipped came up in the conversation. Haha! I can’t tell you how a subject like that might have come to be, but I remember that as I spoke Pastor Nathan, who was sitting a couple of seats down from me, leaned in, eyes locked on mine, and asked, “Has the church ever asked for your forgiveness?”
I may have given a slight laugh of disbelief before replying, “Oh no! They would never ask for forgiveness from me!”
Everyone around the table was listening now, as people tend to do when Nathan speaks.
“Tell me, WHO is the church?,” he questioned.
A light began to dawn in my head and shine right down into the farthest reaches of my heart.
“We are. We are the church,” I answered.
Nodding, Nathan asked my permission to speak on behalf of the church who hurt me.
With compassion in his eyes he began, “Patti, on behalf of the church I want to say that I am sorry for the ways in which we wronged you. I’m sorry for the pain we caused you and the pain we’ve caused your children. We. Were. Wrong.”
Simple words yes, but words that caused long neglected places of my heart to push tears to my eyes and wash away the final remnants of hurt. In this asking of forgiveness on behalf of the church I believe that chains were broken in spiritual places that not only benefit me but will also touch my wounded daughters, not to mention the very church that wronged me. I sincerely pray that this is so.
I’m writing this post today because I know that there are those of you who have been wounded by the church and who use that as a reason to stay away from fellowship. I don’t judge you for that. You’ve suffered hurt, fear, maybe even shame. You may also experience feelings of rejection or, as was once the case with me, the feeling that you will never be good enough.
I promise you this: If you are staying away from church fellowship we miss you and we need you. Click To Tweet We may be a messed up and imperfect people yet we ARE the church and if you are a Christ follower, so are you.
Maybe you’ve been waiting for an apology from those who wounded you. Then I, as a part of those who make up “the church,” want to say to you right now that I am deeply sorry for the things we did to hurt you. God calls us to restore those who have fallen with love. Maybe you haven’t felt that from us. Again, I’m sorry.
I sincerely hope and pray that when you are ready you will find it in your heart to forgive us. There are many of us here who have been broken just like you and we will be here waiting, arms wide open, to welcome you back.
With utmost love and affection,
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