The Write 31 Days Challenge – 31 Days,Every Day,One Topic
Two years ago this month, my husband Kelly and I took a trip back to Washington State. At the time It had been nearly twenty-five years since I was Unfriended by the Church. In that post you may recall that I tried and failed to find another place of fellowship, but with one bad experience after another, I opted out of church completely for ten years.
I’d longed for someone to hear my side of the story, but the one or two church people I tried to share with chose to keep their distance, as the church told them to do. After all who was I, a notorious sinner, to be believed?
When we finally did return to church, we were loved into a place of healing and eventually entrusted to lead a ministry. That was a huge step for me and there were times when I shuddered to think of what would happen if I was on the stage sharing my story and someone shouted out from the audience,
“I know who you are!”
It was a realistic concern, considering that those were the exact words spoken to me when I was recognized at one of the churches we visited.
But I eventually came to a place where it didn’t really matter who might be out there listening because my whole story had already come into the light and I was covered in God’s grace. When we confess our sins to one another, exposing them to the light, the devil's power to shame us is shattered into a million pieces. Click To Tweet
On that trip back to Seattle, Kelly and I were sitting in a restaurant with two other couples, both Pastors of churches, when 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 some 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’ve shared this story on the blog before but I’m sharing again 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.
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 yet felt that from us. Again, I’m sorry.
I sincerely hope and pray that when you can, 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,
The beginning of this series can be found on Day 1, My Life is Not a Hallmark Movie.
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