Monday, March 25, 2013

When Grace Is Absent: a little story of being kicked out of church

It seems like a lot longer than three years. Since the last time I saw him cry.

Daniel, that man of mine, he's not really a tear kind of guy. Three times only that I can remember in our almost 12 years of marriage. This day was number three. 

Home early, midday. A car full of books, papers, plans, and dreams-- ready to be packed away for safe keeping. 

Those things, still packed away. 

It's a sad day. The day they say to you, go away and never come back. Don't say goodbye, don't finish the conversations you were having with so many people, just sign here.

"We are offering to pay a 60 day severance to be paid in normal payment cycles, providing you agree to the following terms.

A. Attendance to this church is forbidden
B. Any and all means to malign the church or its leaders by you or your spouse, Kathlean Gibson, will terminate the severance agreement immediately. This includes all forms of internet use, chat rooms, Facebook, texting, etc. Any behavior that is viewed as defamation will be reviewed and decided by the Elders of this Church. 
C. Contact with he youth of this church with the intent of defamation will also terminate the agreement. 

Additionally, if all terms are met, a letter of reference by the Senior Pastor will be provided. 

Sign Here"

Have your stuff out within 24 hours. Don't take it personally, they said-- it's just business"

He sat there. Just crying.

"They asked me not to contact anyone until after Sunday. I'm not allowed to talk about it until they tell the congregation." He explained, "They canceled all the service projects scheduled for this weeks spring break, not giving a reason to anyone--I can't even give people a reason." 

"What was their reason", I asked. 

"We're not relational enough." 
"I don't agree with the vision of the church."

No warning, just get out.

What in the world do you do friends when you've been told to go away and never come back? 

What do you say when your nine year old,  who eats, sleeps, and breathes church-- says, "Can't go back to church? But anyone can go to church- no matter what."

I'll tell you what you do, you die. 

When the church, the body of Christ, Christ's Bride, the place where grace is abounding, becomes a business- when they turn their face to you and say go away, you die. 

you die a slow and painful, lonely death.

We're still dying. We're different now. 

It has changed us. Oh, we love. We serve. And we worship the One True God. But we don't give our heart away. We don't talk about much with you anymore. We don't really discuss much about what God is teaching us. And when you are sitting next to us in church, we're wondering-- who are they really and when are they going to hurt us? Daniel? He's not going to open up to you, that's for sure. You can tell me how wrong all of that is-- I already know. But for now, for some reason, it's just something we cannot shake. We pray for people to come into our lives and aid the healing. We're waiting, leaning on Jesus, and hoping for a day when all of that is gone.

And you see, when there is a pain like this-- people don't mention it. It's like a secret they don't want to bring up. Like having a child pass or a spouse leave you. Doesn't anyone realize maybe you just need to hear, "Hey, how are your wounds and what can I do to help? Let me sit here with you in the ash of the painful wounds, let's heal together." 

The hurt, it does bring hope. Being ripped away from the gathering of believers, being told to go and never return--the pain it has caused, there is hope in it. 

There should be pain. 

In scripture we see a loving, jealous, and just God. Then, we are introduced to a radical, loving, and just Jesus. A Jesus who loved prostitutes and sinners. A Jesus who always told off the Pharisees, A Jesus who said, keep nothing, and give it all. A Jesus who taught us how to offer a kiss to the person planning to turn against us and ultimately lead to our unfair trial and death. 

When the church, or anyone who follows Jesus, has operated outside of this Jesus way. It hurts. But when your heart longs to be loved the way Jesus loves, unconditionally. There is hope. 

I listen to a lot of sermons online. There is something special about having a friends voice fill your home with words the Lord has laid on their heart. Many people who have discipled me in the past or friends who are pastors stream their video or audio online weekly. Last night I listened on the edge of my seat as Randy Gariss of College Heights in Joplin shared a sermon that will forever change my life. A sermon that has challenged me, as a person who has been so badly hurt-- to never give up the good fight. I encourage you to listen intently to this message and be changed. May your heart be slowly healed in the Fathers time, however long it may take and may bitterness have no place in your heart. 

May you realize the truth: When the church, or anyone who follows Jesus, has operated outside of this Jesus way. It hurts. But when your heart longs to be loved the way Jesus loves, unconditionally. There is hope. 

May you or I never be that person causing the pain. May we be life givers and deliverers of hope.

Randy Gariss -- Finding Your Sweet Spot --oh, the sweetness of this message, friends!

Where there is love, there is life.Gandhi

Where there is love, there is God. God is love.- Mother Teresa

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16

Healing alongside you,