As you know from my previous posts, I tend to stay away from such controversial subjects as religion. I believe that everyone has the right to believe in what/whom ever he/she chooses. However, I feel compelled to share the story of how I came to leave my church. This post is in no way meant to push my religious beliefs on others.
So, I received a “come back to church” letter in the mail from the place of worship that my husband and I used to attend. I can tell you exactly what I did with it: threw it in the trash. Now, allow me to tell you why.
I am a born and raised Christian. My parents were both Sunday School teachers back when I was younger. They always taught me the importance of God and going to church. However, I was never forced into anything. When the time came for me to be confirmed, they allowed me to choose if I wanted to partake.
I was very proud to become a member of the church that had been so important to my family. My dad was confirmed there. My parents were married there. I was baptized, confirmed and married there.
But, my fellow confirmands did not feel the same. Most of them were simply going through the motions because their parents made them. Going to church was not important to them. So, once they were confirmed in front of the whole congregation, they never came back.
Still, every Sunday, I was there. A woman who was a few years older than me tried to start a college study group to be held on Sunday mornings (like Sunday school, only geared toward college-age people). But, she soon became frustrated because I was the only one coming. She ended up stating that there was no point in having the group for “just” me.
Wow! This coming from my sister in Christ. Jesus loves and cherishes everyone and is happy to listen to all who come to him. And I think that His followers should feel the same.
I could tell that when other members of the congregation saw me, their thought was, “It’s just Lauren.” Granted, I wasn’t looking for special attention or a pat on the back for being the only confirmed person to remain active within the church. But, I was hoping to be a VALUED member.
For a brief time, I was on the Christian Education Committee. All that the pastor could talk about was getting more young people into the church. Bottom line: He wanted people that were planning on having tons of children to keep the church going. People like me and my husband were getting lost in the quest for a larger congregation.
But what brought everything to a head was the month of April 2011. My grandmother was diagnosed with Mantel Cell Lymphoma. In other words, she has cancer of the blood. I could not understand why this was happening so suddenly. Just a week prior, she had been feeling and looking great. Now, she was reduced to being confined to a hospital bed on the chemotherapy floor.
This was a tremendous hit to my faith. Why was this happening when I was always in church and treating people the way that I knew God wanted me to? I tried to blame myself, but in the end, God received the brunt of my wrath.
I yelled, screamed and cried every night for two weeks straight. The doctors were only giving her four months to live. Why had God abandoned me?
My mom told me that the pastor had called her at home to see how she was doing and if she needed anything. So, I patiently waited for my phone call. It never came. I realize that mom is grandma’s daughter, but I am her only granddaughter and love her more than anything in the world. Why was I not receiving comfort?
My husband and I traded going to church for spending the day at the hospital with grandma. I wanted to soak up every second with her that I could. We had not been to church in about a month. That is when I finally received a call from the pastor.
Guess what he had to say? That he could “squeeze me in” to see how I was doing. Seriously? “Squeeze me in?” I know that I still have three books of the Bible to complete before I have read it in its entirety, but in what I’ve read so far, Jesus never said that He would “squeeze someone in.” In fact, He went out of his way to seek the very people that everyone else avoided: tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers.
That was the final straw. Not to mention the fact that none of the church members tried to contact me in any way to see if I was okay. Why would I want to be a member of such a hypocritical institution? They pretend to be loving and caring, but they are ignoring those that need their help. Could no one be bothered to stop by the house? Send a quick e-mail? Snail mail? I guess not.
So, Matt and I stopped going to church. We have talked about going elsewhere. However, I discovered something amazing. After my anger at God had subsided, I drew closer to Him than I ever had before. I was constantly praying and talking to Him. I began to read my Bible again with renewed interest.
And then, I started to feel something inside. No, my heart didn’t grow three sizes like the Grinch. I believe that God’s spirit came alive within me. I wish no offense on the church, but why would I go to a place that is so unsupportive when I can speak directly to God?
My relationship with God is the strongest that it has ever been. He used the darkest time in my life as a catalyst to bring me closer to Him. And He also worked a miracle. My grandmother is still with us and will celebrate her 91st birthday in December. Praise be to God!