Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Compassion

Mark and I have spent the past two years, rather "unengaged" in church. And although we have never STOPPED going to church, we have both experienced the feeling of being lost, disconnected and disassociated with the church body. Over the past year, we have been going to the church Bent tree Bible, and have thrown up a few cheerful fist pumps together in the decision to make this our church home. Tonight, we will try out a small group--and though excited, I have had an unexplained anxiety about it today.

Was I afraid they would judge me? Yes, but why?

Would they think.....

Gold digger? Boobs too big? 1 inch black roots poking out of the top of my bleach blond hair means I was born a (gasp) brunette? maybe. Bible she's carrying too new looking? "You know they say a battered and broken bible means an unfettered and unbroken life." Divorced unbiblically (another huge gasp)? Wedding ring too big? Wedding ring too small? Mark too old? Jenn too young?

The list could go on and on and on......



You may think this is ridiculous, but I've been dealing with MAJOR church hang-ups during my "post-traumatic divorce disorder". Though all of the above may seem ridiculous insecurities, this has unfortunately become the underlying thoughts I've had towards the body of believers called "The Church".

Now those who are hoping for a blog about my trip to the potty, my thoughts on "The Bachelor" or my love for Britney Spears....this isn't the blog for you. Just stop reading and come back tomorrow. I'm sure I will have something rude, crude and socially unacceptable for you then.

This blog isn't to bash the church I use to be a member of and because of that I'm not going to mention it's name. Although I am aware many of you know me personally and know the church I use to be a part of, even for you it's not meant for this purpose. Before, I get hate mail telling me to kiss off, ask how my brother and I are related (I still don't get it, so DON'T ASK) and tell me to embrace my feminist side (oh, wait that was another blog), let me explain:I do not have any ill-will towards the church as a whole, the individuals who are in leadership or the people who lovingly call this their church home.



It fact, before I start let me state the hard truth: I wasn't the ultimate dynamite, slap your mother she's that GREAT member of the church to begin with. To be honest, I kinda sucked at it.

Due to some fault of my own, during and after the divorce I was, in my own words, burned by the church. To give some of you a little history behind this story: Mark and I both went to the same church with our 1st spouses. Mark and I divorced about 8 months apart from each other. We did not know each other during our divorce, but had very similar experiences to the reaction we received from the church.

It is not my place to tell you Mark's personal experience in this, but I will tell you mine. Not to gossip, not to slander, but to sort out and explain the bitterness, mostly self-inflicted, that I allowed to build up towards church as a whole over the past two years. The bitterness, that God is slowly chipping away by showing me truth in the beauty, joy and commandment of belonging to a church body. What happened in my life two years ago....SUCKED. I mean, like, REALLY Sucked. It was soooo stinky icky that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy (which happens to be Kevin Federline, but that's for another day). I became a huge disappointment to the people I loved... my family, my friends....my church. Some of the disappointment just, some not so just.

But, you go through something that it hard, you learn from it and maybe in your story, you can either a.) help others in a similar situations b.) helps others steer clear from it as if it were the bubonic plague c.) helps others grow in compassion towards those in these certain hard situations. I'm writing about this, because although I am blissfully, joyfully, ecstatically married to a wonderful man who has kissed all my bruises and scars, some of my wounds still exist and still show. My wound towards the church is sadly, one of the visible ones. And on really good days, I say to myself, "I've got this....I ain't wounded no more" (well maybe, not like that, but you catch my drift?) but on days like today, when I'm faced with taking a step forward and moving on in forgiveness not only in myself but in others, I trip over this stumbling block because of the lack of compassion that was shown towards me, when I was, as in the bible, the adulteress who fell in front of the well at the mercy of the Pharisees who were ready to cast their stones.

When I made the decision to leave my marriage, I was not contacted by anyone in the church. Now to clarify, I have a few friends that I made there and have maintained a friendship with; although it's somewhat different now. You know who you are, you read my blog and you few are one of the greatest gifts God gave me through the church. But, I was not contact by any leadership, previous leaders etc. I had NO problem with this. I was getting a divorce and didn't really want to hear from them (sidenote: this is usually the attitude of someone who KNOWS what they are doing is NOT the right thing).

Fast forward to 6 months later: I meet a man. He's tall, handsome, really smart, makes me laugh until I cry and doesn't judge me for my past yuckiness. I like him. I think he kinda likes me too. We learn we use to go to the same church, talk about it a little and move on. We have been dating 3 wks. He gets a call...it's one of the main pastors of the church we both use to attend. He wants to talk to him about....ME. Jennifer Robinson? He ask. Yes, I'm dating her. Is his reply.

Unbiblically divorced! Church discipline must be enforced! Shouldn't date that kind of girl. Do you know what she did to her husband? No? Well, let me tell you.

I was humiliated. hurt. discouraged. weary. My dirty laundry...PLUS some, was aired out to a man I barely knew by a man who did not have the right. Who didn't know me; he didn't know my heart. All he knew was who's Daughter-In-Law I use to be. He judged me and wanted him to judge me, too. Thankfully, this man became my husband and defended my honor even during such an early stage in our relationship.

I felt like I could never step into that church again, even if I wanted to. What should be a home for the broken and weary became the place I wanted to walk across the street to avoid. And although, living in the bible belt, there are a million church within my reach....I believed once these other churches really knew me, maybe they would feel the way he did. Maybe they wouldn't want me either. Maybe they would be ashamed of me, too.

It's taken quite a while to believe in my heart that this isn't the way the church body would see me, and I've healed in this area through:

  • my hometown church, who lovingly embraced me from the moment I walked in their doors two years ago, recently divorced,broken and defeated. This is a small church, that doesn't have millions of dollars at their finger tips, a counseling center, or a hundred plus staff. They don't have the resources so many do but what they do have is enough compassion, love, understanding and prayer for someone like me who needed it so desperately.
  • The new church who I believe in my heart will lovingly adopt Mark and I into their church family and will walk with us as we grow together in our relationship with Christ, with each other and with fellow believers.
  • My loving husband, who has shown me through simply the gift of himself, that I serve a loving, forgiving and COMPASSIONATE god. Who loves me enough to give me another chance.

One of the biggest and greatest gifts that have come out of the heartbreak of divorce, is that is has taught me compassion. It's really hard to be compassionate when you've never been through something. You just can't relate. I believe God will use me and this experience to show compassion to someone who needs it as desperately as I once did.






9 comments:

Liz Rock said...

Girl...thanks for sharing your heart so openly! I respect you so so much! I love to read your thoughts. I have had similar experiences and it truly causes the opposite effect you would think. After the wounds heal you have such a peace and love for others! It is a great feeling to be so free and have compassion for others as well!

Katie said...

oh honey. do i EVER know what you're talking about. i grew up in this church. my family still goes there. literally, was dedicated as a baby by my parents there. and the hardest but at the same time easiest thing i've ever had to do is leave. because i saw this. in many different ways, and it sickened me. thankfully the Lord has restored my trust and belief in the church through my faith in Him and we have a WONDERFUL place we now call home, bruises, wounds n' all. WELL said chickadee.

Stuart and Brooke Newton said...

Hey I heard that church (Bent Tree) is great, do you and Mark love it? Stuart and I are looking for a church home, right now we belong to Fellowship but I would love to get involved in a smaller church. Please let me know your thoughts! I know you don't have a baby (yet) :) haha! but do you know if their Children's Ministry is good?? BTW you and Mark would make a very pretty baby :) Then Maddie could have a playmate! HEHE

JPO said...

Brooke-

My two step-kids are involved in the children's ministry there and really enjoy it. Their mom goes to Bent Tree as well, so we are able to get them involved in a small group they attend every weekend. I would absolutely recommend this church. The pastor, Pete Brisco Rocks. If you guys ever want to visit, give me a call and we'll save you a seat!

Summer said...

Hi I found your blog from my bloggy friend Katie! Though I don't know about the church you are talking about I have experienced what you are talking about at another church! It is the hardest thing at first to change churches but it does become easier....YOu will find a church that you LOVE....Well said
Summer :0)

Jayne said...

Hi Jennifer, Did you send any of your stories in yet to get published? I hope so!! Wow, when I read this I thought you had read a story I wrote for one of my writing classes last year. It was called , The Palace on the Hill. My husband & I have been hurt very deeply too and I know the pain. It doesn't matter how old you are it's still the same pain. We were members for over 15 years at this church and when we left( we felt we had to) we were not contacted by anyone. Not even friends from the church. Anyway, it is hard and I have no ill thoughts for anyone or the church now but only sadness for all of them. Keep praying for them Jennifer!!! We have a wonderful church that we go to now that we love. First time I have ever felt this loved and at home. I have been praying for this for years now. THat is the answer ...Just keep praying:):):) And......
Always remember you are a beautiful and loving person who by the way is a very talented writer!!!!

Jackie (Burns) White said...

Great Blog, i really enjoyed it! I once heard Billy Graham's wife (on a biography show) say she had a friend who told her she would go to church if christians acted the way they were supposed to. And Mrs. Graham replied "I am not offering you 'christians,' I am offering you Christ! Christians don't save, Christ does!" it sounds really corny, but it stuck with me.

lkl creations said...

so well written....and i bet a lot of people can identify with what you've said...so beautiful & honest...wishing y'all the very best in your journey!

Olson Family said...

Read your blog on occasion. Mostly I laugh out loud because you are so funny. I think if I remember correctly I called you and left you a vm when you were going through some of this but I had NO idea...I'm sure I sounded like an idiot:) If Erik and I were still in Frisco we would totally love to meet you guys for dinner. Unfortunately, we moved to OKC...Blah...