I had not anticipated sharing more of my church hurt – in fact, I made some pretty declarative statements about MOVING on. I tend to be a black and white person– still learning that it is ok to take a time out instead of being done all together.
I pray you found some hope from sharing Alexa’s story – I recognize it was not about church hurt. But perhaps, that story can remind us that God is faithful.
In my previous writings, I had shared bits and pieces of our experience at a church we attended (you may want to glance over them for reference).The one thing I quickly realized in sharing my story is that so many of you have stories of your own. The number of stories that popped up after I put some details out there shocked me. So many of you were hurt. Deeply hurt. Hurt beyond words really.
I want you to know I am sorry – I feel like on behalf of all Christians I need to say you did not deserve that. No one does. You are loved and valued – do not lose sight of that.
And you inspire me to keep going and share more. Perhaps, it will help us all feel a little less alone.
I also need to say this is hard to share. REALLY hard. My nerves are kind of shot. So much has been said about me in regard to these events that it feels a little overwhelming to share my part. I have been accused of a lot and I hate the idea of more narratives being attached to my character. PERHAPS, this is where God is saying to me: I see you. I got you. I am bigger.
When my issues with Jane started to get worse (see previous posts for more on Jane) I decided that I needed to seek out a mentor. One of the famous lines at this church was – reveal it to heal it. AND listen, there was A LOT to reveal about the situation with Jane.
I decided to meet with one of the elder’s wives at church and share with her about what was going on. I felt confused and just did not understand why Mark was saying one thing, Jane was acting one way and I was caught in the middle of some strange equation I did not know how to solve.
It was all VERY confusing.
This person was gracious and kind. She made me feel like what I was going through was not ok and prayed with me that healing would occur in this situation. I appreciate that about her to this day. She really did help me through a time in my life when I needed it the most.
Her husband, Charles, (not his real name) also happened to sit on the elder board. He is the type of person that fights for injustices. I appreciate this about him. He usually sees problems long before most and it sometimes gets him in trouble because so many people often do not see things until its too late. This is certainly a gift that God bestowed upon him but its one of those very difficult gifts that is not always embraced well within the church.
It had gotten back to him that I was not being allowed to do a bible study because as you recall from my previous letters Jane wanted no part of this. He had told me he would talk with Mark about this because this certainly did NOT align with so many of the church messages.
In fact, Mark spent a great deal of time from the pulpit telling the congregation to use your giftings.
I knew Charles and Mark had planned to talk about this but to this day I have ZERO clue what was discussed between them. No idea. All I know is that not much changed after this.
NOW this is where the story gets very complicated so stick with me here.
Not too long after this meeting took place, I had dinner with a woman who attended the church. We will call her Erika. During our dinner she began to tell me how she had been taken through the healing ministry that Sarah and Jane were putting on. This was the same healing ministry where Sarah told me I had pride issues. Erika began to explain that Jane and Sarah had used this ministry as an opportunity to share some of the “character” issues they saw in Erika.
I do not remember the specifics of what Erika shared that day but what I can recall is that she was deeply wounded in a class that was SUPPOSED to bring healing.
I want you to know I have a little bit of a vigilante spirit. I hate injustices. I hate watching people around me be wounded. I often feel their pain and want to fight on their behalf. I know now God gave me this spirit. This spirit has not always been refined BUT my intent has always been for good.
I decided I had heard enough about this “healing” ministry. Erika was not the first woman to tell me she was deeply hurt by this and I certainly had my own experience. I knew I could not go to Mark. After all Sarah was his wife, Jane was Sarah’s best friend and I had shared enough with him that never got resolved.
I knew I needed to speak up, so I felt the best way to go about this was to send a letter to the whole elder board. It was important to me that they were made aware. I always felt change never happened in a vacuum but rather with openness and healing. People were being deeply hurt after all – surely, they would not want that.
What happened next is NOT at all what I expected. In fact, I have never been more blindsided in my entire life.
AND it would be another two years before I really sorted out what occurred here.
I sent my letter off to the board via email and copied my husband.
This was a Sunday. And that afternoon we went to a family member’s home. As the hours rolled by, I still did not get a response. I thought it was kind of odd – maybe they were discussing how best to respond?
When we got in the car to leave my husband handed me his phone and said I need you to read this email. He had been copied on an email by the VERY elder, Charles, who had gone to Mark to speak on my behalf about the bible study.
This email was riddled with insults. He accused me of being the problem at the church and maybe if I just went away all the problems would too. He said that I pretended to be a leader when in fact I possessed zero leadership skills. The email was long and detailed about ALL my character flaws and it stung.
It was so hurtful. It was completely from left field. Here, I thought someone had understood what I had gone through only to have them assassinate my character.
What is even more interesting is that during this time Mark had confided in me that he was struggling with Charles. That he believed him to be a drunk and had mental health problems. Mark shared that he gone to him several times trying to encourage him to get help.
SO, I chopped this email up to mental health. THIS guy was having an episode. And Mark reiterated that sentiment to my husband and I. THIS was just another example of Charles’ many issues. He made sure to tell us that Charles views did not reflect the rest of the board and that he was reprimanded him for this behavior.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for my family – we left after this (only to return later). I did hold a meeting to try and resolve this matter but honestly, it just made things worse.
Charles did not handle himself well. Other elders were caught in the middle during this meeting and Mark was visibly SOO angry.
And the whole thing was just awkward. And for the longest time I did not get it. It all made ZERO sense to me.
Our family chose not to speak with Charles’ family and eventually they stepped down as elders and left the church too.
This was two years ago.
Last Friday, Charles and his wife had dinner at our home. This happened for one reason and one reason alone – we chose to forgive and move forward. We also understood better why this all happened.
While Mark was telling me Charles was a drunk and suffered from mental issues, Mark was also telling Charles that I was rebellious, lacked leadership skills and in general was the cause of the problem within woman’s ministry.
He was playing both sides. Telling me what I wanted to hear all while telling Charles the same thing.
I want you to know I see my part in this equation and I needed to ask Charles for forgiveness. I listened to Mark. I ate up what he said about Charles. This was gossip and instead of walking away from it I placed that narrative on Charles believing he was in fact suffered mentally.
THIS was so wrong on my part. Even if this was true it was never Mark’s place to tell me. But more importantly all it did was prevent healing.
It prevented all parties from coming together to work out their differences. ZERO reconciliation can happen if we are hurling insults at one another and attaching narratives to people’s character.
NOTHING. NOT A SINGLE THING gets resolved in that space.
I contributed a great deal. I was blind to a lot of things and got caught up in the gossip.
A few months back I sent Mark an email explaining that I understood this now. I let him know I was sorry for my part in this equation– for eating up the words of gossip and spreading them like wildfire.
He never responded and that is OK. I do not need him to. My letter was far less about him and more about my own healing and that required repentance on my part.
I have always been a firm believer that the truth comes out someway somehow. It certainly did in this case. It might have taken some time and some healing BUT that is ok. I know I am better person for it. I know what it is like to be at the end of gossip and I know what it is like the be the gossiper. Neither are fun.
I do not want that in my life anymore. I want to be a person that builds others up believing the best in them. For this is heart of Jesus. He sees the best. He has given us each talents and gifts and ultimately, He wants us to use those gifts to better his kingdom.
One of my gifts is writing and I plan to keep using it to share my story even if it is messy sometimes. This story certainly is no exception. May you have the courage to use whatever talent you gave been given to do the same.
Until next times friends,