This is my apology.
I wish I’d done this sooner.
No, I’m not being too hard on myself. You see, it’s one thing to make mistakes, bump into others and hurt them in the process. It happens. It’s called being human.
It’s another entirely to say you represent Jesus, especially in leadership and point folks the wrong way. For years, I pointed everywhere in the world except to the source of Life and Peace and Joy.
If someone said they were hurting, I invited them to church.
If someone said they couldn’t pay the bills, I told them to tithe.
If someone said they were lonely, I invited them to women’s Bible study.
You see, I really didn’t believe He could heal a broken heart.
I didn’t actually believe that if You called on His name, He would answer.
I didn’t really know Him at all.
Oh, I said I did. I stood right there flat footed and acted like I had all the answers when inside, I was bleeding out and too proud to ask for help. That’s why I need forgiveness.
The Proud Need Breaking
After dealing with the hidden things, my Lord had to go after my Pharisee heart. He had to break that stubborn streak, the one that wanted to organized and list and avoid with rules and bondage. He had to teach me to obey, no matter what.
He needed to show me His face. To reignite that first love. To cleanse and heal and set me free. To teach me to hear His voice, to recognize His touch.
So what did He do first?
He told me to quit going to church.
He said I’d lose most of my friends in the process. He said if I wanted more of Him, I had to follow wherever He led. He said I didn’t get to take it to committee for permission.
So I jumped right up and obeyed.
No, it took awhile. I heard what He said, I just couldn’t believe He said it. Everyone knows good Christians go to church even if church stinks. They give to missions and listen to Christian radio and put their kids in the Cheerleaders for Jesus program.
I argued up a blue streak. What about fellowship? What about the kids? What about our spiritual health and well-being?
What about obedience?
I knew what was coming. More than that, I knew I had it coming. I knew what friends and family would say, to our face, behind our back because I spent so many years judging others for just this sort of thing. My weak and spineless self did not want to be on the receiving end.
He told me to stay quiet, not to defend myself. He said to let people think whatever they wanted.
Fish Out of Water
Jesus was out to break me.
Take a Pharisee out of church and watch them sputter. All sort of things start dying inside. Things like… pride maybe.
The phone rings and yet another friend calls with a word of correction. They say you’ve been deceived. You’re out of God’s will. You thank them nicely, tell them you’ll pray about it, hang up the phone and scream for three days.
Why are You doing this to me? Can’t I at least say this wasn’t my idea? That I love church? That every Sunday morning I get up and whine on the couch like a big baby? That You’ve taken away my entire identity? That I’m not bitter or disillusioned or mad at the leadership?
Another well meaning friend shows up with a book written by their pastor outlining all the reasons you’re now cursed instead of blessed—because you don’t attend church. They hint this may be the reason you just spent a week in the hospital. They say, maybe you’re ready to listen now.
It dadgum hurts.
It’s suppose to.
Radical obedience means living the cross. We give up our way, our plans, our agenda and follow Jesus—not a pastor or teacher or denomination. Jesus—the one who left heaven for us, who came and died and overcame death. The one who loves us. We risk being misunderstood, misused, mistaken to go wherever He leads. He didn’t ask us to join a social club. He said, pick your cross up and follow Me.
Crosses are for dying, my friend.
To all my former and current Pharisee friends let me say, I understand. You’re doing what you’ve been taught since the day you stepped into Church World. But there’s another world of hurting folks who will never darken the door because of people just like you and me.
So cut it out. If you want to play church, that’s fine. It’s your business.
Just leave the lambs alone.
And In Conclusion…
Sometimes He takes the foolish things of this world—a former Pharisee, a pastor’s daughter, a wild-eyed Bible thumping, hard-hearted fool—and takes them outside the comfortable limits of our understanding of His grace so they can testify to a hurting world—
If you don’t want to go to church, you don’t have to.
If you don’t want to vote Republican, it isn’t necessary.
Forget all the stumbling blocks, all the stupid things people throw in your way, all the dumb things they say because they don’t know any better and just call on Jesus.
If you’re hurting, call on Jesus.
If you have questions, call on Jesus.
If you don’t believe in Jesus, call on Jesus.
If you’re in bondage and you’re ready to be free, call on Jesus.
If you need a hug, call on Jesus.
He’s pretty good at that, even if He is a little sneaky.
He promises if you seek, you’ll find Him. I sought at the age of seven and He’s been following me, loving me, taking care of me ever since. And while He loves me plenty, I know too many other folks out there with stories of His love and protection and care. I am not an exception.
With Jesus, I’m the rule.
He loves His lambs. He takes care of them. He gets seriously pissed off at anyone who hurts them, anyone who stands in their way and keeps them from His arms.
Thanks for sticking with me through this opus. I’m crying now with these last few lines, an indication of how things have changed over the last twenty years.
For those who prayed for me, loved me, sent sweet notes and emails of encouragement, thank you. You know how much I love you and if you don’t, we’ll see what we can do about that in the near future.
For those who read this because you remember that girl from back-in-the-day, please know you’re the reason I spent days praying and crying and deleting and begging Jesus to help me get this down without compromise, without waffling, without shifting blame. I’m just sorry it took so many years to write.
For a closed off, private person, writing this feels like standing naked on the playground—a little scary, kind of liberating. I’m ready to dance around a little and traumatize the neighbors. Maybe I’ll get really crazy and write about something fun next time.
My kids may be in therapy for decades.